2015 Ca­manachd cup fi­nal

Lo­vat may be un­der­dogs but they’re rel­ish­ing the chal­lenge

The Oban Times - - Front Page -

OBAN is set to host one of the most in­trigu­ing Ca­manachd Cup fi­nals in re­cent years, as favourites Kyles Ath­letic take on Lo­vat.

Kyles are be­ing viewed as warm favourites ahead of Satur­day’s SSE Hy­dro-spon­sored show­piece at Moss­field, but com­pla­cency is un­likely to play a part in the Cowal side’s ap­proach to this match.

Los­ing the 2013 fi­nal to New­ton­more af­ter en­ter­ing the match as hold­ers, dented the Kyles play­ers’ belief, ac­cord­ing to co-man­ager, James Per­lich.

The 3- 0 de­feat at the hands of New­ton­more, and the man­ner of their un­do­ing, still sits un­easily with the men from the Kyles of Bute and they are ea­ger to put that mem­ory to rest.

He of­fered a glimpse into the team build-up, say­ing: ‘ We talked about the fact we will be classed as favourites, but we also have the fairly unique ex­pe­ri­ence of both win­ning and los­ing a Ca­manachd Cup Fi­nal within two years, back to back.

‘Both are pretty fresh in the play­ers’ minds and they don’t want to lose again,’ said Per­lich, now in his tenth year at the helm along­side ex-player and Tighnabru­aich farmer, Nor­man Mac­Don­ald.

‘From win­ning the cup in 2012 against In­ver­aray to los­ing to New­ton­more, the play­ers ba­si­cally went from to­tal ela­tion and be­ing on top of the world to hit­ting rock bot­tom. Per­son­ally, I think the be­low-par sea­son we had last year was the prod­uct of that.

‘It has taken un­til now for us to get back. They know which ex­pe­ri­ence they’d rather have and what they want to avoid, so the boys will be very de­ter­mined.

‘I think the rea­son ev­ery­one wants to win the Scot­tish is be­cause of the history of the cup. It’s been the pin­na­cle of the sport as long as the cup has ex­isted.

‘The leagues only came to­gether 19 years ago, so it’s still rel­a­tively new, and the pres­tige of win­ning the league will gather mo­men­tum, but it still won’t be the Ca­manachd Cup.’

He added: ‘Play­ers grow up want­ing to win it. It might only be four games but it’s still the big­gest tro­phy in the game. The play­ers’ par­ents or grand­par­ents might have won it in the past.

‘Moss­field is one of the best grounds there is. If we were to have as na­tional venue I think it would be per­fect. It’s in a cen­tral lo­ca­tion, in great con­di­tion and has all the fa­cil­i­ties needed to hold a great fi­nal.’

Cal­lum Mil­lar, 24, who is Kyles’ cap­tain, said: ‘ We’re qui­etly con­fi­dent, but ner­vous. This is my fourth Scot­tish Cup, af­ter 2009, 2012 and 2013.

‘It’s a great venue and a wee bit sweeter for us as we won here in 2012. Our lads love to play on a big, fast pitch be­cause it suits our style.

‘The league is im­por­tant but re­ally the Scot­tish Cup is the one ev­ery­one wants to win. So many peo­ple have won it in the past from dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try, and when their vil­lage or town wins it they feel like it’s ‘their cup’.

‘It should be a crack­ing day of shinty.’

Now the 21-times win­ners of the tro­phy have the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to erase some of that pain as they get ready to face Lo­vat in Satur­day’s highly an­tic­i­pated 108th Ca­manachd Cup Fi­nal.

The un­der­dog tag will be grate­fully ac­cepted by John MacRitchie’s Lo­vat team, who can go into their first Ca­manachd Cup Fi­nal since 1953 with­out the bur­den of ex­pec­ta­tion.

The last time these two faced each other in the Ca­manachd Cup fi­nal, an all- con­quer­ing Lo­vat side ran out win­ners af­ter a replay at King Ge­orge V park in Fort Wil­liam.

