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Lovat romp to 2017 Lovat Cup success
Lovat won the 2017 Lovat Cup with a convincing 5-2 victory over Beauly at Braeview Park on Monday January 2.
Lovat went into the game as favourites as they finished seventh in the Marine Harvest Premiership last season – only behind Kingussie and Glenurquhart on goal difference – whilst Beauly ended the year in fourth spot in the Marine Harvest National Division.
Lovat Cup games have been notoriously close affairs in recent years though with league positions not always proving to be a defining influence.
An excellent crowd of more than 1,000 shinty supporters from across the country gathered for the 1pm throw up.
New Beauly boss Alan MacRae was on holiday so Jamie MacLennan and Neil Brindle took charge of the side. There was a start in midfield for Barrie MacDonald who missed chunks of the 2016 season through injury. The influential David MacLean was deployed at buckshee back, but Colin MacDonald was missing.
Lovat have yet to appoint a new manager, so former boss John MacRitchie remained in the dugout for one last time.
The big team news saw reserve keeper Ronan MacMillan given a first team debut as Scotland goalie Stuart MacDonald was on holiday.
Craig Mainland and Mark Kelly were ruled out through injury.
It was widely reported this was to be Kevin Bartlett’s last match for Lovat ahead of a return to Caberfeidh and he started on the bench. Defender Michael MacKenzie and forward Calum MacAulay were also missing.
Although it was overcast, the rain stayed away and the players were piped onto the field by legendary piper Duncan MacGillivray.
There’s was a minute’s silence ahead of throw up as a mark of respect for Andy Thursby of Kiltarlity who died following a road accident on Hogmanay.
Lovat made a whirlwind start to the game, launching wave after wave of attack on the Beauly goal, and scoring four goals in a blistering opening 16 minute spell.
The writing was on the wall in the opening minute when Lovat took the lead with the first attack of the game. Danny Kelly played a free-hit down the Lovat right. There seemed little danger when Greg Matheson gathered possession but he beat defender Ewen Campbell and cut inside before playing a short one-two with Lorne MacKay. He then found Graeme MacMillan at the back of the ‘D’ and MacMillan confidently swept the ball into the net to make it 1-0.
It was a heavy pitch but that didn’t deter the visitors and, moments later, Graeme MacMillan played in Greg Matheson but his low shot went just wide of keeper Josh Grant’s left post.
Lovat doubled their advantage on 11 minutes. Ryan Ferguson played in a corner from the right which fell for Lorne MacKay at the back post and his shot went by the legs of goalie Josh Grant to make it 2-0.
Lovat continued to dominate and, following a melee on the right of the Lovat midfield, Ryan Ferguson played the ball forward to Greg Matheson who showed great determination to hold off a couple of challenges before slipping the ball low past the on-rushing keeper to make it 3-0 with just 14 minutes played.
The dream start continued with Lovat having plenty success down their right flank. A couple of minutes later, Lewis Tawse crossed a high ball from the right and Greg Matheson stretched to knock the ball down into the path of Graeme MacMillan who moved into position before striking the ball home on his left side to make it 4-0.
Lovat threatened to run riot but Josh Grant made a good save above his head to deny Greg Matheson. Although the ball dropped in the mud, the keeper got it away to safety.
Grant then took a Lorne MacKay shot from distance out of the air by his right post.
Lovat were forced to make the first change of the game after 25 minutes when Graeme MacMillan, who had been linking up particularly well with Greg Matheson, limped off with a tight hamstring, to be replaced by Kevin Bartlett.
Beauly made their first change shortly after with Ross Forbes, who had dropped back into defence, replaced by Greg Tillman.
Beauly pulled a goal back on 33 minutes after Conor Ross floated in a corner from the left. Lovat failed to get the ball away which allowed wing centre Sandy Elrick to push forward on the right side to score.
Josh Grant saved a low Kevin Bartlett shot by his post, knocking the ball to safety at the expense of a corner.
Beauly’s Jack MacDonald became the first player to find his way into referee Deek Cameron’s book following a midfield clash and the first half ended with Lovat in control.
Beauly made a better start to the second half and made it 4-2 on 48 minutes when a 22-yard Conor Ross strike was saved by teenage keeper Ronan MacMillan but Jack MacDonald was quickly onto the rebound to score.
