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Saturday 17 November 2018

Hibs hero Horgan's Irish aim

Daryl hopes SPL move can buck trend

GREEN DREAM: Daryl Horgan in action for Ireland in a friendly against the USA last June. Photo: Sportsfile
GREEN DREAM: Daryl Horgan in action for Ireland in a friendly against the USA last June. Photo: Sportsfile

We will know soon enough if it was worthwhile.

Next Monday, Martin O'Neill will name his squad for September's double header - the Nations League game in Wales and a friendly in Poland.

And Daryl Horgan hopes that his decision to leave England and head north, to Scotland, will have yielded some fruit, with a place in the Irish squad.

It's early days in his time as a Hibernian player but so far it's been good - Horgan scoring a stunning goal on his debut on Sunday.

The fact that the game was 'only' in the Scottish League Cup, at home to Ross County in front of 8,000 fans suggests that, in one sense, he has dropped down a level with the move.

Daryl Horgan
Daryl Horgan

And it's unfortunate that Europe was over before it even began, as Horgan had not been signed in time to play against Molde in the Europa League and the Edinburgh club were beaten 3-0.

But a contract with Hibs should guarantee the Galway man (right) first-team football every week, something which Martin O'Neill demanded of him and something which his last club, Preston, were unable to guarantee.

The SPL has been a cold place for Irishmen in terms of the national team for a long time now, apart from Anthony Stokes, who played in two (dead-rubber) World Cup games under caretaker Noel King in 2013, a Scottish-based player has not started in a competitive game for Ireland since 2011.

So while O'Neill would prefer his men to be playing better opponents than Ross County as preparation for a clash with Gareth Bale, the move could do him good.

"I spoke to Martin O'Neill over the summer and he told me I have to get out and play," says Horgan, who prioritised international football when it came to making the move.

Move

"Obviously, I want to play football every week as much as I can and I felt there would be opportunities here to do that.

"At Preston it didn't really come as much as I would have liked. For my own head, I wanted to play as well.

"Everyone wants to play for their country. Every time I've played for my country, I've absolutely loved it and I want to keep myself in that frame and hopefully playing games will do that," Horgan added.

He wasn't the only Ireland player to move clubs lately. From the 40-man squad which O'Neill named in May for the summer series of games against Celtic, France and the USA, eight were transferred over the summer.

Greg Cunningham (Preston to Premier League side Cardiff), Harry Arter (also to Cardiff, on loan) and Graham Burke (Shamrock Rovers to Preston) could be said to have moved up in the world, so to speak.

John Egan (Brentford to Sheffield United), David Meyler (Hull to Reading) and James McClean (West Brom to Stoke) perhaps moved sideways while Colin Doyle's move from Bradford City to Hearts has not so far given him game time.

So Horgan's decision to leave England and move to Edinburgh is an admirable one.

Despite their own links with Celtic, Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane rarely go on scouting missions to the SPL and only two Scottish-based players have played for Ireland in the four-and-a-half years of O'Neill's reign (Anthony Stokes and Jonny Hayes).

Heading to Easter Road is a gamble by Horgan but the move appears to have the blessing of O'Neill, and Hibs boss Neil Lennon is pleased to have the Galway man on board.

The task now for the winger is to make Scotland, always a cold place for Irish players, warm again.

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