From Fort William’s Jim Clark to Kingussie’s Ronald Ross, the Camanachd Cup final has a habit of throwing up immense match-winning performances that remain lodged in the memory.
• Inveraray - MacKinlay 5, 28; G MacPherson 20, 54; C Crawford 22
• Kyles Athletic - R MacDonald 10, 19, 60, 70; R MacLeod 49; F MacDonald 59
Few, though, will linger longer than Roddy MacDonald’s virtuoso performance at Mossfield Park in Oban yesterday. Four goals, including a stunning winning strike deep into the second half, deservedly brought him the Arthur Smith medal for the man of the match.
Back in 2009 the striker was part of the painfully young Kyles team which fought back from 3-0 down to level the scores with minutes to go, only to see Clark win the match for Fort with injury-time beckoning. It was a traumatic moment for the youngster and he had vowed not to let the main prize slip from his grasp this time, especially against local rivals Inveraray, a side who had already knocked Kyles out of the MacAulay Cup and Celtic Cup this season.
From the beginning, playing against an experienced Inveraray side which started as slight favourites and which will now begin to disband after winning virtually everything the game has to offer, MacDonald was a force of nature. Many of his side, including usually outstanding defender Calum Millar, looked overawed, yet the red-headed half forward was the driving force for his side and the man whose goals kept the men from Tighnabruaich in touch when Inveraray threatened to pull away in this first Camanachd Cup final between these two sides.
The match was only five minutes old when Inveraray converted their early pressure into a goal, with Russell MacKinlay – a player who famously only travels for cup games – slamming the ball past Macdonald’s 50-year-old father Kenny in the Kyles goal after a great run down the right by Christopher Crawford.
Kyles are the only side to play with two full forwards, who usually move out wide to feed MacDonald through the middle, but yesterday there was little width to Kyles’ game and it was only when Inveraray keeper Graham MacPherson missed the ball that MacDonald was able to open Kyles’ account. If that goal had an element of luck, the same could not be said of his next effort, a superb solo goal in which the ball made its way from his father in three big passes, MacDonald latching on to the last to skin Dougie Dando and fire past Macpherson.
Yet despite Kyles taking a 2-1 lead, it was Inveraray who were bossing this all-Argyll final, and the pressure soon paid, with Garry MacPherson’s low driven shot a minute later drawing them level. Two minutes later Inverarary deservedly pulled clear, with Crawford snaring a second after some good stick work, with MacKinlay also completing his brace five minutes later to ensure that Inveraray would go into half time leading 4-2.
Robbie MacLeod pulled a goal back for Kyles with a penalty after Dunky Kerr was upended, and as the half wore on the youngsters began to wear down their older rivals. Yet Inveraray still had class and venom, and when Garry MacPherson smacked in a fantastic driven goal from the right to make it 5-3 it looked as if the club’s golden generation might get to bow out with the game’s greatest honour.
Yet as the game entered its final stages they visibly flagged, and Kyles stepped up to the mark. It needed something special to drag them back into the game, though, and that turning point came with two goals of rare quality, with Fraser MacDonald firing in a driven shot from the left wing before his namesake Roddy capped a remarkable hat-trick with a goal of rare quality, taking the ball with his back to goal on the edge of the area to pivot and fire into the top corner to make it 5-5.
Up on the shinty equivalent of Murray Mound, the bare-chested Tighnabruaich Ultras were going bonkers, and as the game entered its final quarter the Kyles dynamo struck again, this time turning on the edge of the area and rifling a low rasping shot in off the post with just over ten minutes remaining.
It was a goal worthy of winning any match, let alone this first all-south Camanachd Cup final since 1983, a classic between two attack-minded sides in one of the great shinty finals.