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Highland League Cup final countdown: Brora Rangers and Fraserburgh bosses have their say ahead of showpiece

Ally MacDonald and Mark Cowie look ahead to this weekend's showdown at Harlaw Park.

Brora Rangers boss Ally MacDonald, right, and Fraserburgh manager Mark Cowie.
Brora Rangers boss Ally MacDonald, right, and Fraserburgh manager Mark Cowie.

Ally MacDonald wants Brora Rangers to put a silver lining on a challenging season as they go for GPH Builders Merchants Highland League Cup glory.

Meanwhile, Mark Cowie has had to be patient in his quest to end Fraserburgh’s wait to win the Highland League Cup again.

The Cattachs face the Broch in Saturday’s final – which was previously postponed in October and December – at Inverurie’s Harlaw Park.

This has been MacDonald’s first full season as Brora player-manager and he admits it hasn’t been straightforward.

Due to issues with the pitch at Dudgeon Park, the Sutherland side have faced a fixture backlog and still have seven Breedon Highland League matches to play this term.

In recent weeks a possible title challenge has faded, but MacDonald is focused on trying to win the Highland League Cup for the third time in Brora’s history.

He said: “This season has been very challenging. We’ve had to navigate through a difficult spell with games going off and the schedule we’ve had.

“We fell behind in the league pretty early on and we’ve always been chasing with games in hand.

“We had a two-and-a-half month spell where we played three games and you need to try to keep the motivation up and get the training right.

“Getting the boys through that period has been something new, all of that added to the challenge of trying to win games anyway.

“I’ve learned a lot of lessons and gained some experience that will hopefully benefit me and the club moving forward.

“With the season we’ve had it’s good we’ve managed to get to this final.

“Ideally the club wants to be pushing for the league and trying to potentially win promotion as well, that’s the ultimate goal.

“But aside from that we’re always desperate to win cups and we’ve given ourselves a chance in this competition.

“Although the league hasn’t gone our way, if we can go and win silverware we’ll still look back on the season positively.”

Wait could be worth it for Broch

Since being appointed as Fraserburgh manager in April 2015, Cowie has guided the club to eight trophies, but the Highland League Cup has eluded him.

The closest the Broch have come during that period was a 2018 final loss to Formartine United.

Cowie, who played the last time the Buchan side lifted the cup in 2006, has had to wait six years for the opportunity to atone for that final defeat.

He said: “Every cup competition is big and this is probably the biggest one because every club in the league is in it.

“It’s the one everyone is desperate to do well in, during my time as manager we lost a final which we’ve been looking to avenge.

“But we haven’t had the opportunity until now because it’s a very hard competition to succeed in.

Fraserburgh celebrate winning the Highland League Cup in 2006.

“When we were here before we didn’t manage to get over the last hurdle and we’d like to do it this time.

“It’s a medal a lot of the players haven’t got. Myself and Willie West are the only two to have won it with Fraserburgh and Scott Barbour won it with Formartine against us.

“We want to change that and we’ll do our best. But it comes down to one game and if we’re not at it and Brora are, then they’ll be successful.

“We need to make sure we’re at it and even then it might not be enough because Brora are a very good side.”

Desire undimmed

Cowie has savoured the successes Fraserburgh have had during his tenure.

But with the League Cup being the one trophy at Highland League he hasn’t won as a manager, he remains determined to deliver more silverware.

He added: “We know how lucky we’ve been. But it’s a mix of luck and also earning success and we have earned our success in recent times with what we’ve done and how we’ve performed.

“I don’t think anyone can say we’ve been lucky in any of the competitions we’ve been successful in.

Mark Cowie with the Aberdeenshire Shield last season.

“I think everyone involved in the game would like to have a full set of medals and we’re no different.

“But at the same time if it doesn’t go our way it just gives you added motivation for the next year and the year after.

“I don’t look at it too much, everything we do is for the players so that they can look back on their careers and look back on success.

“We’ve been fortunate up to now that the players we’ve had, past and present, have had success with us.

“But nothing’s handed to you. If we want more we have to fight, work hard and get a bit of luck.”

Boss in hunt for first trophy

If Brora were to triumph on Saturday it would be MacDonald’s first trophy as a manager.

However, his motivation is to deliver silverware for the club rather than for himself.

He added: “Every manager puts a lot of time into the job, but I maybe underestimated the demands of managing at this level.

“Myself and the coaching team put in numerous hours away from the training and games.

“We want to try to lift the levels and compete at the highest level we can and I suppose what makes it feel like it’s all worthwhile is winning things.

Ally MacDonald, left, in action for Brora.

“But I don’t look at it being about me or my managerial record.

“I’m a club man and I want to win it for the club and it was the same when I was a player, I want the boys to win it for the fans.

“It’s been a challenging year for the players and the club. The fans have been frustrated with how things have gone for us, hopefully a positive result will in the final can allow everyone to celebrate after those challenges.

“But we know it will be a very difficult game against Fraserburgh.”

Watch: Highland League Weekly EXTRA – Highlights of Buckie Thistle v Brechin City