It's been a long road trying to compete with the best after McAuley sacked off his job as a technical drawer, aged 21, to focus on his blossoming career as a footballer.
"It was always my aim to be a footballer and I've not finished progressing yet," he told the Sunday Mercury.
"If I can establish myself for another couple of years here then I will be proud of it. It was always going to be tough coming into the professional game late but I'm enjoying the challenge.
"I went to University (of Ulster in Jordanstown) for a bit and I went on work experience and I ended staying on and working for the company doing technical drawing on the computer.
"I finished school and did my A-Levels, but I wanted the work, I really enjoyed the drawing as well as the football.
"I used to do two or three nights training but that was tough when you're working all day, it's a long day. I still speak to some of the lads that are still doing that.
"It just got to the stage where I decided to give up the job because football was my goal. I was playing for Crusaders and then Coleraine in a semi-pro league and doing quite well.
"But there was things like transfer fees that was always in the back of my mind. It's a gamble waiting for someone to come and take you out of a semi-pro league in Ireland when you're just 21.
"I made sure that I became fitter and stronger so that if a chance came along I didn't have to bridge that gap.
"When I did get a chance the fitness and strength was there and eventually it worked out and I'm ever so grateful for it."