Inverness winger Darren McCauley determined to set up Celtic tie in Scottish Cup final
Darren McCauley knows all about Cup final glory having inspired Coleraine to knockout success last season.
Now the talented winger is hoping to experience the Scottish version with Inverness Caley Thistle and would love to meet his old boss Neil Lennon in the process.
Scottish Championship side Thistle, who McCauley joined in January from the Bannsiders, face Hearts in tomorrow's Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park with Lennon's Celtic taking on Aberdeen in the other last four clash on Sunday.
McCauley expects to be on the bench but Coleraine fans will know all too well that if given the opportunity he is a brilliant big game player illustrated perfectly in last year's Irish Cup decider against Cliftonville when he scored a sparkling effort in a 3-1 win.
"Winning the Irish Cup with Coleraine was a fantastic experience and it would be great to get into the Scottish Cup final 12 months on," said the 27-year-old.
"We have a very tough match against Hearts in the semi but I think we have to embrace this match and the whole occasion."
McCauley, who was wanted by Crusaders, Larne and hometown club Derry City before moving to Scotland, admits it would be surreal if Caley Thistle and Celtic got there. As a kid he was on Celtic's books and in the reserves played for Lennon prior to the former Northern Ireland midfielder's two spells as first team boss.
"I worked under Neil for Celtic reserves. It was early days for him as a coach but I remember he was very good," said McCauley. "He was what you would expect as a manager from growing up watching him as a player. He was passionate and a really good motivator. He's quite a character and for me it was an enjoyable experience working under him.
"If we did manage to pull off a shock against Hearts it would be great to play Celtic in the final given I was there as a young player.
"Also it would be nice to see Neil Lennon again. It's been nearly 10 years since I saw Neil face to face and to do that at Hampden in a Scottish Cup final would be pretty surreal."
McCauley has previous Hampden experience having won the Scottish Youth Cup final there with Celtic against Rangers in 2010. Current Hoops heroes James Forrest and Callum McGregor were also in the squad.
McCauley, who is finishing a degree in Nutrition, added that he still checks the Bannsiders scores and tomorrow would welcome a chance to play against an old Irish League rival, Bobby Burns.
"When Coleraine played Glenavon last season I was up against Bobby Burns. If you had told me we might be playing in the Scottish Cup semi-finals I wouldn't have believed you," he stated. "That shows how the standard in the Irish League has improved in recent years.
"For Inverness I'm adjusting to the full-time set-up. As a new player coming in in January there is a period of adjustment.
"We have a lot to play for in the final weeks of the season. We still have a chance of promotion but right now we are totally focused on the semi-final with Hearts."