Magic no longer enough for FA Cup

The Kerryman (North Kerry) - - SPORT -

THERE it was as clear as clear could be, as real as life it­self – the magic of the FA Cup, star­ing us in the face, in glo­ri­ous colour on the BBC.

Sun­day pro­vided us with one of those clas­sic sto­ries of gi­ant-killing. Lit­tle League Two New­port County tak­ing down the Premier League cham­pi­ons of just a cou­ple of years ago, Le­ices­ter City.

Bright lights, a story for the ages, it even had an Ir­ish an­gle with the game’s win­ning goal com­ing cour­tesy of Car­low man Pádraig Amond. We can only imag­ine – ac­tu­ally we can’t re­ally imag­ine it at all – the nerves he must have been go­ing through as he stepped up to take the spot-kick in front of Danny Ward.

Af­ter the match the New­port fans, in rhap­sody, took it on them­selves to have a lit­tle fun with Gary Lineker, the for­mer Le­ices­ter striker and the Beeb’s an­chor.

“What’s the score, Gary, what’s the score,” they chanted when they spied him on a bal­cony.

With a know­ing, wink­ing nod to their reverie, Lineker shouted back en­thu­si­as­ti­cally, “2-1”. Lineker’s re­sponse was pitch per­fect. In it­self it was one of those great FA Cup mo­ments.

If any­body could ap­pre­ci­ate a gi­ant-killing and a fairy­tale it’s got to be a fan of the big­gest gi­ant killers world sport has seen for the last twenty years. It’s im­por­tant too to point out that this wasn’t some sort of make-shift Le­ices­ter side. Claude Puel made changes yes, but this was still a pretty strong side. More than good enough, on pa­per, to win the game.

Still, even ac­count­ing for the mir­a­cle of New­port, the week­end’s foot­ball felt more than a lit­tle flat. Con­trast the vast ma­jor­ity of the third round fix­tures – Manch­ester 7 Rother­ham 0 – with a reg­u­lar round of the Premier League and there’s just no com­par­i­son. It felt to a lot of us like an un­wel­come in­tru­sion on a com­pelling ti­tle race.

The magic of the Cup is still there, just about, but in the twenty-first cen­tury magic is no longer enough to grab our at­ten­tion.

The block­buster rules all.

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