'Blazing a trail for the area': What Hearts' shock Scottish Cup exit means to giant-killing Brora Rangers

Brora Rangers etched their name into Scottish Cup folklore with a dramatic upset, knocking last season’s finalists Hearts out of the second round.

Brora manager Steven MacKay (R) and his players celebrate at full time during a Scottish Cup tie between Brora Rangers and Hearts at Dudgeon Park, on March 23, 2021, in Brora, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Brora manager Steven MacKay (R) and his players celebrate at full time during a Scottish Cup tie between Brora Rangers and Hearts at Dudgeon Park, on March 23, 2021, in Brora, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Robbie Neilson’s side were behind twice and despite fielding a line-up boasting internationals like Liam Boyce, Christophe Berra and Gary Mackay-Steven, they found the Highland League side too much on an off-night for the SPFL Championship leaders.

Jordan Macrae gave the hosts the shock lead after just 12 minutes, and though Berra equalised with 20 minutes remaining, parity would only last four minutes until Martin Maclean fired high into the net to put the home side in front again and record one of the biggest Scottish Cup shocks of all time.

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It was an emotional night for all at the Highland League club, especially goalscorer Maclean and boss Steven Mackay, who both dedicated the victory to loyal club volunteer Sheena Manson who died last month after more than four decades of Dudgeon Park service in a variety of roles.

Brora Rangers' winning goal on Tuesday night left Hearts distraught at a shock cup exit.

Here, three key figures from the club on everyone’s lips reflect on the victory that has all of Scottish football talking ...

William Powrie, Chairman

“It’s easy to look at it in our own little goldfish bowl in Brora, but it has rippled right the way through the pond.

“It just brings out so many people I haven’t heard from years who have been congratulating me and sending me texts.

Brora's Martin MacLean celebrates his side's historic win over Hearts at full time. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

“While it’s true we were manning the pumps at times, it was one of those days where we saw the difficult patches out. They didn’t go out there and roll over, far from it. They showed their mettle and got back up again.

“It puts Brora right in the shop window, right at the time we want to be. By playing in the next round we go into the next tier of payment from the SFA which is absolutely great. You get £20,000. That goes up quite considerably in the following round. If we get over the next hurdle it’s very much more lucrative. It’s a good position to be in, particularly at a time when nobody really knows what structures or formats next season will look like.

“We had about 2,500 pay-per-view customers against Hearts. It’s always difficult to measure how successful that is or not, but clearly there was a great support from the Hearts contingent to buy the passes.

“We are very grateful for that. We clearly won’t get that type of number against Stranraer, but we will have made a few friends around Scotland who may well be tuning in to support their new-found team.

“While we all know where Brora is, many people south of Perth don’t. We are blazing a trail economically for the area as well as on the park.”

Steven Mackay, manager

“One of the biggest characteristics in our locker is our resilience and ability to dig deep when things are against us.

“In the team talk I specifically said they never cease to amaze me. When the odds are against them they produce performances and results.

“Over the last few years, we’ve produced very credible results in the Scottish Cup. We’ve beaten Stranraer, East Fife and gone to Morton and drawn.

“A result of this magnitude will certainly have people standing up and taking notice of Brora Rangers. There are teams in the Highland League and the Lowland League more than capable of playing in the Scottish leagues and results like this just strengthen our case. There’s an element where we deserve a bit more respect.

"The SPFL maybe turn their nose up a wee bit at the two leagues below, to a certain extent. But consistently pulling off results like this will hopefully strengthen our case for getting into the SPFL.

“It’s a shame [fans were] not all inside the ground to share it with us. There were one or two on a hill over there!

“That’s probably the only thing that’s disappointing on such a big night for the club and such a big result but hopefully the live stream went well and they enjoyed it from the comfort of their own homes.

“It’s just an incredible night.”

Martin Maclean, winning goalscorer

“This is my ninth season and it has been a journey. The season before I signed, Brora were third bottom of the Highland League. To now be sitting here having just knocked Hearts out of the Scottish Cup … that’s crazy. Absolutely crazy.

"I’ll be sitting at work tomorrow in a wee daze just thinking about it, but I’m obviously delighted. To be honest, I don’t really know how we did it.

“We’ve had five training sessions, that’s it, and we played a bounce game on Saturday where, if we’re honest, our tempo was poor. Then coming into a game tonight against Hearts who, for me, are a Scottish Premiership team, there was a wee bit of fear. But, at the same time, there was nothing to lose.

“People would have had a bit of hope and people would have dreamt of it, but I don’t think anyone would have expected it.

“So for them as well, especially the guys who have been involved in the club for years – Sandy Matheson, the groundsman, and John Young, our past chairman – what a moment for them as well.

“Sheena Manson passed away in February – she was a massive part of the club. We’d like to dedicate this win to her. She would have been elated if she was still with us.

“She did a wee bit of everything – feed us in the social club after games, on the bus with us for away games – just a lovely woman.

“She was part of the club for 50-odd years and it’s just a shame she wasn’t here to see it.”

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