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Corr sets sights on Hull breach

WHEN Barry Corr left his Wicklow home a decade ago and headed for England he had a clear aim: The Big Time.

While his mates won international caps and nabbed Premier League contracts, Corr had to toil away in the places where the spotlight doesn't reach and, this year, it's more of the same, another season in the fourth tier of English football.

But there is at least a touch of glamour this weekend as Corr and his team-mates at Southend United are one of the lower-league clubs hoping to cause an upset against a big-spending Premier League side.

Various figures at Southend have previously had a taste of the high life – their manager is Phil Brown, who got to spend around £25million on players during his time at Hull but is now forced to think long and hard before spending even £50,000 on a player, while striker Freddy Eastwood clocked up a couple of million-pound moves back in the day.

Corr, 28, admits that he didn't envisage himself playing in League Two for Southend United, but he is happy with his lot and is enjoying his moment in the spotlight ahead of Hull's visit today, especially as the striker boasts a scoring record in the FA Cup that any striker would love to have.

"When I came over here from Ireland, the dream was to play in the Premier League and it works out that you're not quite good enough to play at that level, so the FA Cup is special for us lower-league players," says Corr, who ended up at Southend in 2010 after a winding career that began with a traineeship at Leeds United.

"A game like this, home to a Premier League side, it's a chance to be a proper footballer for a day, you get far more media attention and a bigger crowd than you would normally get. You are out of the limelight when you are in League Two, in terms of the media you would usually have just the local paper and BBC Essex looking to speak to you and this week there has been a lot more interest," he said.


"I have always done well in the FA Cup and I have a good record of scoring goals. Someone told me this week that I have scored 10 goals in the last 12 games in the FA Cup, so that's good to have.

"When we were kids, we all wanted to play in the Premier League, some of us never quite made it there, so this game is a chance for us to play against players that you usually see on the TV.

"There's a nice twist to the game as well as we have a couple of Irish lads – myself, Conor Clifford and Michael Timlin – and Hull have that strong Irish contingent as well. I know Shane Long is cup-tied and Robbie Brady is injured, but Paul McShane could be playing and I'd love to play against him, it would be a big deal back home to have two Wicklow boys going head-to-head in an FA Cup game."

How someone views the FA Cup can often define which generation they come from, as the current generation of young football fans often downgrade the competition and worship the Premier League and Champions League.

"I think my dad is from the era where the FA Cup was a big deal," says Corr. "He would be telling me about what the FA Cup meant in his day, there wasn't much football on the TV then, so the FA Cup final would be one of the few games you would get to see, and I was more of the generation where the Champions League was all that mattered. But the Cup has been good to me in the last while," adds Corr, who scored one of the goals in the 4-1 win over Millwall in the last round.

For the last decade, Cup ties against higher-league clubs have been regular features on the calendar for Corr because of where he found himself: he started out his career with Leeds United, had a spell in the Championship with Sheffield Wednesday but since 2006 all of his football has been played in League One and League Two, with clubs like Bristol City, Swindon, Exeter and now Southend.

But it all started off at Leeds over a decade ago, when the club were riding high in the Premier League and Europe and had a large Irish presence.

"We had Irish lads all over the place," says Corr. "Alan Kinsella, Paul Keegan and Robbie Shields were in the year ahead of me, in my group we had Andy Cousins, Derek Tyrell, Kevin Cronin, Eddie Keyes, and you had the likes of Gary Kelly and Ian Harte in the first team."

"Leeds were massive at the time, in the Champions League and at the top end of the Premier League, it was a great place to learn your football, but I was let go – we had 16 players out of contract at the end of the season and we were all released."

After that came a move to Wednesday, further moves and then Corr battled back from an knee injury which kept him out for a year.

Hull are weakened by injury today, while new signings Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic are cup-tied, but even a weakened Hull side could contain international players.

"Hull have so much quality that it will be a tough test for us, they are the clear favourites, but we have performed very well lately. We did really well against Millwall in the last round, we didn't just sneak past them but we beat them well, 4-1, so we know that we can raise our game and if we play the way we have done at times, we can cause an upset," said Corr.