Hibs winger Daryl Horgan determined to win back starting place for club and country
Daryl Horgan is determined to win back his starting place for both club and country when football returns from lockdown.
The Hibs winger has barely missed a game since joining from Preston North End in 2018, racking up an impressive 79 appearances and 10 goals despite his second season at Easter Road being cut short by coronavirus.
Since the arrival of Jack Ross in November, most of those appearances have been as a substitute, with Horgan starting just six of 22 matches under the new manager prior to the shutdown.
For a player who still has international aspirations - his sixth and last cap for his country came in 2017 - reclaiming his status as a first pick at his club in the coming season is Horgan's main priority, but he knows the buck stops with him.
"That's what everyone wants - to play every minute of every game," Horgan said. "It's obviously difficult to do that, but if you're performing the opportunities will be there.
"Since the manager came in I've started a few games and came off the bench a few games. It's not ideal, but the lads were doing well and the manager was picking players to suit different formations, and things like that, but ultimately it was down to me.
"If I was playing better I would've had a chance of playing every minute, every week, but for myself, personally, it was an up and down season.
"There were good bits, but I didn't play as well as I wanted to, or as much as I would've wanted to, so it was quite disappointing in that sense.
"As a team we probably mimicked that a bit as well. I thought we were a bit hit and miss at times. We could play very well or we had a few runs where we just didn't play well at all.
"There were a couple of times where I felt we just didn't get the rub of the green, or that bit of luck. It was a mixed season for us, but I don't think we were as good as we could've been.
"I think there's definitely more to give next season, and hopefully now with the gaffer getting a full preseason it'll make a big change."While determined to force himself into the manager's plans, Horgan won't be putting himself under any extra pressure simply because he is entering the final year of his Hibs contract.
For the 27-year-old from Galway, nothing will change in terms of the demands he places on himself on a daily basis."It's a big year for me anyway. Any time you play you want to perform, so I won't be thinking any differently because I've got one year left on my contract," he said.
"I'll just be the same in that I want to play well, win games and win things. If it comes to contracts later down the line, that's fine, we can have a chat, but I won't be going in thinking, 'it's my last year, I need to be good'.
"For me it's like that every day because it's your job and you love doing it, so why would you only turn it on for the last year?"
Despite not featuring as often as he would like under him, the former League of Ireland star believes the club is going places under Ross.
"When he came in at first there was an initial bounce, I suppose that's the new manager thing, and maybe it levelled out a small bit, but there's been definite improvements," Horgan said. "Now he has a full preseason to get his ideas across so hopefully we can hit the ground running.
"It's been a quick turnaround in managers since I've been here, but hopefully there's a bit more continuity next season, we play a bit better, and we can start pushing for a better position in the table."
The appointment of previous mentor Stephen Kenny, who replaced Mick McCarthy as Republic of Ireland manager in April, will have done Horgan's international hopes no harm. He sent his former Dundalk boss a congratulatory text, but the winger is expecting no favours.
"If I can get back playing, and back playing well, and having known the manager and played under him previously, there'll hopefully be an opportunity for me," he said.
"But it all comes down to how you're doing on the pitch. I can't see there being politics. For him it's his dream job, a job that you rarely get from a League of Ireland position. For him to get that is unbelievable so he's not going to be doing anyone any favours.
"He's going to pick players that keep him in job and that are going to be successful for him and Ireland. He's not going to be going, 'Daryl played well for me a couple of years ago, get him in the squad'. He'll be picking players who are playing well at the time.
"For me, that means a bit more consistency and playing more regularly. Hopefully if I do that I can get my feet under the table."
Horgan admits lockdown has been 'relentless' with two young children, aged four and nine months, keeping him on his toes at home.
The enforced break has left him eagerly looking forward to football's return, with Hibs players due to report back for training on June 15.
"It'll be a little bit rusty when we get back, but I can't wait to get back to playing and training," he said. "I've played football nearly every day since I was four or five and it's something you do really, really miss. It's the contact with people as well and the camaraderie and the craic around the place.
"That'll be good to have back, although it will be a little bit different for the time being. We don't know what pre-season will look like, whether it will be four or five in every couple of hours, or whatever.
"It's going to be a weird time but I suppose everybody just has to get their head around it for a while. Hopefully football will get back to being itself sooner rather than later."