Evening Express

Formartine United chief says Irn-Bru Cup tie in Ireland is almost like a European tie

Formartine United will travel to Ireland to play Coleraine in the Irn-Bru Cup.

Colin Grant says he never thought he would see the day when Formartine United were facing a team from another country.

On Saturday evening the Pitmedden team will be in Northern Ireland to take on Coleraine in the Irn-Bru Challenge Cup second round.

For Grant, who has spent 30 years as president at North Lodge Park, the clash with the Bannsiders is another step on an incredible journey with United.

When he came on board in 1988 the club were close to folding and were struggling.

But over the years they have been revitalised with Saturday’s tie against foreign opposition another step on Formartine’s journey following their promotion to the Highland League in 2009.

Grant said: “I never thought I would see the club involved in something like this.

“We’re a Highland League club so for us this is almost a European tie.

“It’s phenomenal, the experience for us will be incredible.

“It gives the club publicity. Regardless of the result there are people at Irish newspapers trying to find out about Formartine United.

“I said after we won the Aberdeenshire Cup last season that it was another step on our journey.

“This is the same for us, it’s another tick in the box.

“Thirty years ago when I came on board the doors could have been locked.

“Now we are playing what for a Highland League team is a European tie in another country.

“It’s phenomenal what we are doing. Many people call us the small pub team from Pitmedden, but it’s phenomenal.”

Coleraine are one of Northern Ireland’s top sides. They are top of the Premiership, unbeaten domestically this season.

Last term they finished second in the league and won the Irish Cup for the first time in 15 years.

Earlier this season Oran Kearney’s team played Spartak Subotica of Serbia in the Europa League first qualifying round, losing 3-1 on aggregate.

Grant believes Formartine are underdogs, but is hoping they can spring a surprise.

He added: “They are a big team Coleraine, in many ways for us this game has a similar stature to playing a Premiership side in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup.

“This is a big tie, Coleraine were live on Sky on Tuesday night against Crusaders.

“Sky show their league and back their league. We don’t have anything like that. This is a historic occasion for Formartine really.

“We’ve got no expectations so if the boys go there and have a go you never know. There’s not the same pressure of Highland League and you never know what can happen in football.”