The town just loves it as shinty puts on a showstopper
Lovat end 62 year drought to lift cup
SHINTY fever was in the air on Saturday as more than 3,000 travelling supporters descended on Oban’s Mossfield stadium for shinty’s showpiece occasion - the Camanachd Cup final.
Kyles Athletic fans mingled happily with Lovat supporters as the teams battled it out for the sport’s most- coveted prize.
Underdogs Lovat eventually triumphed over the much-fancied Kyles 2-1 in a compelling, dramatic encounter.
The celebrations continued late into the night, with the triumphant Kiltarlity side’s team bus making it back to the village just after midnight. There were a few sore heads on Sunday morning as Lovat fans celebrated the team’s first cup win since 1953.
For a full match report and picture special,
IT HAD all the makings of a classic - an epic north versus south battle for the ultimate prize in shinty.
Kyles Athletic, from Tighnabruich, went into the game 21time winners and were appearing in their third Scottish Hydro Camanachd Cup final in four years.
In stark contrast, Kiltarlity side, Lovat, were playing in only their third ever final in the competition.
Indeed, the last time Lovat played in the final, when they won in 1953, Queen Elizabeth II had just become the monarch, and Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first men to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain.
On Saturday, at Mossfield stadium in Oban, Lovat took the crown and scaled their Everest, becoming Camanachd Cup champions for the second time, ending 62 years of anguish.
By the admission of his manager, John MacRitchie, teammates and opposition players, Lovat goalkeeper, Stuart MacDonald, had the match of his life, throwing his stick and any part of his body necessary in front of the ball to keep Kyles at bay, including two outstanding acrobatic stops with his stick from high shots in the first half, as Kyles dominated.
Weathering the storm, Kevin Bartlett put Lovat in front in the first minute of added time in the first half, with what was the northern side’s only shot on target the whole half, punishing a sloppy mistake by the Kyles defence.
After the break, Kyles wasted no time in getting back into the game, scoring four minutes into the half when Robbie MacLeod managed to get the ball past MacDonald to make it 1-1 with a powerful shot into the top right-hand corner of the net. Lovat responded again with a perfect sucker-punch though, as Bartlett pounced again after another Kyles error, crashing his drive home from 20 yards.
Despite the onslaught, and with MacRitchie’s blood pressure rising with every Kyles attack, MacDonald and his defence fought to keep their lead.
As the final whistle blew, the team were engulfed by ecstatic fans who rushed onto the pitch, some in floods of tears.
Discussing keeper MacDonald’s performance, which earned him the Albert Smith medal for manof-the-match, MacRitchie said: ‘I don’t know if there’s any other keeper in the game just now who could have done what Stuart did for us today.
‘Without him, we wouldn’t have won the cup. He does it week-inweek-out and certainly produced it today for the big occasion.
‘We couldn’t have asked for a better day.
‘The build-up was incredible. We had a few boys that were patched up with injuries, but the occasion got them through it.’
MacRitchie was happy to admit his side had been the underdogs, and paid tribute to Kyles’ conduct throughout the day.
‘All the stats were in their favour, except one - goals scored. But despite being extremely disappointed, Kyles were very pleased for us; in some ways it was like they’d won the cup.
‘I was so impressed with their class, they are a fantastic team on and off the pitch.
‘I’d say they are the best team in Scotland just now and an absolute credit to the sport of shinty.’
We have scenes from Mossfield and a short interview with Lovat manager, John MacRitchie, on our website.
BLUE IS THE COLOUR: Kyles supporters get into the mood before the start of the game
CUP JOY: Lovat captain, Dan Grieve, bears the cup aloft and (right) the moment of victory