The early stages of Adam Mackinnon’s senior career have already produced experiences he previously dreamed of.
That has only served to inspire the Ross County midfielder in his efforts to create many more.
Mackinnon, who is from the Isle of Lewis, has been with the Staggies since joining their youth setup five years ago.
Both Mackinnon and forward Matthew Wright, also from Lewis, are currently enjoying productive loan spells with League One side Montrose.
The switch to Scottish football’s third-tier followed the pair’s successful stint with Highland League side Brora Rangers last season.
Initial steps in Staggies’ first team
Mackinnon was handed his first taste of Premiership action by Malky Mackay after returning to County in January, being handed two substitute appearances.
The second of those was the final stages of a defeat to Rangers in May, in front of nearly 50,000 supporters at Ibrox.
It came just seven days before Giovanni Van Bronckhorst’s men played in the Europa League final.
Mackinnon was then rewarded with his first Staggies start, in a 2-1 final day loss at home to Dundee United.
While the stint with Montrose is the next step in Mackinnon’s efforts to break into County’s first team, the 19-year-old is embracing every moment of that challenge.
Mackinnon said: “It’s crazy, although I don’t really look back on it much because it’s still the start of our careers.
“Even when I was back with my mates, this was the stuff we used to talk about. It’s a bit cringey, but it’s what I would dream of.
“Things like coming on against Rangers are things I just never thought would happen, but I just need to keep on going and see where I can go.”
Impact in Scottish football’s third-tier has caught Mackay’s eye
Mackinnon and Wright both spend the early part of the week training with their parent club.
After travelling to train with Montrose on a Thursday, they spend the remainder of the week in Angus building into the weekend match.
Mackinnon has made a strong impression in his 10 outings for the Gable Endies, netting his first goal in a man of the match performance against Airdrieonians earlier this month.
He followed it up with another goal in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Falkirk.
MAN OF THE MATCH
With a number of contenders from a great game on Tue night, young loanee Adam Mackinnon netting his first goal for the Club edged his selection by Match Sponsor Celurca Investments with Peter Stuart presenting the trophy, kindly sponsored by Fotheringham Homes. pic.twitter.com/oKebJxh6Lm
— Montrose FC (@MontroseFC) October 7, 2022
Mackay has been hugely encouraged by the impact made by both Mackinnon and Wright at Links Park.
Last month, Mackay said: “They are two great kids that I knew would adapt easily.
“Not only have they adapted well to the surroundings, they will be very respectful assets to Montrose off the pitch as well, but they are actually starting to mould their own personalities into the team as well.
“They are now making an absolute mark with Montrose.
“I have got no doubts the two of them will end up playing with us here, it’s just a matter of when.”
Gable Endies experience proving invaluable
With Stewart Petrie’s men competing for promotion to the Championship, Mackinnon feels he is testing himself at a strong level.
He added: “Brora was good, just for getting experience and playing men’s football for the first time.
“Now it’s more about playing at a higher level and trying to get more minutes. It’s all going well so hopefully I can kick on even more.
“It’s a totally different league for me to get used to. I’ve also had to get used to different styles of football.
“The whole point was to get game time and experience. I’m starting most games, and even when I’m not I’m coming on and making an impact.
“It was good to get a goal and the man of the match award against Airdrie so I’ll just keep on going.
“The manager [Malky Mackay] has just told we need to get experience and we need to play games. It’s perfect because it’s challenging for us, it’s a good league.
“At the same time, he feels we are good enough so we need to go and show that and embrace it.”
Tong teenager determined to make long journeys worthwhile
Hailing from the village of Tong on the outskirts of Stornoway, Mackinnon’s pathway into professional football is not a well-trodden one.
He played for local club Back up to under-18 level, prior to being taken on by the Staggies in 2017.
That meant at least once a week, Mackinnon would be accompanied by his family on the three-hour ferry journey over the Minch to Ullapool.
That was not the end of the travelling however, with Dingwall a further hour’s drive – while away games would take even longer.
Mackinnon relocated to the mainland when he signed his modern apprenticeship with County in 2019.
He hopes to reap the rewards of the vast hours spent travelling during his teenage years.
Mackinnon added: “I joined Ross County in the under-15s, so it has been a while now.
“I was still based in Lewis at that point, and then I moved over when I was 16.
“The travelling wasn’t very fun. I came over once a week on a Saturday morning when I would train, and then play a game on the Sunday.
“If it was a home game I would get back on Sunday night, but for an away game it would be the freight ferry home at about 3am – which my mum wasn’t too pleased about.
“Matty was in the same boat. We knew each other, we were in rival teams as he played for Point but I saw him in school and trained with him.
“It’s quite tough to get recognised on the island, and actually be able to train.
“I know there are a few players who are good, but being able to come over here and have family that can actually take you to training is hard.
“Hopefully it will be worth it.”