Enda McEvoy: FA Cup matters. This year, at least

Just to undeceive you before you begin. This main piece is about the FA Cup semi-finals, what with the weekend that’s in it, and as a result the illustration was supposed to feature Pep and Arsene and Antonio and Mauricio, with — to give you added value after the week that was in it — a certain vociferous Clare man lurking in the background.

Enda McEvoy: FA Cup matters. This year, at least

But Drinan being the kind of man who takes the bull by the horns, Davy became centre stage in the illustration.

Apt enough, you’ll agree.

Davy is rarely anything other than centre stage. Anyway, for more on our chum from Sixmilebridge turn to the column going down the extreme right.

For some thoughts on the FA Cup semi-finals, stay here.

They used to be big. They were back in the pre-Sky Sports era, when they were rarely televised and thus endowed with an air of mystery.

But they were never bigger than in 1990, when they were both televised on a Sunday afternoon and Crystal Palace defeated Liverpool in the midday kick-off at Villa Park, 4-3 after extra time, with Manchester United and Oldham drawing 3-3 at Maine Road.

“The best viewing since man walked on the moon,” yelled one of the papers next day.

Reams have been written about how the FA Cup has “never been the same” since Manchester United refused to participate in 2000.

The presence of Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa at the business end of the competition in recent years probably didn’t help.

But this weekend it’s different.

First against second in a semi-final for only the second time since the war. Fourth against sixth. It’s relevant. It matters.

The formbook points to Spurs this evening. Kane is back. Son Heung-min has been performing like he’ll be South Korea’s first line of attack in any war against the nutters from the North.

Over the past two seasons they’ve accumulated more points than any other team in the Premier League and they’re very close to reaching the stage under Pochettino where silverware becomes a necessity.

But on the law of averages it’s Chelsea’s turn to score the first goal in a game with Spurs. How will the latter fare then? Even more critically, Chelsea have an Italian manager with all the luggage that brings with it, a chap who once managed — and coached; therein lies the critical part — Bonucci and Barzagli and Chiellini.

But you knew that already and you didn’t need to watch Juventus’s awesomely predictable masterclass in defending at the Nou Camp on Wednesday to know that Italians, as per Madonna’s t-shirt many moons ago, Do It Better when it comes to grinding out results in tight games.

One wonders how big a quandary Arsenal fans are in ahead of tomorrow.

Do they close their eyes and hope to somehow bumble through against the blinding pace of Manchester City — maybe the novel defensive configuration that blunted all-singing, all-dancing Middlesbrough on Monday night will do the same to Sterling and Sane — only to risk failure on the big day against Chelsea or, worse, Tottenham? Or — the real worst-case scenario? — go on and win the thing altogether and make Wenger supremo for life as a reward?

Dark times indeed. Arsene endures. Jack Wilshere will never be the next big thing. Barron Trump has been outed as a Gooner. We may be approaching the End of Days.

Naturally Corinthians will root for the old money of Arsenal as opposed to the petro dollars of the deus ex machina that is Manchester City. Lord knows it’s not difficult to have a pop at the Sky Blues.

They boast 4.2m Twitter followers. Anyone care to hazard how many million followers fewer they’d have were it not for the Abu Dhabi takeover? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

They’re also the world’s sixth most valuable club. It doesn’t sound right. Not City. You can kind of see where Ricky Hatton came from when he revealed that he yearns for the days when City were terrible.

As for the likes of Steve McManaman bleating that Guardiola “needs five or six new signings” — call me hopelessly old-fashioned but wouldn’t it be nice to see Guardiola try and develop the players he has? You know, be a coach?

Yet it’s impossible to hate City. Not with Guardiola’s humanity, Vincent Kompany’s radiant intelligence, David Silva’s fairy feet, Kevin De Bruyne’s low-key brilliance, and Sergio Aguero’s piratical instincts.

They’ve worn their new dazzling raiment without pissing too many people off, an achievement that should neither be overlooked nor underpraised.

They are Chelsea with class and it really would take a heart of stone not to feel happy for the fanbase — the brothers Gallagher and Michael O’Leary excepted — who suffered through the years of Peter Swales, Alan Ball, Lee Bradbury, Shaun Goater, and relegation to Division Three.

Royal blue moon this evening. Sky blue moon tomorrow. New moon on Monday.

Let’s hope Davy has learned a lesson

So, Davy. Recipient of an eight-week ban and thoroughly deserving of it. Let’s hope the Wexford county board have the good grace not to appeal it.

Of course he was bang to rights last Sunday.

Of course he might have started a riot, or at least a medium-sized shemozzle, were it not for the fact – doubtless taken into his calculations - that this Tipperary team are not big into proving how macho they are. Jason Forde deserves an award for restraint, not a suspension.

Of course it’s undesirable that Davy is living down to self-caricature.

And of course he wouldn’t have dared pull such a stunt against, say, the Galway of the 1980s, or even against his own Clare team. You can easily visualise it: a thwack of ash plant on arse from Sylvie or Lynskey or Keady or Ollie Baker or Brian Lohan.

Still, consider the following.

Over 3,000 spectators in Bunclody at Sunday lunchtime on the first weekend of the year for the visit of UCD in the Walsh Cup. Over 4,000 in the rain in New Ross for the Walsh Cup final, with the stand full an hour before throw-in.

Large crowds at Wexford Park for the county’s home league fixtures. Nearly 15,000 at Nowlan Park for the quarter-final and 19,095 there last Sunday.

He’s done the state, and the game, some service this year.

It should be acknowledged.

But from now on he might try and surprise us by staying quiet.

Heroes & villains

Stairway to Heaven Tony O’Hehir: His dad may have called Foinavon correctly but he never had to deal with 13 maroon and white runners, with accompanying and highly diverse caps, in the Irish equivalent.

Give the man a pay rise.

Our Duke: Comprehensive winner on only his fourth start over fences and as usual Ted Walsh had the mot juste.

“That’s what good horses do. They destroy lesser horses.”

Hell in a handcart Viktor Kassai: Reffed Real/ Bayern as though determined to illustrate Voltaire’s truism that God is on the side of the big battalions.

The Lions squad: Some lads made it, some lads didn’t. The sun rose on Thursday morning nonetheless.

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