CUP FINAL FEVER: Skye and Kingussie set for shinty showpiece

Action from the teams’ meeting earlier this season. Pic Willie Urquhart

Shinty’s first major cup final of the season, the MacTavish Cup, takes place this Saturday. Here’s all you need to know ahead of the big day….

Who is in the final?

This year’s final features Kingussie, current holders of four major shinty trophies, and Skye Camanachd, competing on the stage for the first time in 33 years.

The captains, James Falconer and John Gillies Pic Neil G Paterson

How important is the trophy?

The MacTavish Cup, presented by Highland grain merchant Duncan MacTavish, has been going a long time – 125 years in fact, and Skye were the first ever winners in 1898.

The cup was originally presented for teams eliminated in the early rounds of the Camanachd Cup – the game’s biggest prize which was first contested in 1896.

The scope of the competition soon changed and for the last century or so it has been the premier knock-out cup competition for senior teams in the north of Scotland.

The final is always played at Bught Park stadium in Inverness.

The Badenoch teams have dominated the winners roll – Newtonmore have lifted the cup 42 times and Kingussie 28. Skye’s 1898 triumph is the only time they have won the trophy.

The teams have met once already this season, Kingussie recovering from two-down to win 4-2 in a MacAulay Cup tie in April

Surely the result is a foregone conclusion?

Not quite. Kingussie – a trophy-winning machine – are the favourites,  but Skye are an improving side and have impressed in the premier league following promotion last year.

They have already beaten Newtonmore, the current league leaders, and go into the final in good form on the back of a convincing 5-1 away win at Caberfeidh.

Cabers, incidentally, are the only team to beat Kingussie this season.

Key man for Kingussie – Ruaridh Anderson Pic Willie Urquhart

Who are the players to watch?

Both teams see their strengths as a collective unit, but there will be some key individual battles to win.

Watch out for Ruaridh Anderson, the creative heart of the free-scoring Kingussie attack, who combines skill and guile with an outstanding work-rate.

William MacKinnon, a powerful and athletic player with a huge hit, could be the Skye man tasked with stopping the supply line and building attacks from either defence or midfield.

William MacKinnon is a pivotal player for Skye Pic Willie Urquhart

What do the captains think?

Skye skipper John Gillies: “We are playing well – the team is fit, and there is a good morale about the squad.

“It will be a huge honour to be captain and to lead the team out – we haven’t been in a major final for so many years and luckily enough it has fallen this year for me as captain.

“We hope we can make the club, our families and the island proud.”

Kingussie captain James Falconer: “Skye isn’t a familiar opponent, but I know the likes of John Gillies and James Pringle came through youth ranks at the same time as me.

“They are an improving team and we’re expecting a hard game.

“There’s always pressure when you pull on a Kingussie shirt, but we’ve experience of playing in these occasions.

“I haven’t captained a winning team since I was in primary school so it would be a huge honour to lift the cup.”

Lee Bain scored a hat-trick when the teams met in Portree

Where can I catch all the action?

The MacTavish Cup Final, Kingussie Camanachd v Skye Camanachd, will start at 4.05pm and is the culmination of a day of shinty action at Bught Park, Inverness. The match is also live on BBC Alba.

At 1pm the MacTavish Juvenile Cup Final will feature the under 17 players of Skye Camanachd, who take on Fort William.

Tickets are 17 per cent off when purchased online – save time and money on the day by purchasing in advance.

Gates will be open from 11:30am. The Mackay Cup Final between Tomnacross Primary and Rockfield Primary will be taking place at 11am on the outside field at Bught Park.

There will be no public parking at Bught Park (only disability and workers) – and the nearest public parking at is at Torvean Car Park.