Two cups but one dream as former Jack Grealish teammate lines up for Wexford side North End United
Dempsey hoping that he and former team-mate Grealish will be cheering
ONE-TIME team-mates at Aston Villa, Jack Grealish and Robin Dempsey, both have a cup tie to deal with this weekend.
While tens of millions will watch Grealish try to help Aston Villa win the FA Cup at Wembley, only the hard-core fans will be on hand to see Dempsey and his team-mates from Wexford junior side North End United take on Galway United in the FAI Cup on Friday night.
As Grealish's club career goes into orbit against the backdrop of an international tug-of-war, which has made him the most talked-about teenager in the British game, Dempsey's career stalled, his time at Villa blocked by the fact that he was unable deal with the homesickness.
Defender Dempsey is still only 19 (like Grealish) and still has a fondness for Villa. Though he won't be in Wembley on Saturday, he would love to see his old club and Grealish live out their dream and lift the FA Cup.
"I played with Jack, the first time I saw him I knew he was something special, and I would love to see him do well at Wembley," Dempsey told The Herald.
"He was in a different class from the rest of us in terms of ability. He would get the ball in training or in academy matches, and just glide past people. The Cup final is a great stage for him but it's a pity the way it's gone with the international scene.
"It seems he has gone from Ireland and is heading towards playing for England. But I will still be rooting for Jack, and for Villa, on Saturday."
Dempsey had a number of cross-channel clubs on his tail when he moved to England in 2012, but chose Villa, partly due to the large Irish contingent at the club, including first-teamers like Shay Given and Richard Dunne. But the Wexford lad could just not settle in Birmingham.
"It was my choice to leave, I had just had enough of it over there and I missed home too much," says the former U17 cap.
"Everything else was fine, the football side of things was grand, but I just missed home and couldn't settle, being away from home was too hard."
He opted to leave Villa after a year, later returning briefly for pre-season but he knew it was not for him. Back home in Wexford, he was unable to play football as Villa retained his registration and he was was left in limbo. "It was hard, not being able to play," he admits.
And the League of Ireland just did not appeal so he fell back on his first club, North End United, and has also started on his coaching badges.
"I really just wanted to come back and play with my friends, the lads I grew up with, so I could start enjoying my football again and I am doing that now, I am loving it here," he says. "And this Cup is a good stage for us all, if it goes well, maybe me, or a few of us, could end up in the League of Ireland."
Away to an experienced and in-form Galway United side is a big test, but Dempsey feels that good recent form gives them a chance. "It is a big step-up from the standard we play at every week but I think we will be well able to deal with it," he says. "We have a lot of good players in the squad, lads who played at different levels. My brother Gary has played a lot of first-team games, in the UK and in the League of Ireland with clubs like St Pats and Shels and Bray.
"We also have Paul Murphy, who was at Ipswich Town for a while, Shane Dempsey and a few other players in the LOI for Wexford Youths, I think we could cause an upset. I would love for us to go on a bit of run in the Cup."