Former manager looks back on four years at Oban helm

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Oban Camanachd have a lot to thank Iain Hay for as their former first team manager looks back on almost four years in the first team hot seat.

Oban manager Iain Hay

When Oban Camanachd turned to Iain Hay to replace Ian ‘Gussie’ Campbell in July 2015, he wasn’t sure what he was letting himself in for. ‘I didn’t know what to expect,’ he said. ‘I didn’t want to leave the guys in the lurch and I knew they were a capable bunch. I was doing the training for Gus at the time and we had only taken something like three points from ten games and it looked like we would go down.’

Ian Campbell had worked hard with the squad so what did the management switch bring the Mossfield men? Iain said: ‘I suppose the change gave us a fresh start and the opportunity to draw a line in the sand. I told the players at the time I would give the job 100 per cent but I was looking for them to give me 100 per cent in return.’

Things got off to a slow start. ‘My first game was against Inveraray in the Macaulay semi-finals and we lost 2-0 but things picked up after that.’ The Oban side reversed their fortunes in their next outing, three weeks later, as goals from Daniel Cameron and Malcolm Clark earned a 2-0 victory over the same Inveraray side in the league. Oban Camanachd would then go on a great run, eventually finishing sixth in the Premiership.

The games came thick and fast and what transpired for Iain Hay was taking on the equivalent of a part-time job.

Iain explained: ‘Saturday is match day so that’s the whole day pretty much taken up, especially if it’s an away game. There will be media calls on a Sunday and someone always contacts you about shinty on a Monday. Tuesday is training, Wednesday is making arrangements for the following Saturday’s game with the opposing team and referee, Thursday is training again and you spend time thinking about your team line-up on a Friday when we also have committee meetings.

A significant improvement followed in 2016 with Oban Camanachd only behind league runners-up Kyles Athletic on goal difference at the end of the season whilst also reaching the Camanachd Cup Final, narrowly losing out 1-0 to Newtonmore. Defeats to Kyles Athletic ended ambitions in the Macaulay and Glasgow Celtic Society Cup competitions. ‘We finished on the same points as second- placed Kyles, only trailing them on goal difference,’ recalled Iain. ‘We were top of the league up until midway through the season, only to fall away a bit but we had the Camanachd Cup run which took us all the way to the final against Newtonmore. The game itself was a battle of wills. It was very tactical but some of our players didn’t turn up on the day. In the end, we just didn’t create enough chances and Newtonmore were better on the day.’

A sixth-placed league finish followed at the end of the 2017 season as well as a narrow 2-1 defeat to Lovat in the Camanachd Cup semi-finals. The Oban side lost 3-1 to Kyles Athletic in the Glasgow Celtic Society Final and exited the Macaulay Cup, again to Kyles Athletic, at the last-four stage with Kyles going on to lift the trophy.

Iain reflected: ‘Kyles won the Macaulay that year and they proved to be a bit of a bogey team over the piece.

‘The defeat to Lovat in the Camanachd semis was a really sore one. Scott McKillop hurt his knee in that game and although he tried to play on, he had to come off. Garry Lord was then sent off but I still felt we were the better team. Lovat won it in injury time. It was a missed opportunity to be in our second successive final.’

The season just gone saw a top half league finish, although the side again didn’t get past the Macaulay semi-finals, whilst Kinlochshiel halted their Camanachd Cup progress at the second round.

The highpoint of Iain’s tenure was undoubtedly the Scottish Sea Farms Glasgow Celtic Society Cup success with the trophy coming to Oban for the first time since 2005.

‘I was glad for the boys to win the cup as they had been there or there-abouts for so long. They got that particular monkey off their backs and they beat Kyles too, who had been such difficult opponents. So it was a good day and one we’ll remember.

‘In the league, we could have turned some of our draws into wins which could have given us a higher finish than fifth. We had five draws, including two against Glenurquhart who finished bottom of the division, and there was also a home game with Lovat that we should have won.’

Looking to the future, Iain is adamant there is great potential in the side but stresses commitment is key. ‘The ability is there but there have been times where we’ve had four or five guys missing, whether it was injury, suspension or attending social events, and that has cost us. The clubs that regularly win things have that extra commitment.’

