Brora Rangers will resume training tomorrow after being given the go-ahead by the Scottish FA and Scottish Government.
The Highland League champions have their pyramid play-off against Kelty Hearts to prepare for on April 24, with a draw today to determine who plays at home first.
A Kelty statement on Wednesday had outlined frustration at requests to the Scottish Government and Scottish FA chief executive, regarding an exemption to set up testing and return to training, going unanswered.
A professional sports exemption is required to bring the players back to training and to put testing in place. This was granted to the seven Highland League clubs – including Brora – to participate in the Scottish Cup recently.
However, the Lowland League side stated yesterday they had received clarification and could resume training, with the same principle applying to Brora.
🤝⚽️THANK YOU | We have had confirmation from the SFA that we now have permission to train and prepare for the upcoming play off matches.
We would like to thank the SFA, Government and the SLFL for this.
Information on the play off matches will be released by the SFA tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/xewxvAwhz1
— Kelty Hearts Football Club (@KeltyHeartsFC) April 8, 2021
Kelty have not played since the lower-league shutdown at the start of January, whereas Brora have at least had games in the Scottish Cup to keep them active.
Mackay and his players were tested after the Scottish Cup defeat to Stranraer, in preparation for them being able to return.
He said: “Now we’ve been given the green light we’ll train on Saturday. I think it’s only fair both clubs have ample time to prepare.
“They are big games, in terms of what the mean to our potential passage into the Scottish leagues, and you want as much time to prepare as possible.
“We’d effectively use the Saturday as our third training session each week – we’re pretty comfortable with that. It will give us enough time to get the boys ready.”
The winner of the two-legged tie will then go on to face the bottom club in League Two in the pyramid play-off.
Both clubs were declared champions at the end of last month, despite playing only a handful of fixtures due to the pandemic.
They were deprived of the opportunity to compete for a place in the SPFL last season, after the campaign was ended early and reconstruction talks failed.
Mackay added: “It’s good to get it confirmed as there was a bit of speculation about whether it would go ahead.
“We’ve got a focal point now and have have two weeks to prepare for two massive games.
“It’s what we craved this time last year and were never given the opportunity. It’s great for ourselves and Kelty Hearts but the only slight negative is fans can’t attend.
“It would have been a great occasion for both sets of supporters.”
More info on the Pyramid Play-Offs to follow tomorrow! https://t.co/x3cjd3D2b2
— Brora Rangers (@brorarangers) April 8, 2021
Mackay, whose work sees him based close to Kelty in Dunfermline during the week, has had limited opportunity to scout Kelty given their lack of competitive action.
The last competitive game for Barry Ferguson’s side came in the Scottish Cup, also against Stranraer, on January 9.
Brora boss Mackay added: “I actually watched them against Stranraer in preparation for our game against them. I watched them last season just before they were announced as Lowland League champions.
“We’ll get our analysis done. They are a good side so it’s going to be a tough task.
“Will we have an advantage? You can look at it in different ways. Brora may have the advantage of training and having played more games.
“But we have seen with the Hearts game it can work in the opposite way. Hearts had perfect preparation – playing regularly, travelling up the night before, being the better team – and we had very little time to prepare.
“When the whistle goes on the 24th it will come down to who who wants to win that game the most. It will be a big occasion.”