By Graham Hill
CONOR Hourihane has admitted he sees a psychologist on a regular basis.
The Villa midfielder has turned into one of the star performers under Dean Smith after his role in securing promotion back to the Premier League.
But the 28-year-old had a rocky spell in mid-season and found himself having to win over Villa supporters.
He did that in style – and says his work off the pitch is just as important as that on it.
Hourihane has also established himself in Mick McCarthy’s Republic of Ireland side.
And he says is regular use of a psychologist has helped put his career back on track.
Hourihane told the Irish Mirror: “I do it a lot and it’s something that has really helped my game over the last few years.
“When you’re down in your confidence, why go then? When you’re high in confidence, why not go then to keep mentally strong when things are going well.
“Social media can really get to lads mentally and over the last three or four years I’ve just had tunnel vision and kept moving forward.”
Hourihane also believes he is coming into the best form of his career – at a relatively late stage.
He added: “Some players develop early, some players develop later on but I feel I’m coming into the best years of my career.
“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 did well in the last two games and Mick McCarthy has shown a lot of faith in me and I want to repay him.
“I’ve got my foot in the door a little bit. The first eight or nine caps, you want to do well really, really badly but you’re learning from the experience.
“If you do well, great, but will I get another chance if I don’t play well? Now I feel like I’ve taken an opportunity and the best years are in front of me.”