Kinlochshiel win Camanachd Cup for the first time in their 63-year history

The victorious Kinlochshiel shinty team with the Camanachd Cup. Photograph: Neil Paterson.

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Kinlochshiel made history as they lifted the Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup for the first time in their 63-year history, beating Lovat 3-1 in the final at Mossfield, Oban, on Saturday September 18.

Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup Final

Kinlochshiel 3 Lovat 1

Oban attracted the largest Camanachd Cup Final crowd for years with a big  Kinlochshiel support making the five-hour round trip in the hope of a history-making afternoon.

Despite the pre-match rain, Mossfield groundsman Iain Hay and his team had the pitch in perfect condition as Oban High School Pipe Band wowed the crowd with the pre-match entertainment.

Both sides had selection concerns going into the final.

Kinlochshiel manager Johnston Gill trusted his injured players to assess their fitness and his biggest boost came when talisman Finlay MacRae declared himself fit despite suffering a heavy blow to the knee in the semi-final win over Kyles Athletic. Mark MacDonald started his first match since mid-July, whilst John MacRae and Duncan ‘DA’ MacRae returned after missing their side’s last outing, a league win at Strathglass a fortnight earlier.

Ali Nixon’s hamstring problem, however,  limited him to a place on the bench. Veteran Paul MacRae earned a place at wing centre, a richly deserved reward for his 25 years’ service to the club.

Matters were more straightforward for Lovat boss Jamie Matheson. He already knew Lorne MacKay’s booking in the semi-final win over Kingussie had taken him through the disciplinary points threshold whilst Scott MacKenzie was ruled out after sustaining a hand injury in the same game. Graeme MacMillan came into the defence and former Skye Camanachd player Iain Nicolson started at wing centre. There were also call-ups for Ryan Ferguson and Cammy MacMillan who took places on the bench.

Club presidents Biz Campbell, Kinlochshiel, and John MacRitchie, Lovat, led their respective squads into battle and referee John Angus Gillies gathered captains Keith MacRae and Stuart MacDonald into the centre circle where Lovat won the toss of the coin, opting to start against a slight wind and with the sun in their eyes.

The tension was palpable during the opening exchanges and Kinlochshiel’s John MacRae was first to threaten. The Lovat defence didn’t clear Jordan Fraser’s low ball from the left and MacRae made space to shoot by taking the ball to the left but his effort went by the far post.

Finlay MacRae showed no ill-effects from his injury when he intercepted then cleared a ball which could have put Fraser Heath clean through on goal.

A nice Kinlochshiel passing move started on the right of midfield with Paul MacRae’s clever reverse pass to Conor Cormack who sent the ball high to Jordan Fraser. Fraser chested the ball down and whilst his first effort was blocked, he shot wide from the rebound.

Kinlochshiel keeper Josh Grant, man of the match in the semi-final win over Kyles Athletic, made a great save with his stick at the left post from Fraser Heath following Callum Cruden’s free-hit on the right.

Play was now flowing from end-to-end and Greg Matheson and Duncan ‘DA’ MacRae traded shots wide of target as the final reached the 15 minute mark.

Josh Grant saved with his feet from Marc MacLachlan’s strike from wide on the right and a good block from Craig Mainland deflected Keith MacRae’s drive away for a corner.

Lovat came closest in the early exchanges when Lewis Tawse found Fraser Heath and his shot from the left went across keeper Josh Grant but came back off the base of the far post.

Fraser Heath required treatment soon after but was able to continue.

Lovat made the first change of the final as Bailey MacKay came on for Graeme MacMillan midway through the first half.

It was Kinlochshiel who broke the deadlock on 25 minutes. Drew Howie’s hit-in from deep inside their own half sliced towards John MacRae whose first time pass bounced through to an unmarked Keith MacRae in space in front of goal and he hammered the ball into the roof of the net to make it 1-0.

Straight from the restart, Conor Cormack sent John MacRae sprinting through on goal but Stuart MacDonald was quickly off his line to clear.

Paul MacRae pushed forward from midfield but shot over as Kinlochshiel laid siege on the Lovat goal.

