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As the year draws to a close, it’s time to look back on the shinty stories making the headlines during 2021.
Covid KOs Shinty
Shinty went into 2021 engulfed in Covid concerns and on the back of Scottish Government confirmation that mainland Scotland had moved to Tier 4 from Boxing Day. Therefore shinty was not permitted under the current restrictions.
Clubs Begin Registration Process
Shinty clubs started the registration process for players, coaches and committee members ahead of the start of the 2021 shinty season.
The Camanachd Association confirmed their intention to have a 4-6 week pre-season programme followed by an abbreviated MOWI League campaign, with the early rounds of cup competitions to be played on a localised basis.
Camanachd Association Sets 2021 Priorities
The Camanachd Association presented their three key priorities to act as a guide ahead of the new season starting.
The first priority was to restart shinty and support clubs to understand the new Covid-related guidance, providing a safe environment within government guidance.
The second priority was in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion for all with a focus on removing barriers.
The third priority was to have safe and well organised clubs and, with the Covid vaccine well under way, the association pledged to provide leadership and support.
The Camanachd Association also outlined preliminary plans for youth competitions. All competitions will return with the early stages regionalised before opening up for the later stages.
International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day took place on Monday 8 March 2021 and the Camanachd Association encouraged shinty clubs to nominate a woman, whether that be a player, coach, volunteer, mum, sponsor or from the many others who make such a vital contribution to the sport.
The Camanachd Association welcomed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement of the further easing of lockdown restrictions. In anticipation of the announcement, updated guidance documents had already been submitted to sportscotland for their approval on behalf of the Scottish Government.
The Association anticipated having updated guidance to share with clubs in the coming days. The finer details of the guidance were still to be clarified but would be communicated as soon as possible to allow clubs to access the opportunities now available in line with Government Guidance.
Camanachd Association Chief Executive Officer Derek Keir said: “It is so exciting to see restrictions being lifted in a measured way and I am sure everyone in the shinty community will be excited to get back to some form of normality even if that means physically distancing in the first instance.
Camanachd Association Announces Financial Support
The Camanachd Association announced a financial support package worth up to £32,000 to support members and clubs.
The measures included a 50% reduction in membership fees with every club offered up to five free memberships to support those facing barriers to participation.
League and Cup Confirmation
With regional draws in place to limit travel during the early stages of the cup competitions, the Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup draw delivered some tasty ties, particularly in the Southern Section where Fort William meet Oban Camanachd, Oban Celtic host Glasgow Mid Argyll, Kyles Athletic welcome Inveraray or Lochaber and Kilmallie meet Ballachulish or Bute.
Holders Newtonmore have a derby against Kingussie.
Meantime the MOWI League structure was also announced with shinty’s 18 senior clubs split into 3 regional leagues.
Mowi Senior League A comprised of: Fort William, Glenurquhart, Kilmallie, Kinlochshiel, Lochaber and Skye Camanachd
Mowi Senior League B featured: Beauly, Caberfeidh, Kingussie, Lovat, Newtonmore and Strathglass.
Aberdour, Glasgow Mid Argyll, Inveraray, Kyles Athletic, Oban Camanachd and Oban Celtic made up MOWI Senior League C.
Camanachd Association Competitions Director Burton Morrison, said: ‘The approach taken by the Competitions Committee was to provide clubs with the opportunity to play as many games as possible within the restricted calendar.
‘We have developed a competitive league structure which, for this season only, provides most clubs with 10 league matches whilst reducing the amount of travelling involved.
‘These fixtures will of course be complimented by the full array of cup competitions, the draws for which will take place over the next 3 weeks.
Youth shinty was to the fore as the first competitive matches of the year took place in the MOWI London Shield. Rhys Kennedy scored four times as Fort William U17 beat Kilmallie U17 7-0 in Section A.
The Half-Swing Shinty podcast was broadcast for the first time and Oban duo Stephen Sloss and Les Kinvig were amongst host Aarron Duncan-Macleod’s early guests.
Funding For New Posts
The Camanachd Association announced funding for five new posts, four of which will be focused on developing opportunities to get involved in shinty in new areas or areas of potential.
This includes a Regional Development Officer post based in Argyll and Bute to focus on supporting clubs in their efforts to restart shinty, on creating new opportunities to engage the wider community and to support the continued effort to provide organised and high-quality experiences in shinty.
Camanachd Association Communications & Facilities Director (South) Roddy McCuish said: “This is great news not just for the Association but for shinty as a whole and it demonstrates the commitment and continuing promotion of our game at all levels. I am excited to see the investment in Argyll and Bute.”
Following an enforced 15 month break, the new shinty season got underway on Saturday 5 June 2021. Fixtures were played within current Covid restrictions which included no group travel, no use of changing room areas and supporters not permitted to attend matches.
The new regionalised leagues format produced up a number of exciting local derbies.
