| 1.1°C Dublin

Carlow's Amond set for another day in sun


Padraig Amond in action against Wrexham during FA Cup second round replay. Photo: Harry Trump/Getty Images

Padraig Amond in action against Wrexham during FA Cup second round replay. Photo: Harry Trump/Getty Images

Getty Images

Padraig Amond in action against Wrexham during FA Cup second round replay. Photo: Harry Trump/Getty Images

When Newport County and Leicester City walk out for today's FA Cup third round tie, one man can count Cristiano Ronaldo and Radamel Falcao as past opponents.

In striker Padraig Amond, Newport boast someone who has more high-profile games on his CV than the average League Two footballer. The 30-year-old Carlow man faced Ronaldo on his Real Madrid debut when with Shamrock Rovers in 2009 and, during a stint in Portugal, went head-to-head with Porto's Falcao, James Rodriguez and Hulk.

Amond loves the big occasion. Last season, his goal nearly helped Newport to a famous FA Cup win over Tottenham, but was enough to earn them a lucrative replay at Wembley. Now Leicester are in his sights.

Amond said: "There probably aren't many League Two players who have played against some of the guys I have, but in any one-off game you have nothing to lose. There was a big hullabaloo when I played against Real. It was Ronaldo's debut. We played with the footballs Madrid use in the Spanish league, not the normal Irish ones. Our captain went up for the coin toss and was told whichever way it fell, Madrid could pick ends!

"Karim Benzema scored in the 87th minute and they beat us 1-0. It was an unbelievable experience and it was the same when I played Porto with Pacos de Ferreira. I was 22 at the time and I went into it a bit blind, but we drew 3-3 even though they had Falcao, Hulk and James. The experiences I've had in big games still help me and they will do so again this weekend."

At Newport's Rodney Parade ground this week, Amond recalls a career which has taken him to nine clubs and four countries. South Wales is now his home. His most famous contribution for Newport was his goal against Tottenham last January. Only Harry Kane's leveller denied County the win.

Amond said: "I never get sick talking about that goal. I love it and can remember the whole thing. Robbie Willmott crossed it in, Kieran Trippier jumped in front of me and as soon as it hit my head, I knew it was in. Everything just slowed down. It's so hard to explain.

"At half-time the cameras were running after me, but when I got into the changing room I went to the toilet and just had a little smile to myself. I wanted to enjoy the moment, we were 1-0 up against Tottenham. If we'd held on it would probably have been up there with the biggest FA Cup shocks of all time. It was an unbelievable moment and hopefully I can have another one against Leicester."

Newport fell away in League Two over Christmas after a bright start and will face Leicester on the back of four defeats in their past five games. Still, Amond has full belief in his side and manager Michael Flynn, who will be backed by a raucous, sold-out home crowd.

"There is no pressure on us. We're the only ones who think we can get a result, but I hope Leicester come and play a full-strength side," said Amond, who has 14 goals this season.

"I want to test myself against the best. The Leicester story is the best one in football - I don't think it will ever be beaten. For them to win the Premier League was just remarkable. They've still got world-class players and now we get to play against them, which is fantastic."

Amond, who this week took up the offer of a one-year contract extension at Newport, said: "We have 12 lads out of contract in the summer, and FA Cup runs are big for a club like us as they bring money in. Last year it helped us to re-sign players and that's important. Hopefully the same can happen again.

"We aren't on £60,000-a-week like some of the Leicester lads. No one wants to be in the situation where you don't know if you're going to be released or not. Football is a selfish game."

Newport County v Leicester City

Live, BBC One, 4.30


Amond's playing highlights

÷ Best FA Cup memory?

“My goal against Tottenham. When I went back to my home town of Carlow in the summer, that was all people spoke to me about.”

÷ Toughest opponent?

“Before the game with Madrid their teamsheet came in. Our manager, Michael O’Neill, was picking out who was marking who. All we could think was ‘wow’. There was a big long name next to No 5 and we couldn’t figure out who it was. Michael told us it was probably a young kid from the academy. We walked on to the pitch and it turned out it was Pepe. They’d written down his full name. He’d been banned for 10 games for kicking lumps out of a fellow against Deportivo. He was a pretty daunting opponent.”

÷ Newport’s season so far?

“The FA Cup is a step away from the league. We’ve been disappointed with the results over Christmas. A decent result against Leicester will get our season going again.”

÷ The future?

“I’m doing some coaching with Newport’s under 16s. I really enjoy it, but the not-so-nice side has been releasing some of the younger players. I hope to go into management one day, but not for a while.”

Sunday Indo Sport