Shinty: Lochaber hope for better luck in final clash with champions
A MODERN version of the Highland Clearances will take place this afternoon as the villagers of Spean Bridge and Roy Bridge leave for Inverness to see if today is the day Lochaber Shinty Club’s luck changes.
Co-operative MacTavish Cup finals are always grand occasions in the shinty season and today’s fare from Bught Park will be beamed live to Gaeldom and beyond on BBC Alba.
But, for the Lochaber support, watching on the box would be no substitute for the real thing, especially if the lower league outfit were to perform a double blow by adding the scalp of Scottish champions Newtonmore to their neighbours, Kingussie. That’s why the buses will be leaving the townships at noon, heading north in the pursuit of history.
If luck plays a part in finals, Lochaber would be best to focus elsewhere.Two years ago, they lost their Premier League status on goal difference on the final day of the season. Then they lost out on a return to the top division by a fraction. Add to that the odd occurrence of having their two senior players, Lachlan Campbell and Neil MacDonald, both breaking their legs – twice each – and it would be right to assume the club has had to work shins and fingers to the bone for anything it has got.
This season, they’ve managed to get quite a lot, and manager Michael Delaney must feel he merits a bit of respite, with his young side also looking good for promotion back to the Premiership. “It is a good time at the club just now,” he said. “We asked the players for more commitment and effort and they have given that. Obviously, this game is a big ask. Newtonmore know how to win finals and leagues, but we will entertain. We score goals and we have forwards who can all hit the net.
“For me, it is good for the two experienced guys, Lachlan and Neil, to get to a major final. They have waited 20 years for this chance.”
Another Lochaber player relishing a return to the big stage is forward Sean Nicolson. The 26-year-old has been a regular member of the Scotland squad in the last four years but has spent a portion of that playing outside of the top division. He hopes that can change this season, but is only thinking of the immediate obstacle – Newtonmore.
“It has been a real achievement for us to even get here but, in the back of your mind, you also think you can do something,” he said.
The jump from North Division One Shinty to the top flight is not as big as it once was, and Newtonmore know that. Lochaber defeated Kingussie 6-4 in the semi-final, and manager Norman MacArthur is wary of complacency in his squad. “Lochaber are in this final on merit. In fact, they were very unlucky to drop out of the Premier League when they did. I knew they’d come back. There is no way we will treat this lightly,” he said.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 21 C
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Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
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