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Wednesday 21 March 2018

Ireland's mixed fortunes in English showpiece

Aston Villa goalkeeper Shay Given is looking to feature in his first FA Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley this afternoon
Aston Villa goalkeeper Shay Given is looking to feature in his first FA Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley this afternoon
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

If Shay Given and Jack Grealish figure for Aston Villa in Wembley this afternoon, they will bring the total of Irish players to feature in an FA Cup final this century to 16.

Of course, that number may have to be revised downwards if Grealish subsequently declares for England but, as it stands, he's registered as an Irish international.

Given is not included in the list, yet he actually has a winner's medal in his possession after being an unused sub for Manchester City against Stoke. Provided he shakes off a groin problem, he is looking for revenge after starting for Newcastle in their 1998 final defeat to Arsenal at the old Wembley.

The 21st century Irish finalist have endured mixed fortunes.


Manchester United 3 Millwall 0

Roy Keane, John O'Shea (Man Utd)

Robbie Ryan, Barry Cogan (Millwall)

The fairytale story of this competition was Millwall charging from the Championship all the way to the decider in Cardiff, but there was no happy ending on the big day as a young Cristiano Ronaldo orchestrated their demise. Keane captained United to victory and O'Shea started at left-back. Millwall's losing team included Dubliner Ryan, who now works on the London Underground. Sligo native Barry Cogan, a late sub, now plays part-time for Dover.


Arsenal 0 Manchester United 0 (Arsenal win 5-4 on penalties)

Keane, O'Shea (Man Utd)

This was a painful defeat for Keane, as he discussed in his revealing documentary with old adversary Patrick Vieira two years ago. United were the better side in this game, and they still wound up with nothing as they were unable to break down the Londoners and then erred in the shoot-out. Keane lasted the duration, while O'Shea was withdrawn in the 77th minute.


Chelsea 1 Manchester United 0

O'Shea (Man Utd)

It's unlikely that O'Shea will recall his third cup final appearance with much fondness as he was only introduced in the 112th minute of a match that appeared destined for penalties until Didier Drogba popped up four minutes later to dispatch the chance that secured a famous victory for the Blues.


Cardiff 0 Portsmouth 1

Stephen McPhail (Cardiff)

Given that he had fought back from serious illness to continue his professional career, there was special sense of achievement for McPhail as he led the second-tier side out at the new Wembley. Unfortunately, he was unable to inspire his troops to victory over big-spending Portsmouth, with Kanu the hero.


Chelsea 1 Portsmouth 0

Steve Finnan (Portsmouth)

Another cup final for Chelsea that was settled by Didier Drogba converting the only goal of the game. We didn't know it at the time, but this was actually the last game of Finnan's professional career, with the classy full-back content to fade into retirement without much fanfare.


Manchester City 1 Stoke 0

Glenn Whelan, Rory Delap, Marc Wilson, Jonathan Walters (Stoke)

Neutrals in this country were supporting Tony Pulis and his unfashionable Stoke side after he picked a starting XI with four Irish internationals. Long throw specialist Delap never figured under Giovanni Trapattoni, whereas the other trio won their first cap under him. Sadly for them, Yaya Toure won the day with a 74th-minute goal. Whelan and Delap were duly substituted.


Manchester City 0 Wigan 1

James McCarthy (Wigan)

The other cup winner in this Irish collection is McCarthy, a key factor in a deserved success for a Wigan side that managed to deliver in the knock-out format and still suffer relegation to the Championship. Winning manager Roberto Martinez was recruited by Everton and the Glaswegian followed him there in August. Wigan are now facing up to League One.


Arsenal 3 Hull 2

Stephen Quinn, David Meyler, Paul McShane (Hull)

It all started so well for Hull with surprise inclusion Quinn prominent as they raced into a two-goal lead inside the opening 10 minutes. The train ran out of steam, however, as Arsenal orchestrated a successful comeback. Meyler started alongside Quinn, with the latter replaced in the 75th minute, eight after McShane entered the fray as a sub. Aaron Ramsey grabbed a 109th-minute winner.

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