Confident Hull KR captain Tyrone McCarthy admits walking out of the Wembley tunnel makes him feel “bullet-proof”.
The back-row, who has played there twice before in victorious Warrington Wolves sides, hopes his colleagues gain the same feeling when they arrive at the national stadium for the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final.
Cynics would argue they will need more super powers than that to defeat Leeds Rhinos, who are huge 1-5 favourites to retain the trophy they won 12 months ago against Castleford Tigers.
However, Hull KR have overcome Catalans Dragons, Wigan Warriors and Warrington to reach their first such showpiece in 29 years so few can contest they do not warrant their place.
McCarthy’s own experiences will prove crucial given he is one of just three Rovers players, Shaun Lunt and Graeme Horne being the others, who have played in the Challenge Cup final before.
Indeed, the Ireland international’s first such occasion when Warrington defeated Huddersfield in 2009 was only his fourth career game.
“That was a bit of a whirlwind,” recalled McCarthy.
“I didn’t really take it in. I was 21, just out of uni’ and it seems strange to be back there; when I moved away from Warrington, you always imagine the top-four clubs reaching the semi-finals.
“Signing for Hull KR this year, my goal was to just get into the team week in, week out, and make sure I performed well.
“But to get to a Challenge Cup final in my first season is a great achievement and, hopefully, we can top it off by going one better.
“The year after 2009, when Warrington got there again and I didn’t play, I saw what we’d actually done and did absorb all that.
“I realised then how special it was so now, around our players and especially those from Australia, they won’t have a clue what to expect.
“When you walk out, that’s hairs on the back of your neck stuff. It’s an old cliché, but it is what it is; it makes you feel bullet-proof.
“It’s something you want to do week in, week out but we’ve had to work hard to reach this game.”
McCarthy, of course, was in a far different location this time last year.
Frustrated by a lack of regular minutes, he had left hometown Warrington for Australia and was, therefore, playing part-time in Cairns for Northern Pride while working as a teacher.
“I might have been on a beach somewhere in Oz,” offered the player, who scored in Warrington’s 2012 Wembley win over Leeds.
“We were preparing for the finals ourselves and looking to do the treble over there.
“We ended up winning the minor premiership and went into the Queensland Cup final to reach the State NRL final.
“It isn’t too far off the preparation that we are doing at KR now – but I had to manage a job in-between.”
Now 27, he finds himself leading Rovers out at Wembley after captain Terry Campese suffered a season-ending knee injury in June. McCarthy, who has scored five tries in 26 games in his debut campaign, says it is unlikely there will be need for Churchillian speeches.
“I’m pretty sure this weekend we won’t need to gee anyone up,” he added, having been led by legendary Wolves duo Adrian Morley and Lee Briers previously.
“These are the games why everyone plays the sport and if you need getting up for this, you’re probably in the wrong place.
“I’ll have a few words to say but we’ll all be focused.
“It’s disappointing through the way it’s come around with Campo getting injured. We’d love for him to be out there leading us this week because he’s an awesome player and a real inspiration.
“But to touch on the other players I’ve had captain me, there’s the determination of Moz and the mind-set of Briersy.
“Briersy’s off-the-cuff style and the way he can create is something that I haven’t got.
“But we had calmness going into those games. We had confidence going into every game. I think that’s something we need to impose this weekend, too.”
Hull KR finished 10th in Super League and are battling for Super League safety.
But McCarthy sees a likeness with Warrington in 2009.
“That was the catalyst for their success now,” he recalled.
“It is similar circumstances –we’d finished 10th in the league but reached the final and from there we went on to win it again the year after.
“We also started making the Grand Finals and it becomes infectious – hopefully, that’s the same case here at Hull KR.”