That was 62 years ago and the ad­mis­sion price for a child was a shilling. It has taken Lo­vat some time to re­turn to those lofty days, but the present crop of Kil­tar­l­ity young­sters are ca­pa­ble of em­u­lat­ing the class of ’53.

Hav­ing emerged, like the back­bone of this Kyles team, from the one vil­lage pri­mary school, Tom­nacross, the Lo­vat play­ers en­joy a rare bond as well as hav­ing sev­eral po­ten­tial match win­ners in their ranks.

In­deed, if both them­selves and Kyles play to their full po­ten­tial, the fi­nal could be a clas­sic for fans and neu­trals be­low Moss­field’s fa­mous grass bank­ing.

‘Ob­vi­ously, we have won two MacTav­ish Cups as a group but this is another step up en­tirely for us,’ said MacRitchie, who played in the club’s last Ca­manachd Cup semi-fi­nal back in 1981.

‘There is ex­tra build-up and spotlight and Kyles have been ac­cus­tomed to that while we haven’t been. The key thing for us is that the play­ers can re­lax. We need to play Kyles and not get car­ried away by play­ing the oc­ca­sion.’

‘This is the one ev­ery­body wants to win. His­tor­i­cally, it was the only time the top teams from the north and the top teams from the south got a chance to play each other, be­fore the leagues amal­ga­mated into the struc­ture we have now with the premier and na­tional di­vi­sions.

‘Ask any shinty player what they want to win and they’ll tell you, it’s the Ca­manachd Cup.

‘Moss­field is a fan­tas­tic venue too. It’s a big, wide pitch with short grass which suits the style of shinty we play.’

Lo­vat cap­tain, Daniel Grieve, 24, said: ‘It’s an ex­cit­ing oc­ca­sion for us. We’ve been pre­par­ing and we feel ready for the chal­lenge. It’s def­i­nitely the one play­ers want to win.

‘All young play­ers get told sto­ries about the history of the cup, and be­fore the premier league it was the only time the north and south teams re­ally played each other. Moss­field is the per­fect set­ting for us too. It’s a nice long and wide pitch which should make for a great game of shinty.

‘It’s pretty much been the same group of guys in our team play­ing to­gether since pri­mary school with a few ex­cep­tions.

‘Most of the lads have been play­ing to­gether since we were seven or eight years old. We grew up to­gether and, in the vil­lage, the sport is shinty.’

Torqhuil MacLeod, chief op­er­a­tion of­fi­cer for the Ca­manachd as­so­ci­a­tion, said: ‘We’re an­tic­i­pat­ing a crowd of around 3000.

‘The last time the fi­nal was held in Oban, in 2012, the crowd we had was over 3000.

‘There’s a lot of an­tic­i­pa­tion about the fi­nal. It’s two great teams, so fin­gers crossed we get great sun­shine for shinty’s big day out. This is a great venue too.

‘Luck­ily, we have a grounds­man who un­der­stands shinty and has the park look­ing fan­tas­tic for the event.’

The 108th Ca­manachd Cup fi­nal will be played at Moss­field Sta­dium this Satur­day at 2.15 pm. Tick­ets are £10 for adults and £ 5 for con­ces­sions. Un­der 12s go free.

Pho­to­graphs by Neil Pater­son

UP FOR THE CUP: The two cap­tains - Kyles Ath­letic’s Cal­lum Mil­lar and Lo­vat’s Daniel Grieve pic­tured with the Scot­tish Cup at Moss­field Sta­dium this week.

MEN IN THE HOT SEAT: Kyles Ath­letic’s co-man­ager James Per­lich, left, and Lo­vat boss John MacRitchie

FI­NAL­ISTS: Lo­vat de­feated In­ver­aray 3-1 af­ter ex­tra time to book their place in the fi nal

FI­NAL­ISTS: Kyles Ath­letic pic­tured af­ter beat­ing New­ton­more 3-2 in the semi-fi­nal at Taynuilt

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