Evening Express

Coleraine forward McCauley ‘excited’ about hosting Formartine United in cross-nation Irn-Bru Cup clash

Coleraine's Darren McCauley, right, during a UEFA Europa League qualifying match at Coleraine Showgrounds.

Coleraine’s Darren McCauley says they are “excited” to be playing Formartine United in the Irn-Bru Challenge Cup.

The Highland League team face the Northern Irish side on Saturday evening at the Showgrounds in the second round.

The SPFL’s decision to introduce teams from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Wales and England to the Challenge Cup has been heavily criticised.

However, midfielder McCauley is a fan of the idea and says Coleraine are embracing being in the competition.

He said: “As a player I think this is really beneficial, to play against different opposition.

“When you’re playing teams year after year you can get used to them but this Challenge Cup is an unknown quantity and it adds a bit of variety and you could get a nice trip out of it.

“It’s exciting to be in this cup. I’ve never played in it before because since I’ve been in the club, Coleraine haven’t qualified for it before last season.

“It’s something I’m excited about and looking forward to.”

Coleraine are one of Northern Ireland’s top sides. Last season they finished second in the Premiership, being pipped to the title by two points by Crusaders.

But the Bannsiders won the Irish Cup for the first time in 15 years and were in this season’s Europa League, being beaten by Spartak Subotica of Serbia 3-1 on aggregate in the first qualifying round.

They are top of the Northern Irish Premiership and McCauley, who scored 20 goals last term, has warned Formartine they’re a team on the rise.

The 27-year-old added: “We’re a high-pressing team and we base our game on a lot of energy.

“We’re quite quick going forward and we’re capable of counter-attacking on teams quickly.

“We have the ability to get the ball down and get nice passes going.

“Over the last four or five years the team has steadily progressed.

“Five or 10 years ago Coleraine would not be talked about as potential league winners.

“Last year we finished second in the league, missing out on it on the last day of the season, and we won the cup for the first time in 15 years.

“We’ve improved and we’re a team that’s going places.”

McCauley admits he doesn’t know much about Formartine but thinks with both teams being part-time they could be evenly matched.

He said: “I don’t know much about them. I’ve done my own research on them, Googling them and trying to find some clips.

“That’s my personal choice, to find out about who I’m playing.

“With us being at home, potentially we are favourites but I’m sure if we were coming over to Scotland then we would be second favourites.

“It will be good to see how both teams are because we’re both part-time but we’re from different countries so it will be good to see where our ability and fitness is compared to theirs.”