The prize of a place in the Premier League is huge but so is the pressure in the Championship play-offs.
But while the international season was a struggle for Conor Hourihane, just like every other player who toiled without much joy under Stephen Kenny, the Bandon native says he thrives on the intensity of the play-off system as he tries to get Swansea City back into the top flight, with a test against his former club Barnsley tonight in the first leg of a semi-final.
Loans for some of his Ireland team-mates have not worked out well this season, like Shane Duffy’s nightmare at Celtic and Jayson Molumby’s unsuccessful spell with Preston but Hourihane has thrived since his loan from Aston Villa, and if they get past Barnsley and then the winners of the other semi-final between Bournemouth and Brentford, the door to the Premier League would open up for Swansea.
“I know what the goal is here, I know how great promotion is, and I know what is at the end of the road and I want to get this club over that line,” says Hourihane, who has previously had success in the play-offs with Villa and Barnsley.
“You want games to have something on them, to be important and be a factor in what the future of the club holds. I know I am on loan, but I want to make a difference here,” added the Bandon native, who has scored five goals in 21 games for City.
Elsewhere, Ireland striker James Collins has been linked with a move to Middlesbrough with his contract at Luton Town expiring.
But a reunion with his former international boss Mick McCarthy at Cardiff has emerged as another possible option for the 30-year-old.
Collins has enjoyed a career resurgence in a four-year stay at Luton, playing a big part in their rise to Championship status and kicking off an international career as a consequence.
His contract has run down and that leaves a free agent striker in an attractive position, especially as his next contract might prove to be the most lucrative one of his career.
Meanwhile, veteran Irish striker Andy Keogh marked his 35th birthday by ending his goal drought Down Under in spectacular fashion.
Keogh hadn’t scored in 22 A-League games but hit four goals in a 5-1 drubbing of Western Sydney Wanderers with the highlight an audacious 30-yard lob.
Bournemouth v Brentford, 6.0; Barnsley v Swansea, 8.15, both live, Sky Sports