Belfast Telegraph

Hornets are determined to sting treble bid: Cathcart

 

Ready for battle: Watford and Northern Ireland defender Craig Cathcart says his side don’t fear the might of Manchester City
Ready for battle: Watford and Northern Ireland defender Craig Cathcart says his side don’t fear the might of Manchester City

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland star Craig Cathcart is relishing the opportunity to play for Watford in today's FA Cup final against domestic treble chasing Manchester City.

Watching on at Wembley will be Cathcart's proud family - no doubt reflecting on how far Cathcart has come, recovering from testing times in his career.

The 30-year-old centre-back from Belfast has excelled for the Hornets in central defence this season. Off the pitch he is a modest, genuine, sincere guy. Little wonder he is one of the most respected players in the Northern Ireland dressing room.

Next month the former Manchester United ace will be with the international squad hoping to win Euro 2020 qualifiers in Estonia and Belarus. He is one of the first names on Michael O'Neill's team-sheet.

The same goes for Watford boss Javi Gracia.

City may have failed in Europe again this season but they have been unstoppable on the domestic scene. Last weekend they finally overcame Liverpool in a high class title race and earlier in the season beat Chelsea on penalties in the League Cup decider.

Should Pep Guardiola's men defeat Watford in the FA Cup final they will be the first side in history to claim a domestic treble in England.

They are huge favourites. Cathcart won't mind the underdog tag and he will be ready for the challenge of taking on Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling.

"It's going to be a tough game but we are all looking forward to it," said Cathcart, who this week was deservedly named International Personality of the Year at the NI Football Awards.

"We won't be favourites though we will still be approaching the match at Wembley in a positive frame of mind knowing anything can happen in a final.

"It's going to be a great occasion for our fans and if we got a victory for them it would be an incredible achievement. We'll give it our all."

Cathcart's determination and desire are unquestioned. That was illustrated when he fought back from a series of injuries which left him on the sidelines long term for his club and out of most of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers for his country.

Back in 2012, the defender also overcame a heart scare when he was at Blackpool.

Never one to shout about it from the rooftops, Cathcart is an inspirational figure for youngsters here hoping to make the grade in the ruthless world of big time football.

From Glengormley High School, where he was a star player, the man who grew up supporting Linfield is now one of Northern Ireland's few established Premier League performers. After joining Manchester United as a teenager and having loan spells in Belgium with Royal Antwerp, Plymouth and ironically Watford, Cathcart decided, with first-team opportunities limited, to leave Old Trafford behind in 2010 for Blackpool.

It was a big call but as he revealed when winning the George Best Breakthrough prize at the Belfast Telegraph Sports awards several years ago it was the right one.

"Looking back I have no regrets at all about leaving Manchester United," Cathcart added.

"Obviously United was my club, I'd been there since I was a kid, but I wanted to be playing regular football and when Ian Holloway offered me that in the Premier League at Blackpool, I couldn't turn it down. I'm glad that I made the choice."

He moved to Watford in 2014 and today will play the biggest club game of his life. Many in Northern Ireland will wish him well at Wembley.

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