Conor: Young players need to focus on improving
Struggles in the early phase of his career almost led to him packing his bags and even packing in the game.
So now, at the age of 28, Conor Hourihane is determined to make the most of things and prove that he's capable of playing on the biggest stages possible, for club and country.
And the Aston Villa man, looking forward to Premier League football next season for the first time, says he's concerned to see so many young players lack the drive and ambition needed.
"Some players develop early, some players develop later on. I really do feel I'm coming into the best years of my career," he says.
"Maybe the likes of Wes Hoolahan and Daryl Murphy had the best years of their career later on, Jonathan Walters as well, so hopefully I can follow in those footsteps. I just work hard every day.
"People don't see the sacrifices I put in or other people put in.
"You really have to make huge sacrifices in your career to sustain yourself at a good level. I think some young lads in this day and age they don't realise that."
The Cork native admits he was floundering early in his career, considering an exit from the game after a spell at Sunderland didn't work out.
"Very close," he says when asked how close he came to leaving it all behind, between his time at Sunderland and a move to Ipswich.
"The penny dropped. From that, my attitude changed and I've never looked back. I've just worked and worked and worked and the last five or six years have been great for myself.
"You have to survive at the start because it's a cut-throat business. There are loads of players who come over and go home again. I was close to that when I went down to Plymouth.
"It was my last resort. It was sink or swim. And that was probably the kick up the backside that I needed."
He is annoyed to see less of that now, with young players who value their social media profile and pool/table tennis skills more than football.
"Lads don't realise it. They're working harder on the table tennis table than they do in training.
"The senior lads are out there for an extra hour working on their game. Young lads should see that and take inspiration from it but they don't," he says. "They're in this bubble. Young lads nowadays probably don't work hard enough. I don't see any young lads grabbing a bag of balls and doing extra work.
"They're in this bubble, training from 9-12, having free food, nice breakfast, nice lunch, playing table tennis, playing pool.
"They don't put in the hard work and two years later when their apprenticeship is finished they're going: 'What am I going to do now?'"