When asked if today’s FA Cup final represents the biggest game of his career James McCarthy’s response is instant.
Definitely,’’ the Republic of Ireland international replies, “it’s a game you dream of as a kid. It’s a massive day for each and every one of the players and each and every one who is associated with the club. There’s a real excitement about the club. We’re all looking forward to it.”
Bookmakers make Wigan rank outsiders to beat a Manchester City side looking to finish a disappointing season on a high at Wembley but the highly-rated midfielder, while accepting today will be a difficult ask, believes the underdogs can spring a surprise.
“It’s going to be tough, we know that. We know the qualities Man City bring to it but it’s a one-off game and we’ll go and give it our best shot. Winning would be unbelievable, as a kid you dream about days like this,” McCarthy says.
The practice of playing semi-finals at Wembley is often criticised but McCarthy feels experiencing the place in last month’s 2-0 semi-final win over Millwall will stand to the Wigan players.
In this case familiarity doesn’t breed contempt.
“It’s a great arena to play in. We enjoyed the occasion (in the semi-final). We’ve been there before and we know what it’s about now.”
Nerves will inevitably be part of the day but McCarthy will not be changing his normal pre-match routine for the decider
“Just about every game you get a bit of nerves. It’s more exciting than nerves maybe. You look forward to it. It’s a great occasion for each and every one of the boys and everyone in Wigan,” he adds.
“I’ve got superstitions leading up to the game. I eat the exact same pre-match meal before every game and, the way I go about each week, I try and keep it the exact same.”
A Wigan win would be seismic on many levels, one of which being that it would see McCarthy make a little bit of history by becoming the first Irishman to win an FA Cup medal at Wembley this century. Roy Keane and John O’Shea played when Manchester United beat Millwall 3-0 to win the 2004 final while Steve Finnan was part of the Liverpool side that defeated West Ham on penalties after a frantic 3-3 draw in the 2006 decider. However, both of those finals were held at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Keane was Ireland’s last Wembley winner during Manchester United’s treble-winning season of 1999 and his day lasted just nine minutes before injury forced him off in the 2-0 win over Newcastle, a game Denis Irwin missed due to suspension. Since then there have been Irish Wembley finalists but no winners.
McCarthy hopes to change that.
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