As the Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup made its 32nd journey to The Eilan, Newtonmore will reflect on an afternoon for heroes as their players rose to counter the pre-match blows that had befallen them to beat Lovat 3-2 at the Bught Park, Inverness.
None more so than captain Rory Kennedy who hadn’t played since suffering ankle ligament damage in mid-August. “I was getting treatment right up until the start of the match,” he said. “I didn’t think I would make the game let alone play a full 90 minutes. I’m very proud of the boys to win under these circumstances. We made it hard for ourselves at times in the match but you also have to credit Lovat for coming right back at us.”
Newtonmore manager Paul John MacKintosh made the most of his resources, deploying Paul MacArthur as a stand-in keeper to allow battle-hardened veteran Norman Campbell to come out of goal and return to the full-back position where he’d excelled before age and injury caught up with him. Michael Russell was switched from midfield to defence to shore up the absences of Steven MacDonald and Andy MacKintosh.
You couldn’t take your eyes off this breathtaking contest for a second as the sides slugged it out for shinty’s biggest prize.
A magnificent flying Stuart MacDonald save denied ‘More’s Glen MacKintosh a 15th-minute opener but, just 60 seconds later, Neil Stewart, a surprise selection in attack, repaid his manager’s faith when he ran on to a Glen MacKintosh ball before driving an unstoppable shot into the net.
There was more to come a couple of minutes later when Evan Menzies found Jamie Robinson who made it 2-0.
Lovat, who had been on a six-match winning run ahead of the final, fought back and the introduction of substitute Marc MacLachlan lifted their spirits. MacLachlan stole in behind the ‘More defence on 64 minutes to knock a Craig Mainland ball home from the edge of the D.
Lorne MacKay made it 2-2 a couple of minutes later when he lofted the ball on goal from distance and, with the sun in his eyes, keeper MacArthur lost the flight of the ball and it ended up in the net. The game’s decisive goal came 15 minutes from time. Match-winner Menzies will relive his crucial strike many times. “I remember it quite clearly,” he reflected. “Glen [MacKintosh] gathered the ball at the edge of the D. I was screaming for it and he’d normally just take a shot so I was quite chuffed when he passed to me. I never hit it that cleanly but Stuart [MacDonald] is a magnificent keeper and sometimes they’re the ones that go in.”
Callum Cruden and Conor Jones were sent off a minute from time and Newtonmore’s Drew MacDonald was awarded the coveted Albert Smith Medal as man of the match.
Newtonmore have now won “The Scottish” four times over the last seven seasons. Few successes will have tasted sweeter as Kennedy raised the Camanachd Cup in front of an overjoyed support.