Shinty round up – Saturday January 15 2022

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Off-field changes ahead of ‘massive’ season for Fort William

It is same again on the pitch but there are a few off-field changes as Fort William co-managers Victor Smith and Adam Robertson prepare their side for the 2022 shinty season.

Speaking just ahead of one of the club’s twice-weekly training sessions, Victor Smith said: ‘We are looking to do something different with our training this season. The players have signed up with Wolfhouse Gym in Fort William where Jamie Gall is involved and Emma Hebborn is the head coach. The boys can do weights, spinning classes, cardio, the full works but there is more to it than that.’

Emma Hebborn is a former Lochaber High School pupil who spent 10 years in the Royal Navy. She qualified as a personal trainer in 2016. She also has an impressive powerlifting medal haul at Scottish, European and World Championship level.

Victor Smith said: ‘Emma will be involved. Her qualifications and experience will be a huge asset. She will be working on the players’ fitness and will advise players on their preparations ahead of matches as well as what they do after games. This should help the boys be at their best and reduce injuries.

‘We will be in the gym one evening a week. Henry Milne remains involved for outdoor training when we’ll do stick-work under the floodlights at the new pitch. Henry is a wonderful servant to the club.’

Alan Knox also has a big contribution to make.  A former Fort William player, he also turned out for Lochaber and Ballachulish.

‘Alan has a job at the Belford Hospital where he is involved on the paramedic side,’ added Victor. ‘He will come on board to help with first aid. This means we’ll always have someone to provide medical support from the touchline. Iain Fraser also assumes that role but it means if Iain is working on a Saturday, Alan can come with the first team and there will always be someone for the second team too. Alan will be a great addition as it is so important to have medial support for the players.’

James Tangney, a popular figure, is the new Fort William chairman, taking over from the well-respected Duncan MacPhee.

On the field, Fort William were runaway Mowi National Division winners at the end of the 2019 season, completing the league campaign with a 100 per cent record to earn a return to shinty’s top flight. Their opening Premiership fixture against Kyles Athletic in March 2020 was postponed before covid brought shinty to a standstill.

Ryan Boyle is still sidelined after suffering a dislocated knee in a pre-season match against Kingussie a year ago. However, Ruaridh Shaw is home for a year after completing university and will be available for selection. The remainder of the first team squad remains unchanged with all the players signing up for a shot against shinty’s big guns.

Youngster Cameron Stephen has every chance of breaking into the first team squad if his development to date continues, according to Victor Smith. ‘Cameron could easily have been more involved with the first team squad last season but we thought it would be more beneficial for him to play 90 minutes every week for the second team than coming on for 10 or 15 minutes as a first team substitute. He is now very much on our radar. He’s a versatile player and I can see us using him at wing forward to start with but his future will be in a more central position. He is a good prospect.’

The Camanachd Association Competitions Committee meets before the end of the month to confirm plans for the start of the shinty season in March 2022. They will consider the most recent updates from the First Minister before confirming plans.

Victor Smith is hopeful of a return to something more akin to a normal shinty season.

He said: ‘Last season was a bit of a disaster for us. We only managed games on successive Saturdays once and that was through no fault of our own.

‘Cup games were seen as much more important last year. That meant the cup ties had a buzz about them but the league games were mostly flat.’

Fort William played nine competitive games in 2021, reaching the semi-final stage of the MacTavish Cup. ‘I hope we can have a normal season in 2022. We should at least attempt to start the season in the usual way. That will bring the excitement back to all matches, whether league or cup.

‘I appreciate that managing covid will be difficult for the game though and we don’t want any adverse consequences for any clubs. We just have to trust clubs to do the right thing at the right time.’

The Fort William Street Shinty has also been a success. Victor Smith said: ‘Willie MacDonald has done a great job with street shinty. It really took off and there were great numbers coming along every week. Shinty needs innovations like this.’

Fort William have so far planned pre-season friendlies against Kingussie on Saturday February 19 and Oban Camanachd a week later.

