Newtonmore ended 25 years in the shinty wilderness yesterday, claiming their first league championship since 1985.
Norman MacArthur's men required a draw to secure the title against Fort William at An Aird but a win for Fort would have seen the honours go the other way.
In the end, Newtonmore won 1-0 thanks to a wonder-strike by Danny MacRae that will have been toasted heartily in Badenoch last night. "It was definitely the best goal of my career," said the ecstatic forward, "although it seemed to take a lifetime to go over the line. This means so much to the club and the village. I feel we have the players to continue the winning run."
The An Aird surface was slippery underfoot, as illustrated when Fort's James Clark, deployed at full back to shackle MacRae, hit the turf in ten minutes chasing a dangerous ball.
MacRae almost made capital from Clark's tumble, rifling a shot off the post. Fort's goal survived and the home side carved out a few opportunities of their own. In 17 minutes Gary Innes, shifted back to wing centre, manufactured space for a full swing and when Mike Ritchie saved his effort, veteran Victor Smith should have hit the target and not the housing estate behind the goal. The second period lacked the events of the first 45 as tension began to take a grip. With 15 minutes left, the Fort William bench were glancing anxiously at wrist watches as they considered changes to turn the tide. Even then, though, one goal would have been enough to give them the title.
They were to be sickened, though, and if it was to take any goal to win a title, then you would have taken MacRae's. The Scotland man managed to tease the ball round Clark, who had stalked him all afternoon. Using his speed, he collected the ball at the other side and clipped the ball past the outstanding Mackay in the Fort goal.
Newtonmore fans danced around An Aird as if the issue was done and dusted. Ten minutes later, it was.
Fort William: Mackay, Clark, MacIntyre, Robertson, Rodger, MacPhee, Simpson, Bamber, MacKinnon, Innes, Smith, MacLeod.
Newtonmore: Ritchie, N. Campbell, D. Campbell, A. MacIntosh, Kennedy, Robinso, Chisolm, MacDonald, G. MacKintosh, Menzies, Cheyne. MacRae.
Referee: G Irvine. Attendance: 1,000.