New Skye Camanachd manager John MacLeod has made a quick promotion from the north first division the club’s target for 2014.
Former full back MacLeod was confirmed as manager at the end of last week — a role that will see him tasked with reviving the club’s fortunes after the islanders failed to make it to the newly-created national first division.
For the first time in more than three decades Skye will find themslves playing third-tier shinty in 2014, but MacLeod feels the club now has an opportunity to rebuild in a way that can bring success in the years to come.
Last season, despite some promising moments, Skye suffered an alarming collapse in the second part of the campaign. In several games performance levels seemed to slip in the latter stages, and indeed it was ulimately late goals conceded home and away to Caberfeidh which cost Skye a place in the national division.
Lack of fitness – attributed to poor turnouts at training sessions — was cited as a factor in the team’s slide, so the club has now resolved to strictly enforce a “no train no play” policy for the senior squad.
MacLeod and David Pringle — who will be one of two assistant managers for the first team – have already begun leading training sessions two nights a week.
“We have the structure in place but it’s over to the players now to show the commitment that’s required,” MacLeod said. “The chance is there for them, and there are medals to be won this season, but only if we get the response we are looking for.”
Alongside Pringle, MacLeod has asked former first-team captain and manager Aonghas MacDonald to take up an assistant position. And on match days another former manager, Ally Morrison, and ex-player Donnie “Digg” MacDonald have will also have important roles to play.
MacLeod’s job with the ambulance service means he is scheduled to work two Saturdays in every five, so a five-strong management team should ensure continuity for the games he can’t attend.
“Donnie and Ally will provide feedback on how Skye are performing during a game, what changes we could make and are on hand if they are seeing something I’m not,” MacLeod added.
Completing the backroom team is another former Skye player, Douglas MacDougall. Douglas is due to retire this year from his job with the police force in Aberdeen, and he too has agreed to help out on match days.
As far as the squad goes, MacLeod said goalkeeper Jamie Gannon was the only one of last year’s squad who had definitely ruled himself out of action for the immediate future. Though now based in Glasgow, Kenny Campbell has pledged to travel north for games and MacLeod was hopeful he would also be able to call on the services of another island exile, Gilleasbuig MacDonald, though his availability could be curtailed by work commitments.
Ahead of the season Skye have confirmed a friendly match away to premier league Glenurquhart on 15th February. The first playing action for the squad will be the annual Ewen Morrison Memorial Cup match between north and south Skye on 1st February. The Thomas Ferguson Cup match is scheduled for 8th February, with Beauly hoping to provide the opposition. Opponents have yet to be confirmed for the George Michie Cup match which is pencilled in for 22nd February.
MEANWHILE, the Camanachd Association have confimred shinty’s key dates for the new season due to begin on 1st March.
They are: the MacTavish Cup Final, 14th June at Bught Park, Inverness; the AJG Parcels Celtic Cup Final, 28th June at Old Anniesland, Glasgow; the Balliemore Cup Final, 12th July (venue tbc); the Aberdein Considine Sutherland Cup Final, 19th July (venue tbc); the Artemis Macaulay Cup Final, 23rd August at Mossfield Park, Oban; the Bullough Cup Final, 30th August (venue tbc); the Strathdearn Cup Final, 30th August (venue tbc); the Women’s Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup and Marine Harvest Challenge Cup Finals, 6th September (venue tbc); the Scottish Hydro Camanachd Cup Final, 13th September at Bught Park, Inverness; the Marine Harvest Senior Shinty/Hurling Internationals — home test 18th October at Bught Park, away test 25th October in Ireland (venue tbc).