Skye Ladies look forward to Badenoch encounter as league champions take on league leaders

The teams embrace after a fantastic 5-5 encounter last season. Willie Urquhart – WHFP.

National Divison 1Sunday 30th June – 2 pm

Badenoch Ladies v Skye Camanachd Ladies

The reigning league champions take on the current league leaders this weekend as Skye Camanachd Ladies travel to the Dell to face Badenoch Ladies in what has become the premier fixture in the women’s shinty calendar.

Sunday’s showdown will be the second meeting of the sides in the league this season, with Scott Campbell’s side having run out 2-1 victors in the opening day clash between the clubs at Pairc Nan Laoch back in February.

Skye Ladies are four points behind rivals Badenoch with a game in hand.

Badenoch goes into the match with a perfect record with seven wins with from seven, having scored 47 goals and conceded just one. Their victory against the Islanders towards the end of the winter was all the more impressive given Skye had dropped just one point en route to defending the National Division 1 title last season. Indeed it was Badenoch who prevented Skye from recording a clean sweep of wins in the league last season with the teams sharing the spoils in a breathless 5-5 draw in Portree.

Since that draw, Badenoch have won twice against Skye, most notably in September 2018 when they triumphed 4-1 to claim the Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup and wrest it away from the holders.

With the clubs having sealed their places in VFCC Cup Final again this year on the back of comfortable semi-final successes, it is fair to say that two fantastic matches lay in wait for the fans as the titans prepare to lock horns in the league and then the cup.

Ahead of what could be a pivotal encounter in the race for the league championship, the Free Press‘ Adam Gordon chatted to Skye’s Caitlin MacLean and club captain Ilana Paterson about the rivalry between the sides and the growth of women’s shinty over the last few years.

You became captain of the team at the start of the season, how have you found the role so far?

Ilana Paterson: “It’s been a privilege to captain such a well-formed team.

“We have a good group of dedicated players who have been working hard in training but having a six-week spell without a game earlier this season has been challenging in terms of keeping the team motivated.”

Skye Ladies’ Captain Ilana Paterson has been praised by coach Robbie Gordon for her leadership skills and performances – with the Gordon describing her recent showing in the Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup as “outstanding”. Photo credit: Moreen Pringle.

Last season you enjoyed a close to perfect campaign in the league with one draw and 13 wins. Given this, was it difficult to overcome the disappointment of an opening day defeat this season?

Caitlin MacLean: “It was hard to lose our first game of the season, especially after staying level for most of the match.

“It does add extra pressure for the rest of the season but we knew to play Badenoch in our first game was going to be tough having had such a close and decisive game against them at the end of last season.

“However, it did motivate us to focus on the rest or our league matches and I think we’ve done well to concentrate on winning as many of them as possible.”

With both the league and the Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup coming down to match-ups between Skye and Badenoch last season, and with this year possibly heading that way, too, does that fierce rivalry drive the team to raise its game?

The Skye Ladies players and coaching staff are framed by a rainbow as they celebrate clinching the 2018 National Division 1 Championship. Photo credit: Willie Urquhart – WHFP.

IP: “Yes absolutely! If we look back at the last season, we beat Badenoch away in the league, lost in the cup final and drew the league game against them at home.

“It’s been a very tight competition between us but having this kind of competition in the season gives us something to work for. Skye are always trying to improve how we play as a team and individually.”

Skye’s attack receives a lot of credit, and rightfully so, but with only 12 goals conceded in your last 20 league matches, do you think the contribution of the defence goes a bit unnoticed outwith the squad?

CM: “Everyone in each area of the team works hard regardless of the scoreline and this is reflected in how many goals we score each season and how few we concede.

“Within the team, the effort put in by every player is noticeable and because of that, I think credit is given to us together as a team.

“If we are scoring more goals than we are conceding then that reflects well on us all and everyone within and out with the team recognises that if we didn’t work well together as a whole we could not have achieved what we have so far.”

Jump to it – Caitlin MacLean is perfectly placed to take control.

Last season the Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup Final was televised live for the first time. Are you encouraged by the growth of the women’s game in the last few years, and do you feel like role models when it comes to getting more young girls involved in shinty?

IP: “The growth of women’s shinty has risen rapidly in the past few years and with the VFCC final being televised last year, it has hopefully shown people watching at home how much the standard of women’s shinty has improved.

“It’s good to see so many young girls picking up a shinty stick and giving it a go! When I was younger, the only female shinty player from Skye who I had heard of and looked up to was Sarah Corrigal.

“Now there are Skye girls playing at all levels! As well as playing shinty, some players from the team are already coaching primary and high school training sessions and are involved in refereeing tournaments and matches, which is likely to encourage younger girls as well.”

Sarah Corrigall (right) was something of a role model for current captain Ilana Paterson. Photo credit: Willie Urquhart.

CM: “It is very encouraging to see more and more teams forming and joining the WCA leagues. It’s great to see young players coming through primary, U-14 and U-17 shinty at our training sessions now.

“Over the past couple of years, Skye Camanachd has set up a ladies second team and development team which means even more young girls are playing shinty and gaining experience playing at different levels.

“After having had the final televised for the first time last year I think it will have inspired more people to start playing or come back to shinty again, especially with it being such a high-intensity and exciting game.”

Article by Adam Gordon.