League One Fleetwood Town welcome the live television cameras and Leicester City to their Highbury Stadium for today’s lunchtime FA Cup third round tie.
New signing, Irish international Paddy Madden, may be cup-tied but the Cod Army will have a major Irish presence with vice-captain Cian Bolger out to shackle his former Leicester teammate Jamie Vardy.
Q: Today is the first time Fleetwood will face a Premier League team, are you confident of causing an upset?
A: It’s a tough ask against any team from the top-flight, and Leicester have a lot of quality players, but we’ve done well as the underdog in previous matches. I know that, to get a result, we’ll have to be on top of our game and Leicester have an off day, but we’ve the players capable of competing against them.
After reaching the League One play-offs last time, we’ve been a bit disappointed at only being mid-table at this stage of the season. Still, this is a challenge that has to be embraced.
At kick-off time, it will be 11 versus 11 , so we’ll have to make use of the surroundings in our home ground and the fans making plenty of noise.
Q: Fleetwood are coming off a hectic period of four games in 10 days, all of which you’ve started. Do you think your manager Uwe Rosler might rest some of his senior players like yourself, as many teams do in the FA Cup?
A: I hope not! Our last game was on Monday and I’m raring to go after a few days of rest. Players are in the wrong business if they can’t get motivated for games this big.
I managed to chip in with a few goals during December too, including our FA Cup game against Hereford, and that was nice. My main job is to help the team keep clean sheets, including this Cup game.
Q: A lot of attention in the build-up to this game has centred on the return of Jamie Vardy to the club that sold him to Leicester in 2012 for just €1.2m. If he’s passed fit, as centre-back, you’ll be marking him. What do you remember of him at Leicester and do you relish marking top-class international players?
A: I only had a couple of training sessions with Jamie after he joined Leicester as I soon went out on loan to Bristol Rovers for the start of the season and then left permanently for Bolton Wanderers the following January.
He’s a quality player but Leicester have a lot more of than just Jamie Vardy throughout their team. The toughest opponent I’ve come up against in my career so far was Dimitri Payet. We faced West Ham in a pre-season friendly and he was different class.
Q: Leicester accomplished one of the modern game’s greatest feats by winning the Premier League in 2016. Having been there for four years, were you surprised at that and how well do you know some of the current players?
A: The new owners (King Power group) had taken over the year before I left and started putting financial backing into signing new players. Nobody expected them to progress as far as they did, shocking the whole footballing world by winning the league, but it was a nice thing to see.
I shared digs with Andy King when I first moved over from Ireland as a teenager and would know Wes Morgan well, along with some of the backroom staff. I’m looking forward to meeting them all again.
Q: With this being the biggest game of the season, have you had much requests for tickets?
A: Yeah, there’ll be a few people over from Ireland. Some of them have come out of the closet for this one! Not my Dad because he comes to every game.
Q: Your dad, Declan, was a well-known GAA player, winning a couple of Leinster titles in the late 80’s and 90’s. Not even a clash with his beloved Dubs would keep him away from your matches?
A: No, he comes to every single one and has always been very supportive. My sole focus as a kid was playing GAA in the hope of playing for Dublin in Croke Park, like my Dad. We lived in Celbridge so I was part of the Kildare underage team but then moved to play with St Annes in Tallaght. That helped me get onto the Dublin squad.
Q: That development squad, given you’re now 25, must have included many of the squad that are three-in-a-row All-Ireland champions?
A: Exactly. It was the era of Ciaran Kilkenny and some others. I was only with them for a brief period, a couple of months, as football became the priority.
Q: That must have some year. You went from playing GAA in Kildare to the Dublin development squad, then St Kevin’s Boys and onto Leicester.
A: It sure was and I’d only taken up football at 15! Everything was about GAA but I started playing for my school football team (Salesian College) and got more into that code.
Q: You played alongside Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick at St Kevin’s Boys. When you see those pair in the Ireland team and the likes of Shane Duffy graduating from the lower leagues into an international centre-back, does it give you motivation to join them one day?
A: Robbie and Jeff were great lads and I’m delighted they’ve gone to great things. A lot will have to fall into place for me to achieve my dream of making the senior team. I’m happy enough with how my career is going and, in front of a big television audience today against Leicester, you wouldn’t know who could be watching.
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