A PAIR of football fanatics say the magic of the FA Cup is alive and well – after making it to Wembley the hard way to take in the famous tournament from first kick to the final whistle.
Hebburn comedian Andy Fury, 31, and pal Mark Tearney, 35 were among the 90,000 crowd who saw Arsenal come back from two goals down to beat battling Hull City on Saturday.
Their own road to the final started back in August at the opening preliminary round of the competition – after the duo vowed to watch all 14 rounds of the cup for an ambitious challenge called Cup Runnings.
Nine months on – after 19 games, 65 goals, dramatic penalty shoot-outs an abandonment and thousands of miles on the road covered – they are reflecting on an incredible journey.
Mark said: “We feel very privileged to have been at the final. It was a wonderful atmosphere, the place was bouncing from start to finish.
“It was an amazing game and must be right up there with the best Wembley finals.
“We were in the Hull end, their fans were in great spirits throughout. They were very unfortunate not to take the trophy home.”
The pals chronicled every step of their mammoth mission on their own website and by recording a podcast after each game, interviewing football stars such as Terry McDermott and David James along the way.
Mark added: “It’s been some journey. From starting at Tow Law Town in front of maybe 50 people to ending up at Wembley in a crowd of 90,000. We had a real sense of achievement at getting here. It has been absolutely brilliant and great to do with it a close friend.
The pair couldn’t help but reflect on their long and winding road to English football’s showpiece game after learning Arsenal covered only 14 miles on their way to the Wembley date.
Mark added: “We have done it the hard way. We must have covered 5,000 miles.
“Arsenal only went 14 miles after having every game at home and then the semi and final at Wembley, so that stuck in the throat a bit.”
While Andy had to travel back to the North East for a comedy gig on Sunday, Mark made it a cup final double by staying on to watch Gateshead’s bid for promotion to the football league in the Conference play off final.
The Tynesiders had supplied the duo with tickets for the FA Cup final after they booked their own spot at the home of English football a day later, and Mark was determined to cheer them on.
The pair now plan to release a book detailing their adventures. For more information on their journey, visit www.cuprunnings.com