herald

Thursday 23 November 2017

Stanley to put knife into Boro

Galway lad Conneely glad to swap league struggles for FA Cup stage

Seamus Conneely
Seamus Conneely

The FA Cup is dead, a relic of a bygone age, we are told.

Tell that to the players, and fans, of Accrington Stanley, a club fighting for their lives at the bottom of England's fourth tier.

Seamus Conneely, a mainstay of the Accrington side for the last two years, had his own taste of success in a cup competition when he helped Sligo Rovers win the trophy at Lansdowne Road.

But even after that chance to play on the big stage in Dublin 4, the 28-year-old is enthused by the opportunity that comes his way today, when his side travel to play Middlesbrough in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

The venue does not have the same emotional impact as playing in Anfield or Old Trafford, but still, the opportunity to test themselves against a top-flight side is something to be relished, the Galway native claims.

"These are games to be enjoyed, as a lower-league player you don't get moments like this too often, away to a Premier League side," Conneely told The Herald.

"We played West Ham in the League Cup earlier this season, we were lucky enough to go and play in the Olympic Stadium, we more than matched them until [Dimitri] Payet scored late on and they won 1-0. If we could have a similar performance and a better outcome today we'll be happy.

"We took 800 [fans] to West Ham on a Tuesday night so hopefully we'll have a decent support up in Middlesbrough."

This is Conneely's second stint in England (he was at Sheffield United in between spells with Galway United and Sligo Rovers) and he's aware that games like today's offer players of his ilk a stage.

"You don't see much of League One or League Two unless you are a supporter of those clubs, people back home don't see much of this league," he says.

"This means a lot to a club like us. I know a lot of Premier League clubs play weakened teams in the FA Cup but it's huge for us.

"So this is a stage, to play in a Premier League ground with the TV cameras there and we will enjoy that stage. The big reward is to get through and get another Premier League side in the fifth round but to get a draw and take Boro back to our place would be financially great for us."

Having just missed out on promotion from League Two last season, Accrington have struggled this term and are fifth from bottom.

"This year the cup has been a great distraction for us, we have probably saved our best performances for the cup, our league form has been disappointing," says Conneely.

"But we enjoy the cup, we did really well away to Bradford City in the first round, they were near the top of League One at the time, then we beat Woking and Luton to get into the fourth round.

"We have Boro this weekend, it's exciting to have a Premier League team away from home."

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