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Football

19th Dec 2016

There are a lot of clubs looking to sign one of Ireland’s most in-form players

Conor Hourihane is a wanted man, and it's easy to see why...

Robert Redmond

Conor Hourihane is a wanted man, and it’s easy to see why.

The midfielder from Cork has been in brilliant form for Barnsley this season, and earned a call-up to the Republic of Ireland squad back in October.

He has yet to get a cap for Martin O’Neill’s team, but his recent performances might mean it’ll be too hard to ignore him for inclusion any further.

Hourihane has been the best player in the Championship so far this season, according to WhoScored.com.

The football statistics website has given him an average rating of 7.77 out of 10, a highly impressive rating and evidence of why there are so many clubs interested in signing him.

Barnsley v Northampton Town - EFL Cup

In 20 games, the 25-year-old has nine assists and four goals, helping the newly-promoted team to a comfortable mid-table position, six points away from the play-off places.

Hourihane is also out of contract at the end of the season, meaning he would be available for a cut-price transfer fee in January if he doesn’t sign a new deal, and on a free-transfer next June.

Barnsley have offered him a new deal and are desperate for him to stay.

“We’ve spoken to him about a new contract and it’s a case of the sooner the better for me,” said Paul Heckingbottom, the Barnsley manager.

“We can’t force a decision. He still has a duty to the team to perform but we are confident. Conor’s been great for us and it was nice for Roy Keane to watch him score against Norwich.

“He’s been very consistent and the aim is for him to become a regular in Ireland’s squad next year.”

However, Hourihane has options, and his next contract, whomever he signs for, will be the key deal of his career, given he’s about to enter his peak years as a player.

Both Celtic and Rangers have been monitoring the player, according to The Daily Record.

The Barnsley captain has also attracted interest from LA Galaxy.

According to The Sun, the MLS franchise have been scouting Hourihane and have been impressed by his form.

LA Galaxy are looking to renew their squad for next season after the departure of Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard in November.

Aston Villa and Norwich City are two of the other clubs linked with a move for the player next month.

Hourihane joined Barnsley from Plymouth Argyle in 2014 for £250,000, and helped them earn promotion from League One last season.

A fee of £500,000 has been mooted for a January transfer, which would be below the going-rate for a player in such great form. However, it would be better for Barnsley than losing Hourihane for nothing next summer.