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Oban Camanachd manager Stephen Sloss hopes his side hits the ground running when the new shinty season starts on Saturday March 7.
The first four league matches of 2019 yielded just two points for the side who eventually finished second in the Mowi Premiership.
‘The start to the season ruined us in the league last year, so we want to make a good start this time around,’ he said.
The opening three league fixtures are Glasgow Mid Argyll, away; Fort William, home; and Kinlochshiel, away, and Sloss knows his team will need to be ready for the challenge.
‘Blair [MacFarlane] has been training with GMA so we know they have good, fit players. They have been difficult opponents in the past and I recall our keeper Cammy Sutherland making good saves against them before we ran out winners last year.
‘We’ve not played Fort William for a while but I know their young players Lachie [Shaw], Ryan [Boyle] and Lewis [Clark] and they will be keen to impress after such a good season last year.
‘Our third match is at Kinlochshiel who now have a good pitch. It was useful to play on that at the end of last season. Kinlochshiel will be better this season and their final position in the league last term was a false one. Injuries cost them and, when their league chances ended, they took the chance to play a number of their promising youngsters in the first team. That won’t have helped them win games, but the young players will be better for the experience so they have boosted their squad size for this season.’
Belief is something Sloss has been keen to install into his squad as he explained: ‘We need to believe we can win games. That’s something we worked on last year and, by the end of last season, we were going into matches knowing we were going to win. That was a marked improvement and we want to carry that into the new season.’
Another pet subject for the Oban Camanachd manager is the importance of fitness. ‘I know I keep banging on about fitness,’ he said, ‘but it’s so important as getting to the ball first is a huge advantage. It’s important to us and you can see how it’s worked for Kingussie who really used their speed last year. It’s the same when you look at Fort William and Glasgow Mid Argyll. They both have young, fit players, who are full of running. I include ourselves in that category. You can see a generation of very good shinty players coming through at several clubs. That is good for the clubs concerned and will be good for the game of shinty for years to come.’
Oban Camanachd made the conscious decision to blood several of their younger players towards the end of last season. That makes for a large first team squad but Sloss is clear he’ll need them all.
He said: ‘I’m not overly worried about the size of the first team squad as injuries and other commitments will kick in and we’ll need everyone. For example, Gary McKerracher won’t be available for the first couple of games of the season while Scott MacMillan and Keith MacMillan work shifts so their work commitments will be a factor. When we do have everyone available, we will go with the boys who regularly attend training. It would ruin our ethos to do otherwise and ignore training.’
Sloss acknowledged Aidan MacIntyre’s retiral and Lorne Dickie’s unavailability during the early part of the season will mean changes. ‘We’ll re-jig things this year,’ he said, ‘especially in midfield but we are essentially a really young first team squad with at least six of the boys aged under 20.
‘I have some of the best young shinty players in the country. They have won national competitions as youngsters and there is no reason why they can’t continue to do that in the Oban Camanachd first team. I would have liked to have had Lorne [Dickie] to help with his experience but I hope we can push on. Potentially, we can be stronger than last year as our younger players have had another 12 months’ experience. However, other teams will be stronger too.
‘It’s a hard league and there are good sides which is where fine margins that can work in your favour in relation to belief and fitness come into play.’
Oban Camanachd and Lochside captains confirmed
Scotland player Daniel Cameron continues as Oban Camanachd captain for the 2020 shinty season.
Cameron led his teammates to a second successive Glasgow Celtic Society Cup victory last season with the team also finishing runners-up in all other competitions.
Oban Camanachd manager Stephen Sloss said: ‘Daniel Cameron will be captain again next season. Some clubs look to rotate the captain’s position but, for me, a captain has a specific job to do and that includes leading by example at training as well as during matches and by showing the behaviour traits you want others to follow. Daniel has all these attributes in abundance which is why he is such a good leader.’
Lochside Rovers manager Gareth Evans, in his second spell in charge, has also named his skipper with Evan MacLellan taking the armband this season with Callum Kirsop vice captain.
MacLellan’s return from a series of injuries is a boost for the side who have a difficult start to the season with successive matches against the Glasgow Mid Argyll seconds, Ballachulish and Bute.
Pre-season friendly results
Atrocious weather continued to disrupt the pre-season friendlies on Saturday February 22.
Oban Camanachd P
Oban Camanachd’s 12.30pm throw-up against Newtonmore at the Eilan was switched to Kincraig earlier in the week but a Saturday morning inspection ruled the pitch unplayable.
