Wednesday 24 January 2018

No ifs, butts or maybes as Meyler seeks FA Cup glory

Corkman determined to be remembered as a medal winner – not victim of Pardew's bizarre sideline attack

David Meyler has had an eventful season, but is hoping to end it on a high with victory inthe FA Cup final against Arsenal today. Photo: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
David Meyler has had an eventful season, but is hoping to end it on a high with victory inthe FA Cup final against Arsenal today. Photo: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

This evening at Wembley, David Meyler will seek a famous finish to a progressive season that will otherwise be remembered for his brushes with infamy.

The Corkman's place in the end-of-season montages and future editions of Sky's 'Premier League Years' is already assured. Unfortunately for him, the lingering image of a campaign in which he has played the best football of his career will be as the best supporting actor to Alan Pardew's headbutting moment of madness.

A keynote contribution to a surprise FA Cup success for Hull over Arsenal would provide Meyler with a happier memory for the history books.

Even making it to this stage is a triumph given that a pair of catastrophic knee injuries at Sunderland could have finished his career in the embryonic stages. Earlier this week, he revealed that one doctor told him he might never walk properly again.


Considering that he has spoken in the past about how those sobering experiences helped to mature him, it was a massive shock when he risked missing his big Wembley date with a careless stamp on Manchester United teenager Adnan Januzaj last week.

Meyler claimed it was an accident, but was blessed that referee Craig Pawson saw the incident at the time and deemed it unworthy of a card, which prevented the FA from taking retrospective action.

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill was among those who considered him lucky.

"I was really surprised at Meyler," he said. "We'd praised him for saving Pardew and then suddenly he goes and lets the old veil down. He is fortunate."

The 24-year-old has had to work hard to gain the trust of the managers in his life, and may have a bit to do still to jump up the Irish pecking order.

As Sunderland boss, O'Neill sanctioned his sale to Hull, believing it was the right move as the player was desperate for games and down the pecking order at the Stadium of Light.

Giovanni Trapattoni believed that other players were more reliable, feeling that Meyler was rash and prone to giving away free-kicks in dangerous positions.

Meyler conceded last month that he had realised the need to rein in some of his combative tendencies, because he had suffered from making tackles that got him into trouble.

Under the tutelage of Steve Bruce, who was unsure last August where the ex-Cork City man would figure in his plans, he has emerged to become an important part of Hull's charge to the traditional showpiece of the English season.

A semi-final goal against Sheffield United summed up his improvement, with a well-timed run breaking from midfield to dispatch the final touch showcasing his athleticism and increased awareness.

Granted, he may lack the natural skills of his team-mate Robbie Brady, a fact he acknowledged on Tuesday.

"Robbie has the ability we all wish we had," he said. "That touch of brilliance to skip by someone.

"This morning we were doing a little possession exercise and he just flew by me like I wasn't even there and you just think 'this boy is so talented and to think he is three years younger than me'."

Still, Meyler wouldn't have survived in Bruce's side for so long this term if he hadn't added more subtlety to his game. He attributes that drive for improvement to his father John, the biggest influence in his life.

In Ireland, the achievements of the former Cork and Wexford hurler are well known. In England, it requires a little more explanation.

At the Hull City press day, Meyler outlined how he faced a choice between sports at the end of his teenage years and discussed how John, the current boss of the Carlow hurlers, stood back to let his son follow his heart.

"He wanted me to play every sport and whichever opportunity arose he wanted me to take," Meyler recalled. "When the opportunity came to go to England he just said 'the hard work starts now'.

"He has shaped me as a person in life, never quick to judge me, always wants me to be a better person and helped me so much with my football. I remember he came over to watch me play for Sunderland reserves at 18.

"Wherever we played he would be there supporting me and he would get a DVD of the game and he would watch it again and then tell me what I should and shouldn't be doing.

"But he would never try to live his football career through me, he just wanted to see me be the best I could be."

Remarkably, John has missed just two Hull games this term.

"The first was Southend, when he was on holiday with my mother – and she comes before me so I don't mind. The second game was Sunderland in the quarter-final of the FA Cup.

"He was managing Carlow and they won so it was not so bad but he rang me afterwards and I couldn't really repeat what he said, but it was along the lines of 'I can't believe I've missed it, you've scored, you've won 3-0.

"And I just said, 'I know Dad, but you can look forward to Wembley now' and I don't think he slept that night.

" That's why he comes to every game, and that's why I overcame such massive injuries. You thrive with a great mentality behind you.

"If I ever have a problem or bit of bother he is the first person I turn to.

"He is my father but a best friend too and I am very fortunate and very close to him and it is nice to have him."

There's a lot of mileage left in Meyler's legs but when the curtain comes down on his career, the family have a plan in mind.

"My dad has everything, all the shirts I get, and one day we're going to buy a bar and put them all up on the walls," he enthuses.

"He has scrapbooks, all my medals, even tickets from every game. I think we'd both a cherish a medal but I'd probably give it to my mother, Stella."

She has come through her own health difficulties, which put all of football's drama in perspective. After a year where Meyler has sampled the full force of the circus, a serious reward would be a sweet conclusion.


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