Josh Meekings reckons Caley Thistle can begin their road to Hampden with fresh optimism after getting their Championship challenge back on track.
The former Inverness defender, who now plays and coaches at Highland League champions Brora Rangers, keeps tabs on the club with whom he won the Scottish Cup in 2015.
Fellow Championship side Morton visit the Caledonian Stadium for their third-round tie on Saturday and they face a Caley Jags side who ended a five-game winless run with an impressive 2-1 league victory at Queen of the South on Friday.
It kicks off a mouthwatering week, with league rivals Raith Rovers visiting in the SPFL Trust Trophy quarter-finals on Tuesday, before next Friday’s Championship showdown against Kilmarnock, which is live on BBC Scotland.
Killie and Rovers are joint-top of the table, but Inverness are only one point behind them and will return to the summit if they win next Friday.
Win in Dumfries was just the tonic
Before that though, they have a determined Morton side to see off and Meekings, who is also a sports massage therapist with Physio Inverness at the Ice Centre, believes beating Queens was the ideal shot in the arm.
The 29-year-old said: “I have been in the Championship and it is difficult. It can become a fight to pick up points.
⚽️⚽️ @billymckay22 with a Friday night double
— SPFL (@spfl) November 23, 2021
“What is important for this cup tie against Morton is Caley Thistle are coming off the back of a really good win at Palmerston, which is never easy.
“This offers a change in momentum from the league and lifts the spirits of everyone at the club. It was important to pick up three points.
“Morton will be difficult, but Inverness have every chance to go through and that could start something special for the club again, which would be great.”
Mckay is back among the goals
Meekings has been impressed with the Billy Dodds’ side keeping the battle going at the top of the table, with two Billy Mckay goals sealing the win over the Doonhamers last week and taking him on to nine for the season in all competitions.
He said: “There is a lot of quality in the squad. I have played with a number of those players and there are Premiership quality players at Caley Thistle.
“Billy Dodds has done a brilliant job to take them where they are. Not only are the organised, but they have Billy Mckay back scoring goals again.
“I’m looking at the club like a fan and I want them to do well. I believe there is enough quality to be successful this season.
“If they can go on a run, they can gain promotion this season. Every side goes through spells where there are a few shaky results, but the win last week can help them build from that.
“Hopefully they can win these cup games this coming week and carry that into the Kilmarnock game.”
Meekings’ goal set ICT on final route
Meekings played a pivotal role in helping ICT win the Scottish Cup in 2015.
He scored the opening goal in a 1-1 draw at St Mirren, which earned a replay where the Caley Jags swept to a 4-0 win.
They then defeated Partick Thistle, Raith Rovers, Celtic and Falkirk to lift the glittering prize for the first time in their history.
The Englishman, who joined Inverness from Ipswich Town in 2011, was also at the heart of controversy when his handball on the goal-line in the semi-final against Celtic was missed and the Highlanders stood firm to go on and win the tie 3-2 after extra-time at Hampden.
The cup hero admits the team felt lucky as the bus pulled out of Paisley to still be in the cup after the first game of that remarkable tournament.
Little could the squad have imagined they’d go all the way under John Hughes to become history-makers.
He said: “My goal scraped us a replay and we took them back to Inverness and played really well (in a 4-0 win) to progress.
“When you look back, you forget all about that game at St Mirren. It turned out to be massive in terms of what happened that season. It was one of the few goals I scored, so I should have remembered it.
“We were downbeat after the St Mirren tie down there because we felt like we’d given it away, but we still had the lifeline of the replay.
“As a team, we went on to do something spectacular after that.”
Scottish Cup is special for players
Meekings, who was a League Cup runner-up in 2014, admits there is something unique about the Scottish Cup -the oldest knockout trophy in world club football.
He added: “At the time, when you’re a player, you tell people Scottish Cup ties are just another game, but that’s maybe to settle the nerves.
“You do understand it’s special. Scottish Cup weekend is like no other.
“It’s massive because everyone takes an interest in it, no matter who is playing. You get a real buzz.”
Super Saints show way to glory
With St Johnstone winning the cup double last year, Meekings feels it shows anything is possible.
He said: “Last season showed how fantastic the cup can be.
“We were doing well in the league in 2015, but no one would have thought we’d reach the final, let alone win it. To see the underdogs get to the latter stages is brilliant. Clubs can take a lot from St Johnstone’s example.
“If you play your best football and the other team is not quite at it, no matter who they are, then it can be massive in a cup game.”