Camanachd Cup stays in Newtonmore
THEY set out with this season’s goalkeeper Norman Campbell back in his former role at the heart of their defence, midfielder Paul MacArthur playing only his second game in goal and skipper Rory Kennedy playing his first match in two months – but nothing could prevent Newtonmore from retaining the Camanachd Cup at Bught Park in Inverness.
A season that has seen them relinquish the Premiership title for the first time in eight years has resulted in questions being raised about whether some of their players are now past their best.
That, though, only added to the pride felt by manager PJ MacKintosh, after watching his patched-up side extend their record haul of wins in their sport’s most prestigious competition to 32, battling their way to a 3-2 victory over Lovat.
“It’s been a season of adversity with problems all over and the player availability at the start of the season cost us the league, there’s no doubt about that. But we were happy we made all the cup finals, so I’m delighted,” he said.
“Nothing went right for us. It was a struggle. We had to juggle the team around and change things about, but it’s only in adversity you see the boys really show their true colours. When people are knocking you down and you get back up it’s sweet.”
All the more so because of the way the match swung both ways, and the fierce contest ended with both teams reduced to 11 men.
Callum Cruden at least partly lived up to his name when, late on, a wild flail saw his caman collide with the face of Newtonmore substitute Conor Jones who, on recovering, also saw red in every sense – Jones was dismissed for belated retaliation.
The more edifying drama had happened earlier in the half. After conceding two goals inside a minute to Neil Stewart and Jamie Robinson a quarter of an hour in, Lovat responded in near identical fashion midway through the second period.
Substitute Mark MacLachlan nudged home the goal that got them back into the game, and Lorne MacKay then registered a freakish equaliser, MacArthur clearly inconvenienced by the sun as the wind-assisted strike from 50 yards out eluded him.
Newtonmore regained the upper hand in the closing stages, however, with Glen Mackintosh teeing up their winner for Evan Menzies 14 minutes from the end.
It left their manager paying tribute to those who had responded to the side’s personnel crisis, while excusing his stand-in goalkeeper for his solitary error.
“At the end of the day you can’t hide class and Norman Campbell as a defender is first class. His head’s still quicker than most. His legs are not quite there, but I thought he was excellent,” said MacKintosh.
“I thought Rory Kennedy coming back after eight weeks out was just out of this world and I don’t think Paul could be blamed for the goal. The ball came in high and he put his hand up and it would have been very difficult for the best of goalkeepers to deal with.
“He offered to go in for a couple of games and that’s him finished with the goals now.
“He’s made it quite clear he doesn’t want to be a goalkeeper so we’ll think again next week, but at the end of the day the cup’s in the cupboard.”
Evan Menzies, centre, celebrates with Glen MacKintosh, right