The 106th Scottish Hydro Camanachd Cup Final will be remembered, of course, for the way Newtonmore took command and left Kyles Athletic with no answers in a 3-0 win at An Aird, beneath Ben Nevis.
Interestingly, though, the groundwork for their 30th Camanachd Cup win was actually laid on another day at another ground and, strangely, in a defeat.The match in question was the Artemis Macaulay Cup final in Oban last month when Kyles defeated Newtonmore 4-3 in the only other match between the sides this season.
On that afternoon, Newtonmore realised that, without the injured Rory Kennedy, they were vulnerable to the pace of the Kyles attackers, whose remit was to drag them into wide areas and keep them on the back foot.
They also recognised that, in order to cope with the threat of Roddy MacDonald down the middle, they needed a mobile, wily combatant who could use the head, read and intercept.
On Saturday, they found that in former Ross County footballer Steven MacDonald and, when he nullified namesake Roddy, Newtonmore had effectively knocked out Kyles’ kingpin.
It was a case, then, of learning lessons. Painful ones, too. But the best teams do that and Newtonmore proved on Saturday, with the title already won, that they are the best.
Their captain Jamie Robinson also had some business to finish following that defeat last month. He was red carded in that final and trudged off the park full of questions and disbelief. On Saturday, as if the script was already pre-written, he more than justified the armband. With his only goal of the season, the man-of-the-match black caman in his hand and the trophy in his clutches, the centre line patroller had more than done his time. Accepting the silverware from Lord Smith of Kelvin in the An Aird grandstand, he shook the trophy like a warrior displaying the spoils of a long war.
Passion, the desire for revenge or atonement. Whatever it was that was driving Newtonmore on after the last final, they had it coursing through their veins. Kyles, on the other hand, never seemed to muster the same appetite.
A few of them rose to the challenge. Donald Irvine was switched on from the start and Grant Irvine seemed angry enough at the way the game was going to try to affect a change.
Sadly for them and the hordes who had traveled north from Tighnabruaich, Dunoon and surrounding areas with their blue face paint and flags, not enough of them seemed to get impassioned enough. The end result was that, unlike their supporters, they seemed to play the final in a numb mono-pace and Newtonmore, literally, muscled them out of it.
“I think we were in command,” said Newtonmore boss, PJ MacKintosh on the park afterwards, while being kissed and hugged by friends and neighbours.
“We knew were were capable of winning it. We knew in that last game that Roddy MacDonald caused us lots of problems but we learned from it.
“Steven nullified that and it left Roddy having to go further and further back to get the ball but you can’t score from back there.”
With the sun casting a glow on a busy An Aird, Newtonmore opened in determined mood and skipper Robinson had them 1-0 ahead after 14 minutes. His strike was seen late by Kyles keeper Kenny MacDonald and the ball was in the net before the big keeper could adjust his feet.
Newtonmore set up camp in the Kyles half after that and 1-0 was merciful for the holders at half-time.
’More’s second goal on the hour had elements of fortune about it and also showed how difficult it is to stop a good stick player such as Glen MacKintosh when momentum builds. He took the ball to the heart of the Kyles defence and managed to negotiate every challenge. When Kyles keeper MacDonald allowed the ball to run past his stick, MacKintosh tucked the ball into the net.
“I got the break of the ball each time. It seemed to bobble up for me and, when Kenny missed it, I couldn’t believe it. He had just had a great save from me at the start of the second half,” said MacKintosh.
Newtonmore killed the game when Danny MacRae netted with five minutes left. He took a flighted pass and angled the ball into the net.
Kyles were sunk and the only thing left was the pitch invasion at the end.
Interestingly, Newtonmore won the Cup without conceding a goal in the whole competition. Only one other club, Furnace, has ever managed that.