His family moved to Belfast when he was young and he attended St. Enoch's Presbyterian School, before going to Belfast Royal Academy. McAuley played amateur football for Cliftonville, scoring in their Irish Cup final replay win over Bohemians in Dublin in 1909 and the Irish League victory in 1910, before signing for Rangers. During the Great war he returned to Ireland and guested for Belfast Celtic. In 1919 he returned to England, and played for Leicester City in the Second Division, the club had recently formed after the disbanding of the previous team in the city. At the end of his career he played for Grimsby Town and Lancaster Town and Morecambe.