Lovat responded and a great ball from Craig Mainland dropped into the ‘D’ but Josh Grant was calm as he shielded the ball out of play with Fraser Heath in attendance.

Kinlochshiel went on to dominate the remainder of the half. Donald Nixon’s lofted ball was gathered by John MacRae who got the ball out from under his feet and his backhand strike forced a brilliant flying save from Stuart MacDonald.

Keith MacRae tried to implement a training ground free-hit routine but Duncan ‘WD’ MacRae’s shot was blocked.

Kinlochshiel made their first change on 41 minutes as Archie MacRae took over from Duncan ‘WD’ MacRae.

Kinlochshiel pressed but just couldn’t add the second goal they deserved and they suffered the consequences in first half stoppage time when Fraser Heath won possession and found Greg Matheson wide on the left and the Scotland forward sent a blistering shot into the net.

It was the first goal Kinlochshiel had conceded on their cup run and it made it 1-1 at the interval.

Lovat looked brighter from the restart and Fraser Heath crossed low from the right to find Greg Matheson but he couldn’t steer his shot on target.

Iain Nicolson required muscle treatment before being later replaced by Bailey MacKay and Ryan Ferguson came on for Marc MacLachlan on 54 minutes.

The final took a significant twist just seconds past the hour. Jordan Fraser came deep to the halfway line to gather a stray ball. Fraser drove a wonderful high ball down the middle where Keith MacRae won the race for possession with Daniel Grieve and he showed great composure as he lifted ball over Stuart MacDonald and into the net to put Kinlochshiel back in front.

Three minutes later, an incredible Greg Matheson flick and volley from the right of the centre line dropped in on the Kinlochshiel goal and Josh Grant, with the sun in his eyes, just managed to scramble the ball away, crashing into his left post in the process, under pressure from Fraser Heath.

Kinlochshiel refreshed their line-up as Jonnie MacAskill replaced Duncan ‘DA’ MacRae with 20 minutes to go and Kinlochshiel were now deploying John MacRae in a deeper role.

Referee John Angus Gillies showed the only yellow card of the final to Lovat’s Callum Cruden for backchat as Kinlochshiel won a couple of free-hits.

David Falconer took over from 40-year-old Paul MacRae before Greg Matheson’s strike from distance whistled wide as the final moved into the final 10 minutes.

Jonnie MacAskill spurned a chance on his backhand as tension engulfed the touchline at Mossfield.

Josh Grant came off his line to get his feet to a dangerous Ryan Ferguson ball into the ‘D’ and when the rebound came to Graeme MacMillan, he steered his shot agonisingly wide of the far post and the chance was gone.

Josh Grant saved with his feet from Fraser Heath who injured himself in the process and Marc MacLachlan was reintroduced in his place.

This thoroughly entertaining final still had more to offer and if there was drama at the end of the first half, then it was eclipsed during second half stoppage time. Donald Nixon’s long free-hit from in front of the stand dropped into the Lovat goal area and was chested down by Danny Kelly but John MacRae was quickly in to nick the ball to Keith MacRae at the left of the ‘D’ and he beat the keeper at his right post to complete his hat-trick and seal a famous and deserved victory.

Referee John Angus Gillies, who was excellent throughout, blew for time from the restart.

There were emotional scenes all around the ground as the Kinlochshiel support – from stalwarts of Kinlochshiel sides in days gone by to youngsters inspired to be the team of tomorrow – tried to take in the enormity of what had just happened.

Mossfield was a sea of red and white as the supporters gathered on the pitch and in the stand for the trophy presentation. Kinlochshiel buckshee back Conor Cormack was the selection panel’s choice as man of the match and he received the Albert Smith medal from the always immaculate Rene Smith on the 50th anniversary of the inaugural presentation of this coveted award to Newtonmore’s Johnny Campbell.

Then, 125 years after the inaugural Camanachd Cup Final, all that was left was for Kinlochshiel captain Keith MacRae, who has bounced back from a troublesome knee injury, to raise the Camanachd Cup on a day that will forever be remembered in the club’s proud history.

