ROOKIE Irish defender Carl McHugh has said he is living a real-life fairytale after going from the soccer scrap heap to Wembley.
McHugh, from Lettermacaward in Donegal, could never have imagined what would have happened to him after he was released by Reading last summer.
"It's seems ridiculous," said McHugh, who was the last Bradford player to exit Villa Park on Tuesday after struggling to provide a sample for the drug testers – leaving a group of 20 family and friends shivering in the Birmingham snow for two hours.
"It's like a fairytale for me personally because of the year I have had with all the knock-backs. I suffered a knee injury and then I was released by Reading and I was like any other player as I didn't have a club.
"Bradford gave me a chance, although I didn't play for a long time after signing. We then had a few injuries and then I got in just before the Wigan game and since then I've kept my place and done all right.
"So to get this far is really Roy of the Rovers stuff and to get to Wembley is simply great. I could never have dreamed it would be possible. It's just ridiculous.
"The second leg was just a complete blur. My memory was when the referee was about to blow the whistle. I just watched him and I swear it took him three years to blow the whistle!
"It was a great moment, as were the celebrations with the fans, while meeting up with my family was also special. There will now be a lot of them looking for Wembley tickets!
"As the match finished I saw my mom, Mary, throw the Donegal flag onto the pitch and that was a good moment for me. It was an occasion I really enjoyed. But once you begin playing you blank out the atmosphere and just focus on the game and your own job. The cup success is important as it gives the players ambitions that we can compete with Premier League sides and that gives me the belief that maybe I can play at this level."
McHugh is looking forward to the Wembley final. His only previous visit was when he went to watch Reading in the play-off final when they were beaten by Swansea. "When I was playing for Ireland U-15s and U-16s I was scouted and I went for trials with Reading," added McHugh.
"I was signed on a three-year contract when I was 16. Reading were brilliant for me. The upbringing I got was fantastic. I could not ask for anything better. Even when I was released they arranged my trial with Bradford because of Phil Parkinson's connections with Reading."
McHugh hopes he may now get some more international recognition, saying: "Obviously I would like to get back on the international scene. It would be massive to get into the U-21 side. It would be huge for me as I've played in the U-19s. But if you do everything right at club level that will take care of itself."