By Damian Dolan
Padraig Amond might have been at McGovern Park the other week to lend his support to the Barrowsiders, had he not being busy helping Newport County threaten one of the biggest upsets in FA Cup history.
The Exiles came within eight minutes of dumping Tottenham Hotspur out of the cup, as the Welsh side clung to a 1-0 lead given to them by Amond’s first half header.
Immortality beckoned for Amond, who played football and hurling for Carlow up to Minor, and in 2006 played in a Leinster final at Croke Park.
Harry Kane put paid to that, however, levelling the tie up in the 82nd minute, and giving Newport a Wembley away day on Wednesday night (7 February).
Amond, who has netted ten times for League Two outfit this season to leave them in the hunt for a play-off spot, is dismissive of those who predict that the Welsh side’s FA Cup run will come to an inevitable end at Wembley.
“It’s up to us to prove them wrong and go out there and put in the best performance we can. To put a show on for ourselves and show how good we are,” Amond told the Irish World.
— Newport County AFC (@NewportCounty) January 28, 2018
“Wednesday night is a free shot for us and hopefully at the end of it we’re in the next round of the FA Cup. We’re going to do the exact same as we did for Leeds and against Tottenham in the first game – we’re going to concentrate on ourselves.
“We have to go there and try and win it. If we get in their faces like we did in the first game we’ll have a chance. The longer we can keep Spurs scoreless the better, and we’ll always create a chance or two.”
But for Kane’s equaliser, Amond could have been contemplating a fifth round tie with either Millwall or Rochdale, and a place in Newport County and FA Cup folklore.
The former Shamrocks Rovers striker was lurking at the far post in the 38th minute to guide Robbie Willmott’s deep cross past Spurs ‘keeper Michel Armand Vorm.
“I knew it was in the moment I headed it, and I was away celebrating already,” said Amond, who admits that for the next 44 minutes he dreamed his goal would prove to be the winner.
“You’re praying ‘please don’t let anyone else score’. It would probably have been the biggest shock in the history of the FA Cup, and I would have been remembered forever!” he says with a laugh.
“When Spurs scored everyone was devastated, but I think I was the most devastated. I’d just come off five minutes before it, so I was hoping we’d score a winner, but if we’d scored the winner I’d have been forgotten about completely!
“But if we win on Wednesday and I don’t touch the ball and have an absolute shocker, I don’t care. I’ll be the happiest man in Wembley.
“No can ever take away the fact that I’ve scored against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup. If I don’t do anything in the rest of my career, it’s lovely for me to be able to look back on it with my family and say ‘do you remember that day when I scored against Spurs?’. It was a special moment.”
It will be even more special if Newport can get a result at Wembley, and Amond has good memories of the place having enjoyed play-off success there with Grimsby Town in 2016 in front of 17,000. On Wednesday night, however, they’ll be 80,000 inside Wembley.
“The memories I have are brilliant, but the game I played in is completely different to the game we’re going to play on Wednesday night,” said Amond, who juggled Gaelic Football and hurling, with soccer, before eventually putting soccer first when he joined Shamrock Rovers.
“Soccer was always the one for me, as much as I love hurling, and I wouldn’t change anything. It was always what I wanted to do growing up. But there’s something about watching hurling – it’s unbelievable.”
Regardless of the outcome on Wednesday night, Amond is hoping that it won’t be the Exiles’ last visit to Wembley this season as they battle for a spot in the play-offs.
“Wednesday could be a little test run for us either for the FA Cup or the play-off final!,” he said.
Spurs might have something to say about that, but in Amond, Newport have their own Harry Kane, and this is the FA Cup after all.