Saturday 16 December 2017

Alan Power on growing up with Conor McGregor and how he hopes the UFC fighter is following Lincoln's FA Cup exploits

Alan Power (left) grew up with UFC fighter Conor McGregor, though the pair now move in different circles
Alan Power (left) grew up with UFC fighter Conor McGregor, though the pair now move in different circles

Luke Edwards

Alan Power has gained some notoriety at home in Dublin with his exploits for Lincoln City in the FA Cup this season, but it is the attention of the man nicknamed 'The Notorious' that would really put a shine on things.

When Power celebrated scoring the non-League side's equaliser on their way to defeating Championship promotion-chasers Brighton in the last round, he chose to mimic the 'Billy Strut', the extravagant pre-fight swagger that has helped turn UFC fighter Conor McGregor into a global star.

It was an eye-catching celebration, but it has not yet caught the attention of the man who made it famous. Power is a huge McGregor fan yet, this is not hero worship. Power grew up with McGregor, played football with him and the pair used to socialise as teenagers.

McGregor is on a different sporting planet now to his old friend, but on the eve of Lincoln's tantalising tie against Premier League side Burnley, Power spoke of his huge respect for his old friend and how he hoped the magic of the FA Cup might help to jog McGregor's memory.

"The goal celebration caused a bit of a storm," said Power, with a sigh that turns into a giggle. "While we were waiting around to take the penalty, Terry Hawkridge came up to me and said I had to do it if I scored.

"We'd been talking about it for a while because we follow UFC and Conor really closely as a team. Looking back, it might have been a little embarrassing if we had only got a draw, but thankfully we won.

"He's someone I admire greatly. What he has achieved, it's remarkable. We used to knock around in the same circle of friends back home when we were growing up.

"I've not spoken to him in years, he's a superstar now. The last time I spoke to him he was cage fighting in Dublin and wasn't too sure if he was going to continue with it, but he's a phenomenon.

"The celebration was just my way of paying a little tribute. There has been a lot of hype surrounding it since but I've not heard from him. I know BT Sport tried to contact him on Twitter, but I doubt he even looked at it.

"He's a busy man, he's got bigger things to worry about than a footballer he used to know playing for Lincoln, but I hope he's seen it."

When McGregor was throwing his first punches as a cage fighter in Ireland, Power moved to England from Crumlin United to pursue his dream of playing professional football, making one appearance for Nottingham Forest before signing for Rushden and Diamonds.

He joined Lincoln six years ago and has been through the tough times, as well as the good, with a club who floundered after losing their League status in 2011.

Lincoln's Cup run has done wonders for their finances and profile, but whatever happens against Burnley, it is promotion that matters. The Imps have been out of the Football League for six years, but have combined the exhilaration of a Cup run with maintaining their lead at the top of the National League. At 29, Power has waited his whole career for a season like this.

"Lincoln is very different to Dublin, but I've been here six years now and I'm very happy," he explained. "It's a nice, quiet place and the football team hasn't always been part of everyday life here, but it is at the moment.

"We keep reminding ourselves that we have achieved nothing.

"Promotion is the main aim, getting back into the Football League is what we have been working towards the whole time I've been a Lincoln player, but you have to enjoy Cup runs like this because you might not get another one like it for 20 years." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Burnley v Lincoln, Live, BT Sport 2, 12.30

Irish Independent

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