Skye and Badenoch set for title play-off showdown

Rona Stewart (Badenoch) and Caitlin MacLean (Skye) battle hard during the Badenoch v Skye in the WCA MOWI National Division played at The Dell, Kingussie.
Image courtesy of Neil G. Paterson

National Division 1 League Play-Off: Badenoch v Skye

Bught Park, Inverness, Sunday. Throw-up at 2 pm.

Skye Camanachd Ladies cruised to a 10-0 victory over Ardnamurchan in Portree on Saturday to set up a play-off for the National Division championship against fierce rivals Badenoch Ladies this weekend.

From their 14 league fixtures, both Skye and Badenoch lost just once — with those defeats coming against each other. Badenoch beat Skye 2-1 in the opening fixture in Portree in February to take charge of the title race from the off, but the Islanders responded in kind with a 4-3 win at the Dell in June to move level at the top of the table.

Both sides have since gone on to win all their subsequent fixtures to set up a winner-takes-all encounter in Inverness this Sunday at Bught Park having been moved from the original venue of Invergarry.

Over the last year, the rivalry has also seen outstanding battles between the two clubs in the Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup, with Badenoch winning the final in 2018 while Skye captured the 2019 trophy in September.

Ahead of the latest chapter in the clubs enthralling rivalry, which will also mark Robbie Gordon’s final match in charge of Skye Ladies, we spoke to the island coach and his opposite number Badenoch coach Scott Campbell…

The rivalry

Scott Campbell: “The excitement that has hopefully been created around this fixture is fantastic from our point of view. I think we have looked at what Skye is capable of and we know exactly how dangerous they are. We know their spell of dominance has been well earned and they worked very, very hard for it.

“What we look to do is see what can we do to get to the level where we can compete with Skye. We have taken great steps forward to the point where Skye might still have an edge over us physically but I think there are other aspects of our game that are stronger than Skye’s.”

Robbie Gordon: “We had a wee hiccup at the start of the season against Badenoch. It was a really tight game, but we lost 2-1 — we lost the second goal in the last couple of minutes. But, true to form, the girls picked themselves up and have just kept gaining pace from there and for the rest of the season.

“We went to Badenoch and knew we had to win to keep our hopes alive for the league. The girls stepped up to the occasion, as they normally do, and we won 4-3 — it was another tight game down there. Every game we play against them is tight regardless of the score.”

The Valerie Fraser Cup Final

RG: “They’ll look back at the cup final and say ‘crikey, we should have got two or three more there’. And if you wind back to last year’s final, we should have been quite a few goals up but we didn’t take our chances. It’s very tight and both teams are very similar”

SC: “We created 33 chances in the cup final — 18 were on target and we scored six. I think Skye created something like 25 or 26 chances — 13 were on target and they scored eight. So we are doing something right but unfortunately for us, we weren’t putting the ball into the back of the net, and as a direct result of that Skye have got that edge at the moment.”

Badenoch manager Scott Campbell has brought on the team “leaps and bounds” according to his opposite number Robbie Gordon. Image courtesy of Neil G. Paterson

Shackling Skye

SC: “Coming through the sport I was a defender. So when I look at how I want to put my stamp on this team, I want my team to be able to defend. If you look at the league table, I think it shows that both teams can defend quite well but equally we are not coming up against the calibre of attacking players that ourselves and Skye possess.

“Looking back at the cup final, do I think we defended well? No, I don’t think we did. Taking nothing away from Skye’s attacking prowess, we didn’t do enough at the time.”

Badenoch improvements

RG: “I think since Scott has come into the structure he has organised them. Don’t get me wrong — they were always good players, but they maybe just lacked a bit of guidance and organisation. He has certainly brought that and developed them in the last year or two — he has brought them on in leaps and bounds.

Sunday’s play-off will be Robbie Gordon’s final match in charge of Skye Camanachd Ladies.
Image courtesy of Skye Camanachd Ladies.

This year’s league play-off

SC: “I know the Skye girls will be giving their all to get that win and create the double for Robbie in his last season, which would be lovely for him.

“We have probably worked harder this season than last year, and the problem is we have probably woken Skye up a little bit. I am not saying they were complacent but they’ve just been used to being in a good position. Hopefully, we have managed to push them and make them realise that we are coming to catch them.”

RG: “There will be mixed emotion and I would like to go out on a high. But to be honest I am proud of the girls — full stop. Win or lose this weekend, we have still won the biggest cup in ladies’ shinty. You can’t ask for much more.

“Yes, if we can top it by winning the league then I’ll be delighted. But we have still had a good season and the girls have done themselves proud and made me proud.”

Call-offs and injuries: Skye captain Ilana Paterson is a doubt for Sunday’s play-off having sustained a shoulder injury, while Abby and Holly Maclean will miss the play-off due to religious considerations.

Scott Campbell’s side currently has a squad of 15. The only absentee will be Rachel Borthwick, who played in the cup final earlier in the season having travelled back from Greece to join the team on the morning of the game.

Article by Adam Gordon.