SHINTY SHOWDOWN: Skye and Badenoch to meet for biggest prize in the women’s game

The two clubs have enjoyed keen contests in recent years Pic Willie Urquhart

Holders Skye and reigning National Division champions Badenoch will battle to capture the premier prize in women’s shinty – the MOWI Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup –  in Newtonmore on Saturday.

Saturday’s showpiece at the Eilan will be the third consecutive final featuring the country’s top two clubs.

Badenoch, then known as Badenoch and Strathspey, defeated Skye 4-1 at the Dell to win the trophy in 2018, while last time out – in 2019 – the rivals served up a cup classic which saw Skye prevail 8-6 to wrest back the prestigious silverware they first won back 2017.

The victorious Skye team which lifted the Mowi Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup in 2019

However, Badenoch had the last laugh in the league that year and so far in 2022 they continue to be in the ascendency – albeit by a slender one-point lead in the league.

When the sides met for their only meeting so far this season, it ended in a thumping 15-1 victory for the league champions. 

Skye goalkeeper Sarah-Jane Ferguson said the islanders team has undergone big changes since 2019.

She said: “I would say for this year’s final that we’re going in as underdogs. We have lost half of the team from the 2019 final when we beat Badenoch for the cup. Badenoch’s line-up is practically unchanged from that final.

“We have a new young team who are gaining valuable experience after each game in their first ever season at the highest level of women’s shinty.

This final is a huge step up for them and everyone just needs to give it their all on the day.”

When asked about the rivalry between the two clubs who have dominated the women’s game for the last few years, Sarah-Jane added: “People are talking about the rivalry with Badenoch but I believe that rivalry was with the team we had in the 2019 season of shinty.

“We have a new team and therefore can’t be compared to the experience of Badenoch.”

Underlining the development of the young Skye side compared with the standing of their more seasoned counterparts, she added: “Badenoch have proved their years of shinty experience this year in the league with their score lines and in reaching the Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup, whereas we’ve had a very close competitive season with narrow victories and close score lines throughout the league.

“In our semi-final against GMA we got a 2-1 victory with only minutes to spare. But we have thoroughly enjoyed every match, only losing to Badenoch in the league. 

“We are just so happy to be in the final and to allow the younger players to experience the pressure of the Camanachd cup and to see the level of shinty that we’re aiming for as a club.”

Badenoch coach Scott Campbell told the Free Press that while the team were approaching the match in a confident mood, they would not be taking anything for granted.

“The 2019 final seems like a long, long time ago with Covid and everything that has happened in between,” he said.

“We have had a very good season, our form has been good, and we have numerous girls scoring goals which takes the pressure off any individuals.

“Apart from a couple of injury concerns, we are certainly going into the game very confident. We had a good result against Skye earlier in the season but when it comes to finals the form book goes out the window – it is a one-off game, and anything can happen.”

Assessing the progress of the team across his tenure, he went on to add: “When myself and Iain Robinson took over at the beginning of 2018, we had a four-year plan to take ourselves to the top of the game. Badenoch had up until then been good but inconsistent – when we won the cup in 2018 it was ahead of schedule for what we had envisaged and put pressure on the team in 2019.

“Ultimately on the day in the 2019 final, Skye were far more clinical than we were. It is not so much the case of writing a wrong, hats off to Skye on the day they were the better team. 

“But in 2018 we had a taste of it, so it is now a must win game and it is big for us to try and win the cup. Seven days later we have a shot at Skye in Portree to try to pin down the league title – it would be the first time in Badenoch’s club history if we could do both in the same season.”

The MOWI Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup final starts at 4.05pm and will be broadcast live on BBC Alba

Article by Adam Gordon