The Lewis and Harris women’s football team will end their foray into the Scottish Women’s Football Highlands and Islands League set-up in style this weekend as they take on Clachnacuddin Women in the Highlands and Islands League Cup Final at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium.
The occasion will mark a bittersweet ending to a hugely-successful chapter for the Western Isles club who late last week announced that they would be withdrawing from the league after Saturday’s showpiece in the Highland capital.
A statement released last Friday via the Western Isles Ladies Football Team Twitter account read: “It is with regret that the Lewis and Harris Women’s Football Club announce our withdrawal from the Scottish Women’s Football Highland and Islands League, post the cup final on Saturday 24th August 2019.
“We have had a fantastic experience this season and would like to thank everyone who has supported us on the way. Inevitably it was going to be a season of challenge where the size of our squad, along with the various demands of competing regularly on the mainland, would be pivotal to our continued success. The combination of these factors has proved to be a challenge too far for us at this stage.”
Following the announcement, Lewis and Harris WFC coach Euan MacLeod told the Free Press: “It had come down to a core of 14-15 players but a few of them got injured and now a few are going off to university.
“The journey before the cup semi-final was the worst ferry journey I have ever experienced – it was like a bad November storm. The girls were sick on the way out and sick on the way back, and we had scraped a team together. We won 13-0 but it was unanimous within the group that it was just becoming too much.
“We only had two subs for this Saturday. It is a real struggle and, rather than the girls not enjoying the experience, we thought that we would go out on a high and play in the cup final.”
Despite contesting all but one of their home games in Ullapool, the Lewis and Harris team have proved too strong for the all their opponents – having recorded seven wins from seven in the league, and two wins from two in the Highlands and Islands Cup. Their attack has so far plundered an incredible 78 goals in all competitions, while the defence has conceded on just two occasions – one of which came in the previous meeting between them and their cup final opponents Clachnacuddin back in April.
Commenting on the future for the women’s game in the Outer Hebrides, Euan told the Free Press: “In the rest of Scotland, girls are able to play with boys until under-15s, but our association has recognised that there is a gap from that age to when the girls leave the Nicolson Institute, so they allow two years’ grace for the girls. The girls train with the men’s clubs but we also have bespoke girls-only sessions, too.
“We are having our first session as an official Kim Little Soccer Centre, so we are fully branded by the SFA. We have got four of our junior coaches who are coming under the SFA’s ’20 under 20 pathway’, which will upscale the girls all the way to their ‘C’ licence. These girls are going to be leading the Kim Little session – we are not just making the footballers of the future, but the coaches of the future.”
Looking ahead to Saturday big match, he added: “It was never about winning trophies, but if we win this cup final it would mean we will have been undefeated in 10 games having scored a heck of a lot more goals than we have let in it so it will be a major positive – it’s a positive anyway. I can’t wait for next Saturday.”
Saturday’s final in the Highland capital kicks off at 1 pm.
Article by Adam Gordon.