Shinty: Determined Kyles end their 18 years of hurt in Camanachd Cup classic
Eleven goals, a 50-year-old medal winner, dogs in team colours and semi naked male Kyles fans dancing on a hill in the rain. This Scottish Hydro Camanachd Cup final had everything.
Inveraray - MacKinlay (5, 28), G MacPherson (20, 54), C Crawford (22)
Kyles Athletic - R MacDonald (10, 19, 60, 70), R MacLeod (49), F MacDonald (59)
In the end, the silver cup went south from Mossfield to Tighnabruaich and the home of Kyles for the 21st time – a tally matching Kingussie’s and only bettered by Newtonmore.
Don’t be fooled by the statistics, though. Kyles have been without this Cup for 18 years and didn’t their fans, bedecked and bodily painted in royal blue, know it.
Following their frenzied mass pitch invasion at the end, the Kyles followers were still camped on the lush Mossfield surface with the players long after the BBC crews had rolled away miles of cable and the reporters had written the tale of a famous victory.
It was as if, having waited so long for this moment, they felt like they had become stakeholders in Mossfield Park.
Maybe it was the culmination of all this desire and pent-up frustration, among the players as well as the supporters, that spirited the trophy in the direction of Tighnabruaich and not to Loch Fyneside and the home of Inveraray.
At both 4-2 and 5-3 to the good, it seemed as if Inveraray had exerted a stranglehold on this final. Any time Kyles managed to move one of their chess pieces and score, Inveraray responded with a move of their own.
However, Kyles – aided by a wind that grew stronger in their favour – simply refused to accept this was not going to be their year.
“What a spirit there is in this team,” said veteran Fraser MacDonald, 42, who was almost in tears after the final whistle.
MacDonald, who played a major role in the second half, including an excellent goal, was one of only two players who had savoured a Camanachd Cup victory before.
That did not diminish the joy with which he hugged old friends afterwards as if this was somehow a Kyles reunion.
“I was 24 when we won it last time. You always hope you will win another. This feels so good. We’ve struggled for a team at some points this year because we have missed Grant Irvine, Sandy McVicar and Peter Currie, but what character, what team spirit.”
Watching all of this was Shona Robison MSP, Scotland’s Commonwealth Games and Sports Minister. Sitting just behind her in the grandstand was Mike Russell MSP, who was delighted for his constituency club.
With Scotland’s Olympians having paraded through Glasgow the day before, the Sports Minister must have thought she could never be as inspired 24 hours later.
However, she tweeted afterwards that it was ‘great’ and, if she was to choose one Camanachd Cup final to attend, it surely would have been this one.
She presented Kyles’ Roddy MacDonald with the Albert Smith medal for Man of the Match afterwards and no one could have argued with that.
For various reasons, Kyles have been forced to deploy the sport’s player of the year in the centre line this year.
However, if they can get him anywhere near the forward areas, he is devastating and Inveraray found that on Saturday.
MacDonald scored two first half goals, chasing down an uncharacteristic swipe and miss by Inveraray keeper Graeme MacPherson to net the first.
He then held off two defenders and MacPherson to get his second.
In the second period, he launched a high effort over MacPherson and got the eventual winner in the 79th minute with a low shot which entered the net with the speed of a TGV train.
“My job is to score but, if I didn’t get the service, I wouldn’t. This is great for us. We have been under a lot of pressure to match the great Kyles teams of the past and maybe we have started to do that with this win.
“This is something I have wanted since I was a wee boy.”
It is hard to imagine the gangly MacDonald as a wee boy and he stood proudly with the Cup and his old man, keeper Kenny, afterwards.
At 50, Kenny MacDonald, partial to a fag during the warm-up, must be one of the oldest-ever Camanachd Cup winners.
He could do little with Russell MacKinlay’s two first half goals for Inveraray.
MacKinlay took advantage of hesitation in the home defence for both his strikes and Inveraray were 4-2 up and flying at half-time, with additional goals from the pacy Chris Crawford and the outstanding Garry MacPherson.
MacPherson didn’t deserve to lose this final and he cracked a text-book goal in the second half as well for Inveraray.
However, Kyles found an extra gear and a penalty from Robbie MacLeod and Fraser MacDonald’s strike, allied to Roddy MacDonald’s second half double ended the long, long wait.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North