EL KESSOCKO may not have the appeal of an Old Firm showdown or an Edinburgh derby, but the Highland version should not be understated all the same.

For the players and fans of Ross County and Inverness Caley Thistle tomorrow evening's Scottish Cup fifth-round tie at the Global Energy Stadium assumes huge importance.

According to Ross Draper and Joe Chalmers, the levels of passion and commitment are no less when it comes to establishing bragging rights either side of the Kessock Bridge.

Englishman Draper is best placed to comment on what these matches mean to the locals, given that he has played for both clubs in the years since Terry Butcher talked him into a move to Caledonian Stadium in 2012. Draper had been released by Macclesfield Town as part of a severe cost-cutting exercise.

In all, the 30-year-old Wolverhampton-born 6ft 5in midfielder spent five seasons with Inverness and was a member of the Scottish Cup-winning team in 2015.

But feeling in need of a change of surroundings to reinvigorate his career after the club's relegation to the Championship, Draper jumped at the chance of a move to The Staggies 18 months ago.

Chalmers, meanwhile, arrived in Inverness in the summer of 2017 after various spells as a defender with Celtic, Falkirk and Motherwell. Like Draper, he has adapted well to life in the Highlands.

But both are quick to dismiss the notion they have opted for a more leisurely way of life in a football backwater.

"In terms of this location, this match is huge for both clubs and their fans," said Draper. "Bragging rights are important and it's an opportunity to go on a cup run, so there's a big incentive for both teams. And, with the match being on TV, there is added spice and competitiveness.

"Some teams – maybe more down south than up here – belittle the cup a bit and play weakened sides, but when you look back on your career you want to have won trophies."

Chalmers, 25, agrees. "There's something special about the Scottish Cup and I'd love to go on a good run and play at Hampden.

"It's a big chance for both teams and when you see all the photographs on the walls at the stadium you realise what winning the cup meant to the club and you think that anything is achievable."

Promotion remains the priority for both clubs, with County currently in pole position in the Championship and Inverness occupying a play-off place.

But Draper stressed: "The cup is very important, 100 per cent. The managers see it as an opportunity to win a trophy, and why would you turn your nose up at something like that. If you're in it, you're in it to win it."

Were Chalmers to express less enthusiastic sentiments it would not be all that surprising, given his only start for Celtic turned into a nightmare when Arbroath – then a Second Division outfit – achieved one of the biggest cup upsets of modern times.

The rank outsiders stunned Neil Lennon's side by snatching a draw in the fourth round at Celtic Park in December 2012 before narrowly losing the replay, 1-0.

But Chalmers recalled: "As it turned out, I actually played well and the manager was happy with me so I had mixed emotions.

"Being a massive Celtic fan, it was a proud moment for me, and my family as well, but it was a terrible result and obviously very disappointing at the time."

County's co-management team of Stuart Kettlewell and Steve Ferguson have placed considerable store in Draper since succeeding Owen Coyle 11 months ago.

But there was a time when the relationship between Kettlewell and Draper was presumably somewhat strained following an incident involving the pair in a derby match at Caledonian Stadium in January 2014.

Draper ended up seeing red when he was adjudged to have elbowed his midfield counterpart in a 2-1 defeat for the home side.

But there is clearly no lasting enmity, judging by Draper's playful reaction to the incident.

"I always say that he went down too easily. I jumped with my arm up a little bit, maybe, but it was one of those where he was watching through his fingers," he concluded.