McCaul bids to be Linfield's cup hero
Brian McCaul looked on from the Windsor Park viewing lounge as Linfield celebrated a sixth double in seven seasons last May.
The Blues had just crushed Crusaders 4-1 in the Irish Cup final to get the party started.
But now the winger known as Bru — Linfield’s top scorer this season with 12 goals — wants to be a cup hero, not spectator.
The 22-year-old wants the feeling that can only be experienced by playing in an Irish Cup final.
There are enough players at Windsor Park who can put him in the picture.
However, McCaul is part of that group of Blues aces yet to experience the showpiece occasion — he’s joined by David Armstrong, Johnny Black, Niall Quinn, Ross Clarke, Nathan Hanley, Ryan Henderson, Gary Browne and Matthew Tipton.
After enjoying his loan spell at Glenavon last season, McCaul’s star is now burning brightly at Windsor Park.
His performances have lifted the spirits of the faithful who have seen their side lose their cloak of invincibility.
The league title, although not yet a distant dream, is out of their hands and Cliftonville will cross the line first if they can maintain their consistent form.
So the Irish Cup takes on extra significance for the Blues. Defeat to Crusaders in the fifth round today would spark genuine fears of a trophyless season.
McCaul knows the players will be up for the battle, but he is also on an individual crusade to make it to the glamour decider.
“I’m one of those players who believes that you have to play in an Irish Cup final to really feel part of it,” said McCaul whose two-year Blues deal expires in the summer of 2014.
“You never want to be on the sidelines looking on, you want to play a part and experience it for yourself. Many of our team have done that, but a few haven’t and we will have extra determination to get there.
“I was in the Windsor Park viewing lounge during last year’s final, but hopefully this time we can make it all the way with me on the pitch.
“Linfield have enjoyed so much Irish Cup success in recent seasons and from a personal perspective it would be great to be a part of that.
“I’ve been at the club for two years, but the buzz of an appearance in an Irish Cup final is a huge goal of mine. I’m sure there’s no feeling like it, but I want to experience it myself.”
Another man who will be hungry to get to his first Irish Cup final is Matthew Tipton, especially after his season was badly disrupted by injuries.
Crusaders will certainly need to slam the brakes on the Welshmen if they are to make it to a fourth final in five seasons.
“Although Matthew has been with us for the season it feels like we have a new signing giving us all a lift,” added McCaul.
“I can remember him telling me he never got injured until he came here so it was just bad luck, but now he’s fit and firing.”
When he’s not scoring goals for Linfield, McCaul has teaching duties at La Salle and he’s continuing his sports degree at Jordanstown.
Not surprisingly then, he has a fine grasp of figures.
“In the league there are 39 points still to play for and we have 13 games left,” he added.
“Cliftonville have the extra game and you have to take your hat off to them as they haven’t lost many matches.
“But we won’t be giving up on anything. There’s always hope that we can close that gap. But the Irish Cup is also a very sought after trophy at Linfield and we have a proud record in the competition we want to keep up.
“Crusaders will be tough opponents, but it’s been a real mixed bag for us against them.
“We were unlucky not to win at Seaview but it’s about getting through to the next round any way we can — I’ll take an ugly win!”
Sometimes you have to win ugly to create beautiful memories. They should know all about that at Linfield!