Cunningham aims for cup final glory

St Helens captain Keiron Cunningham is aiming to sign off his glittering career in style by making his ninth appearance in a Challenge Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday August 28.

The 33-year-old former Great Britain hooker is hanging up his boots at the end of the season and has set his sights on adding a record breaking eighth Challenge Cup winners’ medal to his collection before he retires.

Saints hit the Wembley trail on Saturday April 17 with a home fourth round tie against Toulouse Olympique in the 2010 Carnegie Challenge Cup, a date Cunningham is looking forward to after his side fell at the semi-final hurdle last summer.

“I’ve been lucky enough to play in eight Challenge Cup finals and we’ve won seven of them,” said Cunningham. “I could not think of a better send-off before retiring than playing in another Wembley final.

“We have won it so often that it felt like it was our trophy and it really hurt to lose to Huddersfield in last year’s semi. That left a bitter taste. I was so disappointed; I vowed not to watch the final. But in the end I did and I’m glad Warrington won – they deserved it and were fantastic on the day.”

Cunningham, 33, added: “I have lost three or four semis but I would rather lose at that stage than in the final. When you get to Wembley it’s all about winning and losing spoils the occasion.”

That’s not happened too often to the mercurial hooker – his only experience of defeat came in 2002 when Saints’ arch-rivals Wigan denied Cunningham a Grand Slam in a final played at Murrayfield.

Four of Cunningham’s eight Challenge Cup final appearances have been at Wembley with others at Twickenham (twice), Cardiff and Edinburgh.

“I’ve never played a Test match at Wembley so my four appearances there have all been in Cup finals,” said marathon man Cunningham who has clocked up more than 500 career appearances.

“People ask me which is my favourite final but that’s a tough one. They are all special for different reasons. I will never forget my first against Bradford as a youngster in 1996 when I scored a try. It’s every kid’s dream to score a try at Wembley.

“We had to show real grit and determination to beat Bradford, who were riding high at the time, in the Twickenham final in 1991 and it was very special to play at the new Wembley against Catalans in 2007.

“I always look forward to the Challenge Cup campaign and more than ever this year because it’s my last. We play Toulouse at home and they have Super League aspirations so will be determined to put up a good show. I didn’t know much about them but our backroom staff have done their homework and we will be ready for their challenge.”

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