Beauly passed up a free-hit opportunity before Lovat restored their three-goal cushion on 55 minutes. Greg Matheson played the ball forward into the Beauly defence and Kevin Bartlett charged down an attempted clearance before his shot, at the second attempt, from a tight angle on the left, appeared to go into the net off keeper Grant to make it 5-2.
Play switched to the other end and another free-hit chance for Beauly saw Robbie Brindle’s shot blocked for a corner by Lovat keeper Ronan MacMillan.
MacMillan then made a superb save to his right to keep out a crisp 25 yard shot from Conor Ross which was going just inside the post.
Beauly brought on Rory Campbell before Ronan MacMillan saved a low Jack MacDonald shot.
Lovat then introduced Euan Ferguson for Ryan Ferguson on 72 minutes in what could be the former’s final appearance before taking up a job in England.
Play continued to flow from end to end and Lovat survived a goalmouth scramble before Bailey MacKay replaced Lorne MacKay in the Lovat attack with 76 minutes played.
Greg Matheson and Kevin Bartlett combined to win possession in midfield, with Matheson surging forward and picking out Bailey MacKay on the Lovat right, but his shot went wide.
Kevin Bartlett cut in from the left but his strike was well saved above his head by Josh Grant and Lovat had to settle for a corner on their left.
A good shot from Jack MacDonald was blocked but the rebound fell back into MacDonald’s path but he steered the ball wide of goal.
The chances continued and a turn and shot from Conor Ross went just the wrong side of the post with six minutes remaining.
Lovat finished strongly and good play from Martin Mainland and Greg Matheson set up a chance for Bailey MacKay, but his shot flashed across goal.
With just three minutes remaining, Euan Ferguson flicked the ball on to Kevin Bartlett who showed great skill to control the ball, juggle it on his caman and then lob it over keeper Josh Grant but, with Bartlett ready to turn away in celebration, the ball dropped in the mud which allowed keeper Grant to dash back towards goal and clear the danger.
Euan Ferguson then gathered a Martin Mainland pass but sent the ball rising just over the bar.
The final whistle was warmly greeted by the Lovat camp. Greg Matheson, who was creative throughout, was best for the Balgate side, closely followed by Danny Kelly, whilst young Scott MacKenzie in defence looks a real prospect.
David MacLean was Beauly’s top performer and there will be work for new boss Alan MacRae to do ahead of the start of the new season.
Lovat captain Drew Howie was presented with the Lovat Cup by the 16th Lord Lovat Simon Fraser with Beauly officials David Calder and Iain Petrie in attendance.
Lovat boss John MacRitchie was a satisfied man after the match. This victory didn’t compare to MacRitchie’s achievement in leading Lovat to a Camanachd Cup success in 2015 but, after a 2016 season in which his squad was blighted by injury, there were a number of positives to take into the new term.
‘This was the best start I’ve seen Lovat make to a Lovat Cup game,’ he said. ‘We scored four great goals in the opening 16 minutes and it could have been more. I think we eased up after that but it was still a good performance.’
The fact neither side had won back-to-back Lovat Cup matches since Lovat successes in 2008 and 2009 wasn’t lost on MacRitchie. ‘I believe it’s the first time we’ve won here since Beauly moved the pitch so it’s nice to break that hoodoo too,’ he added. ‘We’ve also got players to come back and, if we can put last year’s injury problems behind us, then it all augers well for the future.’
Beauly from: Josh Grant; Andrew Morrison, Ryan MacKay, Ewen Campbell, David MacLean, captain; Sandy Elrick, Barrie MacDonald, Calum Morrison; Robbie Brindle, Ross Forbes, Jack MacDonald, and Conor Ross. Subs: Rory Campbell, Elliot Moir, Greg Tillman, Oran MacPherson, Davie Lamont and Liam Mutch.
Lovat from: Ronan MacMillan; Drew Howie, captain; Scott MacKenzie, Daniel Grieve, Danny Kelly; Lewis Tawse, Callum Cruden, Martin Mainland; Lorne MacKay, Ryan Ferguson, Graeme MacMillan and Greg Matheson. Subs: Kevin Bartlett, Euan Ferguson and Bailey MacKay.
Match referee – Deek Cameron.
Oldies still golden at MacKinnon Sixes
The Golden Oldies won the John MacKinnon Memorial Shinty Sixes for the third successive year at the Portree High School astro pitch on Saturday January 7.
This was the fourth year of the event which remembers Skye Camanachd vice president John MacKinnon who died in December 2011 as the result of an accident at work.
