FOR Conor Hourihane, the magic of the FA Cup has so far been limited to him vanishing before the final whistle.In his only two appearances in the competition, he has been sent off, arguably contributing to the Pilgrims’ ignominious first-round exits at the hands of lower league opponents last season and the season before.
Since the second of those dismissals, Conor has become club captain at Home Park and, with that responsibility has come a noticeable new maturity which should stand Argyle in good stead when they go to non-league Lincoln this weekend for the first round of this year’s competition.
“There’s more to it than putting the armband on at 3pm,” said Conor, of the captaincy. “You need to set examples every day in training; keep everyone happy [on the field]; keep chatting to people and telling them to dig in, get on with it and things will change.
“Luckily enough, in the last two weeks, it’s turned and it is amazing how people get off your back when a couple of wins go your way.”
Those couple of wins have been achieved by solid defending all over the park and late winners at the opposition end.
“As a footballer, you are told to keep playing for 93 minutes, 94, whatever it is,” said Conor, “and, when you get a late goal, especially two weeks in a row, it gives everyone a massive boost.
“It gives you confidence that, whatever games you play in, you can always nick a goal. It’s definitely something to be on the right side of, rather than the wrong side.
“Credit to the lads and credit to everyone in the club that those last-minute winners have given everyone a big boost and we’re confident going into the game on Saturday and the coming games ahead.”
Given his previous record in the competition, no-one will be more determined to prevent Skrill Premier League Lincoln from adding their names to those of Stourbridge and Dorchester in the Pilgrims’ FA Cup hall of shame.
“Maybe, in previous years, we took the non-league teams lightly,” he said. “[Lincoln] are only a league below us and are a decent team.”
“It’s tough. It’s maybe their cup final to beat a Football League team to prove that they are good enough to get into the Football league.
“It is something you have to stand up to, play your football, knuckle down, match their enthusiasm and energy, and I am sure the quality will come out in the end.”