The Camanachd Cup defeat to Kinlochshiel this season clearly still rankles with Iain. ‘We knocked Kinlochshiel out of the competition after a replay at the same stage the previous season and, to my mind, Camanachd Cup dates should be kept clear in everyone’s diaries as soon as they are announced at the start of the season. However we travelled to Kirkton with just 11 senior players that day and we lost. The final was in Oban which was a great opportunity. The Macaulay defeat to a depleted Kyles Athletic side was also a sore one because we just didn’t apply ourselves correctly that day.’

Iain Hay’s shinty adventure began 35 years ago and he was a relative late starter to the game. It was 1983 and Iain, then aged 18, remembers it well. ‘Oban Celtic had a game against Inveraray and they were short of players. I was friends with Donald MacCallum’s son Fraser and Donald asked me if I would play and that was it. I went on to become a regular in the side and played for the South U21 side in the Grampian Cup.’

Oban Camanachd had enjoyed Camanachd Cup success in 1996 and were keen to add Iain to their squad around that time, chasing his signature for a couple of years before he made the switch in 1998. ‘There was actually talk of the two clubs merging in the mid-1990s, although some were dead against it,’ he laughed. ‘But that talk all went quiet when Oban Camanachd won the Camanachd Cup in 1996.’

Iain’s first team playing career continued until the ripe old age of 42, although he was tempted out of retirement during the following season.

‘Lochside had a cup game at Kinlochshiel and bosses Des MacMillan and Andy Pearson were short of players to travel so I went along. I had a great tussle with Neilie ‘Ach’ MacRae that day and really enjoyed it so carried on for a few games more. We won the Bullough that year, beating Inveraray 2-1 at Mossfield in the final.’

The game also marked an unusual occurrence – an Iain Hay goal. ‘It was a shot from around the half-way line and it must have deceived the keeper. I didn’t get many of them.’

Iain finally closed the book on his playing career at the end of that season. ‘There were a lot of promising young players coming through and I didn’t think it was right I blocked a place in the side so it was time to retire for good.’

It was a retirement of sorts as Iain immediately took charge of the Oban Camanachd U14 squad, notching up two MacMaster Cup successes against Newtonmore at Mossfield and against Skye. He then took charge of the U17s for a season, losing out in the finals of the MacQuisten and London Shield before taking the first team training for Gus Campbell and looking after the side if Gus was unavailable. He continued in this role until taking charge of the team in his own right.

Iain Hay is in no doubt he is leaving behind a good squad. ‘There are some great youngsters and the likes of Daniel Sloss and Daniel MacVicar are now established first team players. Daniel Sloss is only 16 but he is a regular starter and featured for the Scotland U21s in their recent win over in Ireland. Daniel MacVicar has come on leaps and bounds, whilst Daniel MacCuish will have gained so much from last season’s experience and he’s another who can be a regular. I’m also impressed with Ross Campbell and Lennon Campbell who have done so well for Lochside and they could be featuring soon if they continue to work hard.’

It’s now time for a break and no one would grudge Iain Hay that but don’t rule out a return in some capacity further down the line. ‘You never-say-never but I will definitely be having a complete break for now.

‘There are times when I’m working from 7am until 7pm and trying to juggle everything between work and family commitments and although my family have been hugely supportive, I just needed a break.

‘My wife Dee encouraged me to stay on but this will allow us more time to visit our daughter Rebecca who is studying at Perth College.

‘I’ve enjoyed it though, especially when we win. There are times you question why you are doing it, especially when you lose a game or someone pulls out of the squad late on. I still can’t figure out how we lost some games, but shinty’s been such a big part of my life for the last 35 years.’

And whilst this chapter closes, ‘Haybo’ is quick to ensure the names of those who have helped him over the last four years aren’t forgotten. ‘Fraser Inglis, Alex MacVicar and Chris Eccleston have been a huge help to me and I’ve needed these guys along the way. This is not a one man job.’ It certainly isn’t but Oban Camanachd have much to thank Iain Hay for as he takes a well-earned rest from the club he served so well and they did just that by presenting him with a silver salver to recognise his achievements at the club’s awards night.

