Conor Hourihane has revealed Roy Keane has lost none of his bite since moving into coaching – and he would not have it any other way.
The Republic of Ireland assistant manager has found himself in the headlines in recent days with Martin O’Neill admitting Harry Arter’s withdrawal from the squad may have been prompted by a training ground disagreement with the former Manchester United skipper in June.
Keane retains Ireland boss O’Neill’s full support despite his latest brush with controversy, and midfielder Hourihane, who has worked under his fellow Corkman’s watchful gaze at both club and international level, relishes the scrutiny he brings.
Asked if Keane remains as fierce off the pitch as he was on it, the Aston Villa midfielder replied: “Definitely, and that will never leave him, without a doubt.
“He’s always in your ear, giving words of advice. If you let standards go any little bit, he’s on the case, so that’s fantastic to have as well. He keeps you on your toes.”
Keane has been a key figure in Hourihane’s career to date, the former Sunderland boss taking him to Wearside as a youngster and then to Ipswich when he resumed his managerial career at Portman Road.
Now the pair are working closely together once again within the Ireland set-up and Hourihane could hardly be happier as he looks for further senior international experience in Thursday night’s Nations League clash with Wales in Cardiff.
He said: “Roy’s been fantastic with me ever since I’ve been young. He signed me a couple of times, at Sunderland and Ipswich and he’s always been giving me words of advice along the way.
“He’s been first-class to me, so I’ve only got high words to speak about Roy, without a doubt.
“Roy was one of the best midfielders we’ve produced in this country. He’s won countless trophies and caps, so if you can learn anything from him, especially as a midfielder like myself, it will only improve your game.”
O’Neill’s squad once again has a new look about it with John O’Shea having retired from international football and Robbie Brady, James McCarthy and Shane Long injured.
However, Hourihane is viewing the Wales game and the friendly trip to Poland which follows as an opportunity to further stake his claim.
He said: “I’ve been in the squad for about 12 months now and I’ve picked up a handful of caps along the way. Hopefully now at the start of a new campaign, I’m looking to make an impact.”