Oban Celtic P
Oban Celtic’s pre-season clash with Mowi Premiership side Kilmallie was called off on Friday afternoon as Oban’s Mossfield was water-logged.
Fort William P
The meeting between Beauly and Fort William was called off on Friday lunchtime as the incessant rain left Braeview Park and An Aird water-logged.
Fort William P
There was to have been a second team derby between Fort William and Kilmallie but An Aird was ruled unplayable on Thursday.
With the pitches at Rèaraig and Blairbeg unplayable, Kinlochshiel and Glenurquhart were forced to cancel their pre-season friendly match.
Skye Camanachd P
Caberfeidh and Skye Camanachd were left disappointed when their friendly was called off on Friday with Castle Leod unplayable.
Both teams hope to see their first pre-season action of the year this Saturday.
Glasgow Mid Argyll 5
Glasgow Mid Argyll and Inveraray beat the weather, but their match had to be transferred from at Yoker to a 3G pitch at Bishopbriggs.
Ewen Fraser debuted for Mark Bain’s GMA side after joining the club in the close season and the former Newtonmore player marked his first start with a four goal haul. Duncan ‘Ach’ MacRae got the other.
The Inveraray goals were scored by Lewis MacNicol.
Glasgow Mid Argyll P
Aberdeen University P
The game between Glasgow Mid Argyll’s second team and Aberdeen University was called off after the poor travelling conditions for the students were considered.
Strathglass were to make the short journey to Inverness but the game fell to the weather.
The friendly between Aberdour and the Kingussie seconds was postponed on Thursday lunchtime as Silversands was unplayable and there was a less than favourable weather forecast for the following 48 hours.
Boleskine’s 2.30pm throw-up against the Kinlochshiel second team at Smith Park passed a Friday afternoon pitch inspection but was called off on Saturday morning.
The match between the Strathglass seconds and the Caberfeidh seconds at Cannich was another weather casualty.
English Shinty Association 1
Tayforth beat the English Shinty Association 5-1 at Armadale Academy, Bathgate.
Tayforth led 4-0 at the break but a spirited second half performance from the English saw the second half finish all square.
This weekend’s pre-season friendlies
The final round of pre-season friendlies takes place on Saturday February 29.
Oban Camanachd have only managed one February outing and that was on the 4G pitch at Oban High School so their final opportunity to play on grass is this Saturday against Ballachulish at Jubilee Park. Throw-up 1pm.
Both sides will be desperate for the game to go ahead with the new season just a week away. Should the Jubilee be unplayable, they will seek alternative venues including Ganavan.
Oban Celtic and Taynuilt meet at Mossfield to contest the Robert Wylie Memorial Cup. Throw-up is at 1pm. Oban Celtic are the holders, having beaten Taynuilt 3-0 at Taynuilt Sports Field last year. Daniel MacMillan and Ross MacMillan gave Celtic an early cushion before Lee Askew got the third late in the contest.
Kilmallie and Lochaber will hope for an improvement in the weather so they can contest the BSW Cup at Canal Parks. Throw-up is at 1pm. Kilmallie are holders after Bryan Mackay’s goal gave them a 1-0 victory over Fort William at Canal Parks last year.
Newtonmore’s open day includes a match against newly-promoted Mowi Premiership side Fort William at the Eilan. The sides will look for an alternative venue if the pitch is unplayable.
The MacDonald Cup and Ali Ban Cup are both up for grabs as the Glenurquhart and Strathglass first and second teams meet for their annual tussles at Blairbeg. The Glenurquhart and Strathglass ladies open with a match at 10.30am. The seconds play at noon, with the seniors at 2pm.
The Glengarry squad head for Fife to play Mowi National Division newcomers Aberdour.
Lovat and Skye clash at Balgate, whilst Kinlochshiel take on Glasgow Mid Argyll at Rèaraig Park.
Kingussie and Caberfeidh play at the Dell for the Bill MacPherson Memorial Plate, whilst their second teams are scheduled to clash at Castle Leod.
There is also a match between Bute and Col Glen.
WCA season starts
Women’s Camanachd Association fixtures get under way this weekend.
The Mowi National Division fixtures don’t start until next month but Skye Camanachd’s second team and Inverness get a full programme of regional matches under way in Mowi North Division 2 at Pairc nan Laoch, Portree, on Saturday February 29. The following day, in the same division, Glengarry travel to play Strathspey, whilst Fort William visit Strathglass.
The Lochaber second team have home advantage against Kinlochshiel.
The newly-formed Badenoch second team does not have an opening day fixture in this nine team league.