Oban Camanachd would compete in MOWI Senior League C and manager Stephen Sloss had a period of transition to contend with. He said: “Andrew MacCuish, Lorne Dickie, Gary McKerracher and Willie Neilson have indicated that they won’t play this season whilst Scott MacMillan’s work pattern limits his availability. However Garry Lord is back in training which is a boost and the likes of Blair MacFarlane, Evan MacLellan, Chrissie MacMillan and Ross Campbell were breaking into the first team before the enforced break so they are ready to step up on a regular basis.”
Dougie MacIntyre stayed on as Oban Celtic boss and assistant manager Les Kinvig knew their side would face some testing fixtures starting with Kyles Athletic’s trip to Oban. Les said: “The saving grace is that there is no pressure on us but we will be tested against what would normally be higher league opposition. It is a chance for us to measure where we are and recognise what we need to do to get to the next level. It’s been a short run up to the new season with only a couple of weeks of contact training but we had been gathering for twice weekly fitness training for some weeks now. We’d have liked a longer preseason but it is the same for everyone.”
When the opening day arrived, Glasgow came out of Level 2 at midnight meaning Glasgow Mid Argyll were able to host Oban Camanachd just hours later in MOWI League C and the contest finished goalless. Oban Camanachd manager Stephen Sloss spoke afterwards: “We were poor up front and should have scored but it wasn’t a great game overall. I’m maybe expecting a bit much as both sides were rusty having not played competitively for so long. Papa’s goals have been important to us over the years and we are trying to replace them throughout the forward line rather than relying on one individual.”
Amongst the other matches played, Roddy Macdonald scored twice as Kyles Athletic won 4-0 at Oban Celtic. Colin MacDonald and Ross Macrae got the others.
Kingussie proved to be the early pace-setters in their MOWI League B and after Alexander Michie’s penalty earned a 2-1 win against Lovat, the Kings were 13-0 winners at Caberfeidh. James Falconer and Savio Genini both scored four times with Iain Fraser grabbing a hat-trick. Dylan Borthwick got the other two goals.
Oban Camanachd matched Kingussie’s tally, beating Aberdour 13-0 at Mossfield. Daniel MacVicar scored four times, Connor Howe grabbed a hat-trick and Daniel Madej scored twice with Daniel MacCuish, Scott MacMillan, Lewis Buchanan and Daniel Sloss getting the others. Speaking afterwards, Oban Camanachd manager Stephen Sloss said:
“It’s difficult to take much from such a one-sided game and we rotated the boys for most of the match to get players on the ball. I felt for Aberdour and they were playing South 1 shinty in 2019 before reaching the national so this was a big step up but they never gave up. It’s not ideal but just the way the leagues are at the moment. However we needed to score some goals after drawing a bank against GMA the week before. They were all decent goals too, quite a variety, and they needed to be to get past their keeper who was outstanding.”
Kinlochshiel reached the Artemis Macaulay Cup second round thanks to a 3-1 win at Fort William. Keith MacRae, Donald Nixon and John MacRae got their goals with Craig MacDonald countering.
Craig Anderson sent Glasgow Mid Argyll through as they beat Inveraray 1-0.
Fraser Heath’s double helped Lovat beat Caberfeidh 4-0 with Greg Matheson and Lewis Tawse getting the others.
Bute beat Col Glen 3-0 in the Scottish Seas Farms Glasgow Celtic Society Cup first round. Scott Harvey scored twice, one a penalty, with Thomas Morrison getting the other.
Coll MacKay and Fraser Watt cancelled Lennon Campbell’s effort as Inveraray recorded a 2-1 midweek win over Oban Celtic in MOWI League C. Oban Celtic assistant manager Les Kinvig said: “It was a good game with both sides playing attractive, attacking shinty and maybe a draw would have been a fairer result. Inveraray created more chances but the balance of play was pretty even. Work commitments and injuries meant we had a bit of a makeshift line-up which we had to reshuffle a couple of times during the game itself. A couple of the boys were carrying knocks and it was the overall team performance that pleased Dougie (MacIntyre) and I the most.”
David MacLennan and Jed Stoddart netted as Glenurquhart won 2-0 in their Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup first round tie against Strathglass. Oban Celtic and Skye were given byes into the second round.
Covid outbreaks were already affecting the shinty schedule including the Oban Derby between Oban Celtic and Oban Camanachd in MOWI League C.
Lochside Rovers opened their MOWI South League A campaign with a battling draw at home to Bute as Ryan Craig’s late leveller cancelled out Lewis Buchanan’s early opener. In their only other match during the month, Lochside came from behind to win 2-1 at Ballachulish with Alexander MacDonald and Robbie Brown getting the goals. ‘We had a young squad at the start of the season,’ said then Lochside boss Gareth Evans. ‘I thought we would do well to finish mid-table and I expected Bute and Ballachulish to be strong and it just so happened we faced both these teams in our first two games and it was great to collect three points out of four.’
The Oban Celtic seconds were placed in the MOWI Central League. Goals from Keegan Mcphee, Joe MacVicar and Andrew MacDonald’s double weren’t enough as the Oban side lost 6-4 to their Lochaber counterparts.