Five venues, more than 50 teams, hundreds of players and more drama than the finale of Game of Thrones. Possibly.
The Pub Cup went into overdrive in week two with heats taking place in all corners of the country.
We started in Belfast, ended in Liverpool and stopped off at Crystal Palace, Southampton and Blackburn in between.
First up was a visit to Windsor Park and a Pub Cup debut in Northern Ireland. And it did not disappoint. But enough about the pubs, let’s get back to the football…
In the morning session Hatfield House, Belfast, fielded a team made entirely of staff from the venue. We feared it might have led to a problem with opening, but they departed soon enough to return for lunch.
Victory and a place in the semi-finals at Manchester City’s Academy went to The Rising Sun who defeated O’Connor’s in the final.
They will be joined by the Hole in the Wall, Armagh, who won the afternoon final with one of the goals of the tournament. Check it out:
Licensee Joanne McCall, who watched her team throughout, said:
I’m absolutely buzzing, they’re amazing. They’re a great bunch and we can 100 per cent do it in Manchester.”
Next up was a trip to Premier League Crystal Palace for our second ever Women’s Pub Cup event.
It came down to a penalty shootout in the final after The Swan Inn, Hatfield Peveral, and The Wheatsheaf in Bexhill played out a tense goalless final.
An unconventional save by the Swan’s keeper’s face ultimately proved decisive and they picked up the trophy.
In the afternoon, the men’s final also came down to the lottery of penalties. It was the Crown, Bookham, who had the winning ticket and will now need another one up the road to Manchester.
If we were giving out prizes for attire, then at St Mary’s we would have rewarded The Old Village Inn who turned up in matching t-shirts designed especially for the day (see below).
Sadly, for their team we are only giving out prizes for football, so they went home empty handed.
Instead, it will be the similarly named Village Home Pub and The Beacon who proved to be the strongest sides at St Mary’s who will advance to the next stage.
Ewood Park famously produced the Premier League champions of 1994. A quarter of a century later it can now add to that roll of honour the hosting of the third BT Sport Women’s Pub Cup heat.
Whisper it quietly in that part of the country but it was Burnley’s Royal Dyche pub that won the day. They’ll head to Manchester with the runners-up, Venue, from Skipton.
And so, to Liverpool, a Pub Cup stronghold after the Liver Vaults won the first ever Pub Cup tournament two years ago.
The competition was fierce at Anfield as eight teams battled on the turf that has provided a stage for one or two other half-decent players this year.
Ultimately it was The Dreysbrook who were partying on the pitch and they’ll now take the short trip to Manchester for the semi-finals.
But the Pub Cup is not just about the winning. Stonegate pub The Hope & Anchor were formed just for the tournament and gave a credible account of themselves. For manager Alan Armstrong it was a day he will never forget.
I spent years coming here watching, so to play is an absolutely great experience. I nearly scored as well, which would have been the icing on the cake.”
We now have heats left this week at Leicester, Sheffield United, Murrayfield and Sunderland to complete the semi-final line-up.
We then head to Manchester’s City Academy on Monday May 27 for men’s and women’s 11-a-side tournaments under the auspices of celebrity managers John Hartson, Robbie Savage, Fara Williams and Rachel Brown-Finnis.
That tournament will decide who will play in the finals at Newcastle’s St James’ Park on Tuesday June 4. The victors will be crowned Pub Cup 2019 champions and pick up £5,000 of equipment and free BT Sport for a year for their pub.
We’ll keep you posted on the progress of the tournament here and with regular updates from the grounds on our Twitter feed @BTSportBars.