Northern Ireland and Watford defender Craig Cathcart has had a memorable past 12 months, but he wants the next year with club and country to be even more special. Press Association The 26-year-old will therefore be back in the Barclays Premier League next term and major-tournament football is on the horizon for Cathcart too if Northern Ireland can continue their Euro 2016 qualifying form and secure a trip to France next summer. “It couldn’t have gone any better really,” Cathcart said of his 2014/15 season. “This time last year I was out of contract and just about stayed up at Blackpool. A year down the line I’ve been promoted into the Premier League and in a great position with the international team so it couldn’t really have gone better in football terms for me. “For every team that goes up in the Championship, the next season in the Premier League is going to be difficult. You look at the likes of Leicester this year – that’s the sort of thing we want to do. We want to stay in the Premier League for as long as we can and hopefully build on that. “With Northern Ireland, we have got ourselves in a great position, hopefully we can carry it on through the campaign and get to France. It would be a great experience to get there.” Unfortunately for centre-back Cathcart, he also happens to play in a position where his international manager Michael O’Neill is blessed with options. Experienced heads such as Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley and Aaron Hughes have been ahead of Cathcart in the pecking order and the emergence of Manchester United youngster Paddy McNair has only increased the competition. However, Cathcart believes the battle for spots is healthy and thinks his cause will be strengthened once he is back among the elite of the Premier League. Cathcart could well get his chance to impress in Sunday’s friendly against Qatar in Crewe, and he added: “We’ve had good defenders over the time I’ve been in the squad. “They’ve been in the Premier League playing and it’s obviously a step up from the Championship. Being in the Premier League can only be beneficial to myself and hopefully for Northern Ireland too. “We’ve had Jonny, Aaron Hughes, Gareth McAuley and obviously Paddy’s doing really well too. “We’re not short of defenders but that’s only going to be good for Northern Ireland. We’ve got a good solid base there. “We’ve shown in this campaign that we’ve gone away from home and got great results and clean sheets which has us in a great position.” This time last season Cathcart was left to reflect on a difficult time at Blackpool as he was part of the exodus out of Bloomfield Road following a campaign in which they narrowly avoided dropping into the third tier. He left the scrapheap by joining Watford and, although they went through three other managers before settling on Slavisa Jokanovic, Cathcart was an integral part of the Hornets’ promotion-winning squad.