Doubts cast over future of three Skye and Lochalsh League clubs ahead of 2020 season

Glenelg won the Clan Donald Cup in 2019 in what was their first final in more than 30 years.

Uncertainty surrounds three of the nine member clubs of the Skye and Lochalsh Amateur Football Association less than a month before the league association AGM is due to take place.

Gairloch/Aultbea United, Glenelg FC, and Portree Juniors are all set to hold their own annual general meetings in the next few days, with a cloud hanging over the respective clubs’ participation in the 2020 season and their futures.

This year marks an end of an era for Portree Juniors with the news that their coach Phil McCahety is to step down from his role as team manager.

After 14 years at the helm, McCaherty said it was time for someone else to be heard. He told the Free Press: “I have probably come to the end of my sell-by date as a coach and I’m keen for a new voice to be heard, with new enthusiasm.

“Last season we tried something different with youth development, however, matters did not pan out as expected as the youngsters suffered some early season injuries and other commitments had an impact on availability.

“My coaches Iain Macleod and Gary Wilson will tell you I’m a cautious type of coach and found myself during the season becoming overly defensive and my flair players were compromised by how I set the team up in some games. As such, I felt some of the fun elements had gone for me. The players were informed of my decision at the end of last season.”

Portree and Portree Juniors battling for the ball during a derby match.

Rumours circulated towards the end of the 2019 campaign that Portree FC and Portree Juniors were on course to merge into one club but it now appears as though Portree, who were formed in 1934, will contest the 2020 season as is. For Juniors, however, the future of the club, in the short-term at least, is set to be determined its AGM on Sunday, January 19th.

The outlook for Gairloch/Aultbea United appears altogether gloomier ahead of its AGM today (Friday). The Wester Ross club published a post on its Facebook page stating: “If you want the team to continue, please come along and lend your support.”

The future of the club’s pitch is also currently up in the air. Fran Cree from the Gairloch Community Council told the Free Press that the lease for the land which GA United’s pitch is on is due to terminate shortly. Ms Cree said: “It is leased from the Church of Scotland – we are hoping to renegotiate a new lease, we have a community workshop consultation event on January 25th to discuss the lease of the land which the football pitch is on.”

Gairloch/Aultbea United are set to host their AGM tonight (Friday): Credit: GA United Facebook

Elsewhere, Glenelg striker Alasdair Harvey has appealed for support so that the Clan Donald Cup holders can continue to participate in the Skye and Lochalsh Football League. Mr Harvey said that the club’s AGM today (Friday) would “decide whether Glenelg will enter a team into the league for the 2020 season” adding that it was “really important people turn up.”

He added: A decision will be made that evening, so if you want to have some input, make sure you’re there.

“It would be really sad to see the club folding after the amazing progress that’s happened over the past couple of years, but the season won’t work if there isn’t the commitment right from the very start.”

Meanwhile, Kyle manager James Matheson confirmed that his charges would once again compete in the league, amid speculation that the Lochalsh side could enter the new campaign as part of a joint team with Glenelg. Speaking to the Free Press, he said: “As far I am concerned Kyle will be entering as Kyle and if other teams are folding I would look at the possibility of signing some players, but not to the detriment of our own young players, who will remain a priority.”

With crucial meetings set to take place for several teams over the next few days, Skye and Lochalsh Amateur Football Association Secretary Heckie Cormack remained tight-lipped when asked how many teams he believed would participate in the league in the upcoming season.

He told the Free Press: “At this stage, all nine clubs are still association members so it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment.”

Article and photos by Adam Gordon