Speaking after the final whistle, Kinlochshiel manager Johnston Gill said: ‘I’m overwhelmed. This is just fantastic for the whole community and I think they were probably all here today to watch us.

‘It was one of the best cup finals ever and when you add the three or four younger players we have coming through to the current squad, I believe we can do it again.

‘It has been a great occasion and every single man performed so well out there. At half-time we said we weren’t here to lose the trophy but to win the cup. The players are all experienced but we pointed out some small things and they finished the job in the second half.

‘We still have the MacTavish Cup to play for this season. We’ve never won that before either so there’s something else to aim for.’

Winning skipper Keith MacRae added: ‘The boys worked so hard today and this is reward for the all the commitment over the years. We’ve stuck together as a squad and worked so hard and it has really clicked for us this year.

‘I don’t score many hat-tricks so I’ll certainly take one in the Camanachd Cup Final.’

Kinlochshiel from: Josh Grant: Finlay MacRae; Mark MacDonald; Duncan Matheson; Conor Cormack; Paul MacRae; Donald Nixon; Duncan ‘DA’ MacRae; Duncan ‘WD’ MacRae; Keith MacRae, captain; Jordan Fraser and John MacRae. Subs: David Falconer; Archie MacRae; Jonnie MacAskill; Ali Nixon and Arron Jack.

Lovat from: Stuart MacDonald, captain; Daniel Grieve; Danny Kelly; Graeme MacMillan; Craig Mainland; Iain Nicolson; Callum Cruden; Drew Howie; Marc MacLachlan; Greg Matheson; Lewis Tawse and Fraser Heath. Subs: Bailey MacKay; Cammy MacMillan; Ryan Ferguson; Chris Johnston and Duncan Davidson.

Match referee, John Angus Gillies; goal judges, Lachie Wood and David Mitchell. Linesmen, Craig Scott, Scott Campbell, Alex MacVicar and Graham Fisher. Fourth official, Calum Girvan.

MacMaster Cup

Skye Camanachd U14 won the MacMaster Cup, beating Fort William U14 2-1 in their 11am throw-up at Mossfield.

It was a busy week for the Skye youngsters who were 2-1 MacMaster Cup semi-final winners against Kilmallie U14 at Craigard, Invergarry, the previous Wednesday.

Seonaidh-Alex MacLeod and Ali Stewart had Skye 2-0 ahead before Archie MacNiven countered for Kilmallie.

Jack Stephen gave Fort William the lead on 33 minutes in the final, but Seonaidh-Alex MacLeod equalised almost immediately.

Ali Stewart got what proved to be the winner on 55 minutes.

Skye skipper Seonaidh-Alex MacLeod was presented with the trophy by David MacMaster on behalf of the MacMaster family.

Weekend fixtures

There is a full fixture list for this Saturday, September 25.

The schedule includes Oban Camanachd’s Scottish Sea Farms Glasgow Celtic Society Cup semi-final against Inveraray at Mossfield. Glasgow Mid Argyll host Kyles Athletic in the other last-four tie.

Fort William have a cottages.com MacTavish Cup quarter-final against Glenurquhart at An Aird.

Skye Camanachd contest a Mowi Senior League A meeting with Kilmallie at Pairc nan Laoch, Portree, whilst Aberdour welcome Oban Celtic to Silver Sands in Mowi Senior League C.

HIS Sutherland Cup holders Lochside Rovers take on the Lovat second team in their semi-final tie, a 1.30pm throw-up at Spean Bridge.

The Fort William second team welcome Lochcarron for their noon throw-up at An Aird in Mowi North League A, whilst Glengarry meet the Kinlochshiel second team at Craigard.

Taynuilt face the Inveraray second team at Taynuilt Sports Field in Mowi South League A, whilst Col Glen and Ballachulish clash at Glendaruel.

The Oban Celtic colts play Ardnamurchan at Ganavan in the Mowi Central League and the Kilmallie seconds entertain Kilmory at the Canal Parks in the same competition.