2015 Camanachd cup final
Lovat may be underdogs but they’re relishing the challenge
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.
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