In Mowi South Division 2, the Oban Celtic squad head for Bute in their opening fixture, whilst Ardnamurchan welcome Uddingston who beat Bute 3-1 in a friendly at the weekend.
Tayforth have home advantage against Cowal and Bute and Glasgow Mid Argyll’s second team play Dunadd.
MacDonald to skipper Lovat
New Lovat co-managers Alan MacRae and Jamie Matheson have confirmed Stuart MacDonald will captain their side for the 2020 shinty season.
Keeper MacDonald, who also skippered the Scotland national squad to a 26-4 victory over Ireland at Abbotstown in last year’s shinty/hurling international, takes the captain’s armband from Callum Cruden.
This is a second spell as captain for MacDonald who previously led Lovat to 2014 MacTavish Cup success when they beat Glenurquhart 5-1 in the final at the Bught Park.
Another Scotland international, Craig Mainland, is the Lovat vice captain for the season ahead.
National First Disability Shinty Festival boost
Organisers of the Fraser MacPhee Primary Schools Shinty Tournament have presented a £1,000 cheque to organisers of the National First Disability Shinty Festival.
The money was raised from kitchen sales, a raffle and donations on the day of the popular youth shinty tournament on Sunday June 9 2019. It was rounded up to £1,000 by a donation from tournament organisers Rosemary and Duncan MacPhee.
Mrs MacPhee said: ‘We’re delighted to support this fantastic event.
‘Shinty is a great and inclusive sport which should be accessible to everyone.
‘We sincerely hope this contribution will help to support more disabled shinty players to reach their full potential on the field as well as having the same fun and enjoyment as other youth shinty players.’
Camanachd Association Regional Development Manager, Ronald Ross added: ‘The 2019 National First Disability Shinty Festival was a rousing success with a record 12 teams participating in the two-day event.
‘The continuation and development of this competition is testament to the sponsors and the volunteers who give up their time to ensure the festival is a success.
‘We are extremely grateful to the MacPhee family for this kind donation which will go some way to ensuring the National First Disability Festival continues to flourish.’
The 2020 National First Disability Shinty Festival will take place in Aviemore on Wednesday April 29 and Thursday April 30.
This year’s Fraser MacPhee Primary Schools Shinty Tournament takes place at An Aird on Sunday June 7.
All teams are welcome to take part in the P7 and under and P5 and under categories. For more information or to register teams, email email@example.com or text 07768 103643.
Full information will be emailed to coaches.
Inverness bid to secure shinty at The Bught
Inverness Shinty Club is considering making a community asset transfer request in its efforts to keep the Bught Park as a shinty pitch.
Community asset transfers are where community bodies have the right to make requests to local authorities, Scottish Ministers and a range of public bodies for any land or buildings they feel they could make better use of.
They can request ownership, lease or other rights.
The public authorities must transparently assess requests against a specified list of criteria, laid out in the Act, and agree the request unless there are reasonable grounds for refusal.
Should such a request be refused, the community group has a right to appeal or to ask for a review of the decision.
In this instance, such a request would be made to Highland Council which, when considering the request, must be mindful of the current use of the area and requests for use from other sports and other bodies. Shinty has been played at the Bught Park since 1887 when it hosted a match between Strathglass and Glenurquhart.
As well as being the home pitch for all Inverness club games, the iconic ground also hosts Scotland internationals, MacTavish Cup Finals and it is part of the prestigious Camanachd Cup Final circuit.
Inverness Shinty Club has made efforts to promote youth shinty in the area since 2015 and, with the support of more than 40 volunteer coaches, they encourage more than 400 youngsters to play shinty every week and are looking to expand into more schools.
The club also runs senior and reserve men’s teams, ladies teams and juvenile teams, who all use the Bught for matches and training so any pitch unavailability is a threat to current and future progression.
The club will be making efforts to tell their story and reach out for community support.
They also recently became a charity, adopting the associated policies, and aspire to be a great club in its own right without their best players being a source of talent for other clubs who can offer dedicated facilities.
Inverness Shinty Club will keep an on-going dialogue, mapping their progress on their public Facebook page and club website.
Annie Cowan, Glenorchy
Glenorchy Shinty Club mourned the loss of Annie Cowan who died suddenly on Sunday February 9.
Annie was a lifelong Glenorchy fan and watched her six brothers play for her beloved club. She also held a number of roles within the club, including the position of secretary, and she was key in the formation of the Glenorchy Ladies team during the 1980s.
Her presence on the touchline will be greatly missed at Glenorchy shinty matches. Annie’s funeral took place at Glenorchy Parish Church, Dalmally, on Monday February 24.