Camanachd Cup Semi Final Skye 1, Glenurquhart 3
Skye’s Camanachd Cup dream ended in Fort William on Satuday, when they went down 3-1 to premiership side Glenurquhart at An Aird. The Glen, who are guaranteed a third-place finish in the top flight, now go on to meet Kingussie in the final.
But the islanders, who play two divisions below their opponents, were far from disgraced and must now lift themselves to meet the two challenges they still face this season. Clinching the North Division One championship is just about guaranteed, as they have won all nine league games so far, but they then have to make sure they don’t slip up in the play-off for promotion to the new national division.
Both sides were marginally below full strength on Saturday. Skye’s big miss was Kenny Campbell, who is expected to make his return after a hand injury in a couple of weeks, while Glenurquhart were without long-term injury victim Ally MacKintosh.
With the strong breeze at their backs in the first half, Skye pressed hard from the start and took the lead in the 12th minute. Jonathan “Shockie” MacLennan, who was causing problems with his direct running at the Glen defence, looked like going clean through with only the keeper to beat when he was pushed over just outside the area by full back Lewis MacLennan. From the resulting free hit Jordan Murchison played the ball short to Danny Morrison who got clear of his marker and cracked a beauty of a shot over the keeper’s shoulder into the net.
Glenurquhart tried to find an immediate response, and goalkeeper Jamie Gannon had to be alert to make stops from captain Eddie Tembo and James MacPherson. Wing back Ally “Digg” Macdonald went on to show tremendous technical ability when he took one touch with his stick to cut out a dangerous cross and then while the ball was still in the air used a second touch to flick it behind.
However, Glen went on in the 20th minute to level the tie through a lovely touch of skill from the versatile Fraser Heath. When a shy from James MacPherson dropped at his feet about 20 yards from goal, Heath struck the ball on the drop and lashed it into the corner of the net despite a despairing dive from Gannon in an attempt to keep it out.
The Glen suffered a blow midway through the first half when David MacLennan was unable to shake off a knee injury and was replaced by Andrew Corrigan.
Shortly afterwards Lewis MacLennan was yellow-carded for persistent fouling after he once again brought down his Skye namesake as he threatened to burst clear.
With just over half an hour played Jordan Murchison went close for Skye with a shot from the tightest of angles on the right which was saved at the near post by Glen goalkeeper Stuart MacKintosh at the expense of a corner, and moments later MacKintosh came off his line to cut out a tempting cross from Shockie MacLennan.
If MacLennan was proving a thorn in the side of the Glen defence, Fraser Heath was just as difficult to deal with for Skye’s back line. Six minutes before the interval he was powering his way towards goal when the ball broke to fellow forward David Smart, but with time and space to pick his spot he knocked the ball wide.
Two minutes later another sweeping, one-touch attacking move by the Glenurquhart forwards ended with a save from Gannon who dived to his right to turn the ball behind. However, from the resulting corner the Skye defence failed to clear the danger and Smart atoned for his earlier miss with a drive past the unsighted Skye keeper to put Glen 2-1 in front.
With almost the last action of the first half the islanders came close to drawing level through a marvellous effort from Shockie MacLennan which forced an equally-impressive save from MacKintosh to deny him.
When Glenurquhart c
me out for the second half with the wind now in their favour, the already-formidable task facing Skye became even tougher.
Nine minutes after the restart the ever-dangerous Neale Reid had a wonderful opportunty to increase Glen’s lead but tried to burst the net with his shot and instead sent the ball soaring over the crossbar — a real let-off for the islanders. Up at the other end 10 minutes later Shockie MacLennan showed great battling qualities to win possession from two defenders and cut the ball back for wing centre Allan “Ginger” MacKinnon who burst forward for a shot on the run which dipped just over the bar.
Despite playing against the wind Skye were able to make some headway in attack, and the Glen keeper had to be alert to touch away a rebound following a shot by Jordan Murchison.
Seventeen minutes from time Glenurquhart delivered a killer blow. Jamie Gannon pulled off a fine save from Neale Reid, but David Smart was quickly on to the loose ball and cut it back for James MacPherson to make it 3-1.
Two minutes later Shockie MacLennan went close with a shot on the turn despite pressure from MacLennan, while at the other end of the field Arran Macdonald passed up a good chance to make absolutely certain for the Glen.
And that was just about that. Skye sent on subs Kenny MacLeod and Ally “Spod” MacLeod in place of Danny Morrison and Gilleasbuig Macdonald. In desperation Kenny MacLeod tried to drop the ball under the bar from almost the halfeway line, but instead it cleared the top.
Speaking afterwards, Skye manager John MacLeod said that overall he was quite pleased with the way his side played — although he thought Glen’s second and third goals could have been prevented. He knows he will now need to lift the players for what remains of the season.
“The dressing room was very quiet after the game,” he said. “We now have to lift ourselves for the things we still have to play for. It would be terrible to win the league and then lose the play-off and be back to square one.”