SHAUN Maloney was the toast of the dressing room after inspiring Wigan Athletic to a first-ever FA Cup final appearance.
The Scot was outstanding as Latics saw off Millwall 2-0 in front of over 60,000 at Wembley, opening the scoring with a perfectly-executed volley.
It followed on from his last-gasp equaliser at QPR the previous weekend in the Premier League that kept Latics in touch with their relegation rivals.
And team-mate James McArthur admits his international colleague is playing out of his skin at the moment.
“Shaun is a real pleasure to play with, to be honest,” McArthur told the Evening Post.
“You give him the ball, and he just runs with it. He takes players on, he scores important goals.
“For a midfield player he also works back incredibly hard. He’s just an excellent player.”
Latics were in control from the outset against a Millwall side who were big on endeavour but couldn’t compete with Maloney and Callum McManaman in the quality stakes.
And his finish from Arouna Kone’s beautifully-weighted cross midway through the first half had James McCarthy drooling.
“Shaun pops up every day in the training with goals like that, and in massive games when we need them the most,” added McCarthy.
“I thought he was different class again, finding holes all over the place and causing them problems with his ability to go past players.”
McCarthy was also outstanding as Latics made their divisional superiority tell in a pretty one-sided semi-final encounter.
But the Ireland midfielder reckoned it was a real team effort that ensured Latics emerged victorious.
“I thought we worked really hard, we defended well and we scored two great goals to win us the game,” acknowledged McCarthy.
“We went about our business really professionally, and from start to finish we were in charge.
“They had a period at the start of the second half where they asked us a few questions and made it difficult for us, but we worked hard and made sure we weathered the storm.
“It’s an unbelievable achievement that we can all share - the players, the fans, our families - and we’re delighted to be there.”
It was Wigan’s debut at the ‘new’ Wembley, and their first visit to the national stadium since the League Two play-off defeat to Gillingham back in 2000.
But they’ll be back in less than a month for the small matter of an FA Cup final.
“It’s what you dream of as a kid, to come to Wembley and play in front of so many fans, and to get through to a cup final is an unbelievable achievement,” added McCarthy.
“The occasion was different class, everything I thought it would be and more, and hopefully the final will be even better.
“We’ll look forward to it nearer the time, but we’ve got some massive games in the league - starting on Wednesday against Manchester City - and that’s our priority at the moment.
“We were back in on Sunday morning looking ahead to Wednesday’s game, and everybody’s fully focused on that.
“If we can use this win to give us a boost in the league, and kick on up the table, that would be ideal.
“We’ll keep our feet on the ground, but these are exciting times for the club.”