Fun day winners

Good weather arrived for Oban Camanachd’s end of season fun day at Mossfield on Saturday November 17.

With eight teams taking part in a round-robin format, Pulpit Hill and Taynuilt won through to the final.

Pulpit Hill captain Malcolm Clark led from the front, giving his side the lead in the final.

Ross MacMillan made it 2-0 with a shot from the right which went into the top left corner of the goal. Taynuilt keeper Colin Dairon got a slight touch to the ball but couldn’t keep it out and Pulpit Hill stayed in front to win the day.

Oban Camanachd awards night

Oban Camanachd’s end of season prizegiving took place at the Glencruitten Golf Club on Saturday November 17.

2018 Nonny MacInnes Oban Camanachd First Team Player of the Year Award – Andrew MacCuish.

The Oban Camanachd first team player of the year award, in memory of Oban Camanachd stalwart Nonny MacInnes, was presented to Andrew MacCuish by out-going first team manager Iain Hay.

As well as being Oban Camanachd’s top scorer last season, ‘Papa’ MacCuish won a place in the Scotland squad, scoring a point in the win over Ireland.

2018 Jamie Kerr Lochside Rovers Player of the Year Award – Jordan Kerr

After breaking his wrist in a motocross accident, and having an operation on Saturday afternoon, Jordan Kerr still made his way to the awards night believing he was presenting the Lochside Rovers player of the year award in memory of his brother Jamie. However Jordan’s performances for Lochside throughout the season earned him the accolade and his father John Kerr stepped in to hand over the prize.

Oban Camanachd U17 Player of the Year Award – Daniel Sloss

Few would have been surprised that Daniel Sloss was the recipient of the Oban Camanachd U17 player of the year award. Having become a first team regular during the season, Daniel Sloss was also part of the Scotland U21 squad which beat their Irish counter-parts in Dublin earlier this month.

Oban Camanachd U14 Player of the Year Award – Kieran Lopez

Another one of the club’s bright youngsters, Kieran Lopez, was named Oban Camanachd U14 player of the year. Kieran Lopez’s performances last season were also recognised with a place in this year’s South U14 squad.

Oban Camanachd Special Award – Iain Hay and Fiona Livingston

There were also special awards for club stalwarts Iain Hay and Fiona Livingston.

Iain Hay stepped down after four seasons as Oban Camanachd first team manager which followed a period with the club’s youth sides.

Oban Camanachd treasurer Fiona Livingston’s tireless work over the years was also recognised by the club and both received silver salvers.

The club will hold its annual general meeting at The Rockfield Centre on Thursday November 22 at 7pm.

Oban Celtic advertise for new boss

Oban Celtic are inviting applicants for the position of first team manager for the 2019 shinty season.

Kenny Wotherspoon stood down as Oban Celtic first team boss at the end of last season after three successful years in charge and the club are pulling out the stops to find his replacement.

Applicants should contact the club via their Facebook page or email David Hamilton at davieb51@btinternet.com

Bute prize night

Bute Shinty Club held their Player of the Year Awards at their clubhouse on Saturday November 10.

The first team players’ player of the year award was shared by Iain McDonald and Craig Fisher.

Ryan Craig was the first team manager’s player of the year, whilst the second team players’ player of the year and the second team manager’s player of the year accolade both went to Kyle Menzies.

The club’s young player of the year is Scott Harvey.

To round off the evening, Ted McDonald, representing the Camanachd Association, handed over the Marine Harvest South Division 1 trophy.

Bute’s annual general meeting will be held in the clubhouse on Friday November 30 with a 7pm start.

New Skye Camanachd managers named

Skye Camanachd have confirmed Kenny MacLeod and Allan MacLeod are their new first team co-managers ahead of the 2019 shinty season.

The pair take over from John MacLeod who led the side last season.

North v South youth matches

The annual North v South U14 and U17 representative fixtures have been rescheduled to take place at An Aird, Fort William, on Sunday November 25.
The U14 meeting starts at noon, with the U17 clash throwing up at 2pm. The matches were postponed earlier in the season.