They may factor in at least one more game, as Victor Smith explained. ‘We usually play Kyles Athletic during the pre-season for the Drew Ferguson Memorial Trophy. We’ll look to do so again this year, however, we’ll wait to see the fixture list and if we have an early league meeting with Kyles, that game will double up for Drew’s trophy.

‘It’s going to be a massive season for Fort William. Our aim is to get a foothold in the Premiership and stay up and we will do everything we can to achieve that.’

Skye Camanachd pre-season friendlies

Skye Camanachd first team manager Kenny MacLeod has set his side a testing pre-season schedule.

Skye Camanachd will host the popular John MacKinnon Memorial Sixes at the Portree High School astro pitch on Saturday February 5.

A week later, Skye travel to Blairbeg to play Glenurquhart.

Skye then welcome Kilmallie to Pairc nan Laoch, Portree, on Saturday February 19 to contest the Thomas Ferguson Memorial Cup, with Kilmallie the current holders.

The final pre-season friendly is against Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup and MacTavish Cup winners Kinlochshiel at Pairc nan Laoch on Saturday February 26 when the teams will play for the George Michie Memorial Cup.

The competitive shinty season starts on Saturday March 5.

Oban Camanachd’s Daniel Sloss named in shinty supporters’ team of the season

Oban Camanachd and Scotland U21 defender Daniel Sloss has been named in the 2021 shinty supporters’ team of the season.

The young defender has been a stand-out for his club during the year.

The Camanachd Association contacted all senior club captains and asked them to nominate a player from another club in the senior leagues in each position to determine a shortlist for the Mowi supporters’ team of the season. The nominated players were then put before supporters in their respective playing position and the final team was voted on by fans via a Twitter poll.

The popular poll ran over the festive period and amassed more than 3,500 votes.

The team was dominated by Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup and MacTavish Cup winners Kinlochshiel who had six players selected. Silverware success at Kyles Athletic and Kingussie was also acknowledged.

The only non-Premiership inclusions were co-managers Gregor MacCormick and Niall MacLennan from Beauly who saw off Kinlochshiel boss Johnston Gill and Kyles Athletic’s Robert Baxter in the managers’ poll.

Camanachd Association marketing and communications officer Aarron Duncan-MacLeod said: ‘It’s great to see so many deserving winners in the Mowi team of the season. These polls are often close-run and always contentious and I hope this will give shinty fans the world over something to talk about ahead of what is set to be an exciting 2022 campaign.’

The team was: Josh Grant, Kinlochshiel; Finlay MacRae, Kinlochshiel; Andrew King, Kyles Athletic; Daniel Sloss, Oban Camanachd; Conor Cormack, Kinlochshiel; Donald Nixon, Kinlochshiel; Ross MacRae, Kyles Athletic; Steven Macdonald, Newtonmore; Ruairidh Anderson, Kingussie; James Falconer, Kingussie; Jordan Fraser, Kinlochshiel, and Keith MacRae, Kinlochshiel. Managers – Gregor MacCormick and Niall MacLennan, Beauly.

Ballachullish managers stand down

Morgan Smith and Alan Clark are standing down as Ballachulish team managers.

Increased work commitments influenced the duo’s decision, announced at the club’s annual general meeting, so the club is looking for a new management team.

The team played ten fames during the covid-interrupted 2021 shinty season.

The Ballachulish committee thanked Alan and Morgan for all the hard work they have put into the team and wished them all the best for the future.

Senior players wanted

Dunoon Camanachd and Strachur are appealing for new players.

Dunoon is looking to represent Dunoon and surrounding areas at senior level. This will once again provide a pathway for players coming through the thriving Dunoon junior set-up.

Anyone interested can contact the club through its Facebook page.

Strachur haven’t played league shinty since the end of the 2018 season when they won Mowi South Division 2. Whilst they haven’t had the required numbers recently, they hope they might be able to get a team together with Dunoon and Glasgow-based players.

The club can be contacted via its Facebook page but time is short with the new fixture list due to be issued in early February.