Eight teams comprising of 64 players took part in an entertaining day’s shinty in which the teams all played each other in a league format. Six Skye teams and sides from Kinlochshiel and Lochcarron competed, with the top four qualifying for the semi finals.
Holders the Golden Oldies beat North End 2-0 in their semi-final but they didn’t have it all their way as it took a superb goal-line clearance from defender Caitlin MacLean to keep them level. In the end, goals from Iain Nicolson and John Gillies sent the Golden Oldies through to the final.
The Storr Troopers took an early two-goal lead in their semi final against David Grant’s Witness the Fitness side. A turn and shot from new Skye Camanachd co-manager Willie Cowie put the Storr Troopers ahead, whilst Abby MacLean added a second shortly after.
The final was a tense affair with no goals in the first half. A turn and shot from John Gillies put the Golden Oldies ahead but there was an immediate response from the Storr Troopers as the ball was knocked down into the path of Abby McLean who fired the ball into the back of the net to make it 1-1.
The winning goal came when John Gillies played the ball to Ewen MacKinnon who sprayed a pass to his son William MacKinnon who thumped the ball home. It was fitting John MacKinnon’s grandson scored the winner.
Players from the competing clubs voted on the player of the tournament awards which were handed out at the Skye Camanachd clubhouse afterwards.
U17 player of the tournament was given to William MacKinnon who plays shinty for Inverness and who played well throughout.
Abby MacLean notched a number of the Storr Troopers’ goals and picked up the ladies player of the tournament.
North End goalie Ally Morrison from Struan made a number of superb saves throughout the competition and collected the over 45s player of the tournament for the second year in a row.
There were several contenders for the overall player of the tournament but another goalie came out on top as Skye’s U14 keeper Murphy Henderson picked up the prize.
Wotherspoon gives Oban Celtic the green light
Oban Celtic have been boosted by the news Kenny Wotherspoon has decided to stay on as their first team manager for the 2017 shinty season.
2016 Marine Harvest South Division 1 Manager of the Year Wotherspoon had stated at the end of last term that he was undecided on his future and that he was looking for more off-field assistance as his team gets set to play in the Marine Harvest National Division.
Although he has not been able to appoint an assistant manager, Wotherspoon will be aided by some senior members of the playing staff.
Oban Celtic are now preparing for the national shinty league.
Kenny said: ‘We are looking forward to the season ahead and feel we will hold our own in the National Division. It’s an exciting time for Oban Celtic. We have a great group of lads who are excellent to work with.’
Gill replaces Fraser in surprise Kinlochshiel managerial change
Kinlochshiel became the latest club to change their first team manager as, in a surprise move, former boss Johnston Gill takes over from Colin Fraser.
The Kirkton club advertised the post and Colin Fraser threw his hat into the ring to continue in the role. Fraser’s predecessor Johnston Gill also noted an interest and the membership voted for Gill’s return to the post.
Johnston Gill led Kinlochshiel to the North Division 1 title and promotion to the Premiership in 2011 and kept the side in the shinty’s top flight in 2012 and 2013 before standing down.
The side’s progression continued under Colin Fraser who was promoted from second team manager ahead of the start of the 2014 season.
The culmination of Fraser’s three-year tenure was the Macaulay Cup success and a fourth place premiership finish at the end of the 2016 season, their highest league placing.
However Johnston Gill will plot the team’s path in 2017. It’s a big year for the club as they also move to their new pitch at Balmacara. Willie MacRae remains in charge of the Kinlochshiel second team.
Fort William Boxing Day sixes competition
There was disappointment in Fort William as inclement weather led to the postponement of the third annual Boxing Day Shinty Sixes competition at An Aird.
Fort youngsters bag the money
Fort William Junior Shinty Club completed a successful bag-pack at Morrisons Supermarket, Fort William, on Thursday December 29 2016.
Thanks to hard work of the volunteers and the generosity of shoppers, club funds were boosted by £1,400.
The money raised will be used to promote and develop youth shinty in Fort William.
Fort William Junior Shinty Club thank Morrisons Supermarket, the bag-packing volunteers and everyone who gave generously.
Lochcarron will hold their annual general meeting at Lochcarron Village Hall on Friday January 13. The meeting starts at 7.30pm.
Aberdour will hold their annual general meeting at the Cedar Inn on Monday January 16. The Fife club will look to fill the position of chairman, vice chairman, secretary and membership secretary. Lisa MacColl is expected to continue as head coach of Aberdour’s first team.