Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Caley Thistle starlet Daniel MacKay relieves weekend of his dreams two years on from Challenge Cup success

Daniel MacKay celebrates the Challenge Cup win with Coll Donaldson.
Daniel MacKay celebrates the Challenge Cup win with Coll Donaldson.

Daniel MacKay lived the weekend of his dreams.

Very few footballers taste international and cup glory in the space of whirlwind 24 hours, which saw MacKay transported up and down the country
to be there for Caley Thistle’s Challenge Cup triumph.

On the evening of Friday March 23, MacKay, watched on by his club manager John Robertson, scored in Scotland’s 2-0 win over England in York.

As part of an agreement with Robertson that would see him play that game and against Dumbarton the following day, Robertson drove MacKay back up to Inverness after the game before the team headed to Perth for the cup final.

He would come off the bench in the second half – still just 16 – and tee up Carl Tremarco for the game’s only goal.

Two years on from that memorable weekend, MacKay looks back with fondness.

“I didn’t realise how big it was,” he said. “I didn’t take it in. It was like ‘what has this weekend been?’ It only hit me at school on the Monday.

“I thought the gaffer just wanted me to play in the England game and enjoy the experience.

MacKay is fouled by Chris McLaughlin in the Challenge Cup final.

“We came to an agreement with the (Scotland) coaches that the gaffer would come down to the game and pick me up.

“It felt really good knowing he wanted me in the squad (the following day).

“I just thought it was another game to prove myself and make an impact in front of the gaffer. We beat them 2-0 but I missed a penalty.”

MacKay and Robertson arrived back in the Highlands around 3am, 13 hours before the Challenge Cup final against Dumbarton at McDiarmid Park was due to kick off.

The former Millburn Academy pupil had already made an impact in the first team that season, having scored on his debut in the earlier rounds against Peterhead.

He was already talked about as a bright prospect for the future long before that Saturday in Perth.

Inverness were victorious under Robertson in the 2003-04 iteration of the competition, whereas for Dumbarton it was the first cup final in 121 years.

For the majority of the game the fare was poor. The McDiarmid Park surface did not help but neither side particularly revelled in the cup final atmosphere.

“I had a good feeling that day. Both teams were a bit nervous; it was the first final for a few of our boys and Dumbarton had not been in a cup final for so many years,” said MacKay.

“They played well and had the better of the first half but I think the game changed when me and Aaron (Doran came on).

“I was warming up and came back in; Brian Rice came up to me and said ‘you’re going on’. He pulled me to one side and told me to get at them, to scare them.

“That gave me the belief that if I got the ball, I needed to do something. These moments mean more in cup finals and I might only get one chance.”

Carl Tremarco finishes off Daniel MacKay’s cross.

Joe Chalmers collected the ball just inside the Dumbarton half from Iain Vigurs. He rolled it straight into MacKay’s path.

Facing up against Sons full-back Chris McLaughlin, he knew this was his chance.

“I knew Carl getting to the back post (in the past) but I just fizzed it across and hoped someone would be on the end of it.

“Thankfully, he was there doing what he had been doing for the past few years. When he prodded it in it was an unbelievable feeling.

“Carl still does it now and he’s very hard to track back, I can tell you that from first-hand experience.”

Nearly three years after the pain of a cup final dismissal, Carl Tremarco was now the match-winner. For a 16-year-old MacKay, however, the reality was yet to sink in.

MacKay made his debut for Inverness as a 16-year-old.

“I had geography first thing and the teacher said to me, ‘good weekend?’; she saw I’d done well and could forgive me for not doing anything that weekend.

“I had a few PE teachers congratulating me but I knew I had to get my studies over with and focus on exams. Any contract (with Inverness) would take care of itself.

“That feeling was unbelievable and hopefully there’s more stuff to come.

“To potentially win it two times at 18 wouldn’t have been bad. But winning more trophies is what you want as a footballer.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in