FOR anyone suggesting the FA Cup has lost some of its magic, try telling that to QPR defender Conor Masterson.
The centreback made his professional debut in Rangers’ stunning 5-1 win against Swansea City in the third round of the competition on Sunday afternoon – and has compared the feeling to being involved in a Champions League quarter-final!
Masterson joined QPR from Liverpool in the summer. Fifteen months before switching Merseyside for west London, the Republic of Ireland U21 international was on the bench for the Reds’ Champions League quarter-final encounter with Manchester City at Anfield.
While the footballing world was watching on that occasion, Masterson says making his first appearance at professional level as Mark Warburton’s men swept aside the Swans in the FA Cup was just as special.
“It was a long time coming but it was an unbelievable feeling,” said 21-year-old Masterson after producing an assured display for the R’s.
“To win 5-1, the crowd, the atmosphere, it was brilliant. I am buzzing right now.”
Comparing the feeling with that of being involved for Liverpool in the Champions League, Masterson said: “This is right up there, it’s really right up there.
“To get on the pitch and play 90 minutes, winning 5-1, it’s what dreams are made of and I am delighted to do it for QPR.”
Reflecting on the days leading up to his debut, Masterson revealed: “I had an idea I would be playing on Thursday, but it wasn’t confirmed until Saturday.
“I was giddy for the couple of days leading into the game with excitement. I couldn’t wait to get out there and it was just brilliant.
“To win 5-1 against a good Swansea team even though they were missing a few players was just an unbelievable experience.
“My mum, my dad, my girlfriend and uncle were all there and I saw them at the end – it was great, they were all so happy for me.”
So how did Masterson rate his performance in what was a stunning team display?
“I thought I did alright,” he said. “I felt comfortable. As soon as the whistle went and I had my first few touches, I was relaxed and just focused on the game.
“Playing alongside Geoff (Cameron) and Lee Wallace made it easier for me. Their communication and their experience was great.”
Masterson’s own voice could also be heard throughout the afternoon as he quickly shook off any first-game nerves to make his own feelings known to his team-mates.
“It makes me focus by talking,” he explained. “It is just part of me and how I play, it’s something that I like to do.”
Masterson was warmly applauded by the R’s fans during the match and not only did he notice the backing he was receiving, he admits it helped him get through the game.
“Their support was massive,” he explained. “Even warming up, they were literally helping me. I can’t thank them enough. It was a special, special day.
“I have loved every minute since being here. The way the whole club has treated me, I have just loved it.”