Lovat goalkeeper Stuart MacDonald admitted he saved the match of his life for Saturday as his team ended their 62-year wait for shinty’s Scottish Hydro Camanachd Cup.
John MacRitchie’s Kiltarlity outfit lost the battle but won the war to defeat Kyles Athletic 2-1 in front of a crowd of 3,000 at Mossfield Park in Oban.
Had they not been privy to one of the most outstanding individual performances of recent times, it may have been very different.
MacDonald, a local tradesman, defied Kyles on so many occasions that it became both impossible to count, and even embarrassing.
Indeed, his agility and reactions were bordering on robotic and Kyles, in particular the hapless Roddy Macdonald who tried everything in his oeuvre, might still have been trying to shoot past him until darkness descended over Oban bay and still not have succeeded.
Manager MacRitchie was pin-sharp with his post-match observation that Kyles won all the relevant statistical battles except the one that truly mattered.
MacDonald, who seemed almost shell-shocked at what he and the club had achieved after so long, may never again experience such an exalted feeling.
“I don’t think it has sunk in,” said the Scotland number one, who must surely be the first name on Ronald Ross’s team sheet for the forthcoming international double header with Ireland.
“If I am to be honest, it’s probably the best match I’ve ever played. I played well when we won our first MacTavish Cup but this tops the lot.
“The key thing was that we took our chances.”
When Kingussie were winning everything, teams could match them across the park but still find themselves on the end of a heavy defeat thanks to the goals of Ronald Ross. It would be a disservice to the Lovat squad to say Saturday was a carbon copy of that but there were certainly some similarities.
When MacDonald’s airborne stops were saving Lovat, though, they had the good sense to capitalise on their chances.
Weathering the first-half onslaught, the outstanding Kevin Bartlett put them in front just before half time, converting the only chance the Balgate Park side managed on target in the opening 45 minutes.
Kyles’s defence was less than slick and the Scotland man wasted no time in punishing them.
When Robbie MacLeod managed to get the ball past MacDonald to make it 1-1 after 49 minutes, Lovat again inflicted the sucker punch at exactly the right time.
Bartlett, who described teammate MacDonald as the best he’s ever played with, was again the precision shot.
Pouncing on a mis-hit like a hungry lurcher, he sizzled a shot into the net from 20 yards that proved to be the winner.
At the end of the game, fans young and old draped in black and white checkered flags ran on to the park to greet Lovat’s players.