Belfast Telegraph

Craig Cathcart: Northern Ireland heroics can help inspire Watford to FA Cup victory over 'beatable' Manchester City


Tough battle: Craig Cathcart and Diogo Jota fight for possession during the FA Cup semi-final
Tough battle: Craig Cathcart and Diogo Jota fight for possession during the FA Cup semi-final
Craig Cathcart
Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

Craig Cathcart plans to use his experience of being an underdog on the big occasion with Northern Ireland for next month's FA Cup final.

The defender will be part of the Watford side aiming to topple Manchester City at Wembley.

Pep Guardiola's side are on course for an unprecedented quadruple and will be big favourites on May 18.

However, Cathcart believes City are beatable and that Watford can pull off a shock.

The 30-year-old has been part of Northern Ireland teams that have punched above their weight in recent times, and will use that as motivation.

He said: "It's always nice to be underdogs - people like to see underdogs do well.

"We might not be favourites but we'll be going to the final full of confidence. We have done well against every team all year.

"Yes, it's going to be a tough game, but it's something that we can really look forward to.

"In the past with Northern Ireland we've been underdogs and performed well on the big occasion and this will be no different.

"It's going to be a difficult game, but it's a cup final and you never know what can happen."

Cathcart wasn't born the last time Watford played in an FA Cup final, that was back in 1984, when they lost 2-0 to Everton.

He grew up dreaming of playing in the big game and admits that, at 30, the opportunity might not come again.

"A lot of the lads won't have had the opportunity to play in the final before," he added.

"The chance to play in a final doesn't come around too often - the manager (Javi Gracia) mentioned that before the game.

"He didn't have the opportunity to play in a final, so he wanted us to get there for him."

Cathcart played the full 120 minutes as Watford came from 2-0 down to beat Wolves 3-2 in a Wembley classic.

They trailed to goals from Matt Doherty and Raul Jimenez going into the last 11 minutes.

But an audacious finish from sub Gerard Deulofeu turned the tie, with Troy Deeney's 94th minute penalty forcing extra time.

Deulofeu then scored for a second time to send the Hornets to the final.

Cathcart said they can take massive belief from Sunday, but admits their heroics will count for little unless they go on and lift the cup.

"The way things fell gives us that bit of a boost and confidence that anything can happen," he added.

"But it's only a semi-final - we know it's a great achievement, and it's nice to go one step further than we did in the past, but we know it will mean nothing if we don't go into the final and try to win."

Cathcart and the rest of the squad watched Manchester City beat Brighton in the other semi on Saturday.

It was City's 22nd win in 23 games - a remarkable run that has fuelled talk of an unprecedented four-trophy haul.

They have also beaten Watford in both league meetings this season.

Cathcart, though, insists Guardiola's side are not unstoppable.

He added: "It's going to be difficult for them to try and go for four trophies. We saw the game, Brighton caused them a lot of trouble. We watched it in the hotel and, yes, they are beatable.

"We've created chances in every game we've had this season and (Sunday) was no different.

"We cause a lot of trouble to a lot of teams, so we're full of confidence in the team we have this season."

Watford have been one of the season's surprise packages, and are on course for a top 10 finish.

Much of the credit goes to manager Javi Gracia, who was appointed in January 2018, with the team in free-fall under Marco Silva.

After impressive league performances this term, Cathcart believes getting to the final is another step forward.

"I think the FA Cup has been really important to the top six teams in the last few years because there is not many trophies they can win between them," he added.

"So for us to get to the final has been a great achievement.

"We've had a really good run - I think it's helped that we've been doing well in the league, and we've taken that momentum into the cup games."

Meanwhile, Cathcart's team-mate Deeney claims to have suffered racial abuse on social media in the aftermath of Sunday's victory.

Deeney posted a series of pictures on his Instagram account - t_deeney - of his celebrations on the pitch and afterwards with his family and friends.

The post read: "What a day one that will live long in the memory for sure, proud moment for me personally but couldn't wish to share it with people that have helped me out in tough times I love you all and thank you.

"From paying £10 subs to an fa cup final in 13 years."

All comments were removed from that post, and later the Watford striker uploaded the slogan of the Premier League's new 'No room for racism' campaign alongside another post explaining his actions.

It read: "Due to events from the last 24 hours I will be taking comments off my posts.

"To me this isn't a game, when you racially abuse my family or myself I have to take measures to prevent young people seeing these comments and thinking that it's acceptable, And having to expose people I care about to these small minded people. #notimeforbulls**t."

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