High-flying Kinlochshiel dream of soaring even higher

Johnston Gill, manager of Kinlochshiel Shinty Club is quick to set the record straight when it comes to the Balmacara club’s pedigree in shinty’s Camanachd Cup.

Ahead of today’s televised semi-final with Inveraray, when asked if the club had ever appeared in a final, he shot back: “No, and we’ve never been in a semi-final either. In fact, I think we’ve only been past round one a couple of times.”

The magnitude of what Kinlochshiel are embarking upon today is encapsulated in their manager’s retort. A club that nearly folded in the 1990s and had to go back to the bottom to start all over again now stands 90 minutes from the final of the sport’s elite competition.

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It is very much the stuff of legend and, if this is a good story now, imagine what it would be like if they went all the way? “Everyone is talking about it,” said Gill. “There is a really good feeling and it would be brilliant for the area if we got to the final. It would be great for the players and also for the community 
because it is the local public that put money in so we can play shinty.”

These are good times at Kirkton. Last year, in Gill’s first year in charge, the club finally managed to exit North Division One and enter the higher echelon of the Orion Group Premiership.

Typically, having journeyed so long to get out of the lower league, they soared over the final hurdle, becoming the first side ever to win the division without losing a match. That winning mentality was always likely to give them a spring in the leap but few would have thought they could vault so high upon entry to the top league.

Along with another unfancied outfit, Lovat, Kinlochshiel have burst onto the scene this year with vim and vibrancy, taking scalps with verve.

If they can cap what has already been a stellar year with a place in the Scottish Hydro 
Camanachd Cup final in September, it simply will not get any better.

“It is good the boys are beginning to get a bit of recognition,” added Gill. “When we went up to the top flight, we didn’t want to be one of those clubs to go up one year and down the next.”

Inveraray, though, are Camanachd Cup darlings. They lost out at this stage last year and won’t want tears again today.