The Liberty BA Balliemore Cup final between Skye Camanachd and Beauly might be the start of an exciting new rivalry between two young sides on the up, the islanders’ manager said this week on the eve of this Saturday’s clash at An Aird.
The clubs are in different leagues this season but Kenny MacLeod, the Skye coach, reckons both will be targeting the national division and promotion to the premiership when the normal structure resumes next year.
Before that, they’ll meet for this first time since 2019 to contest the Balliemore Cup, shinty’s intermediate senior trophy.
“Beauly are a different beast to what we faced back in 2019 – they are a much improved team who have been in excellent form,” said MacLeod, who is hoping to lead Skye to their third success in the competition.
“I expect them to be in contention for the national league next year – both teams will look at this competition as a chance for silverware, and hopefully to be a platform for more success in the future.”
The return of David MacLean from Newtonmore and Ryan MacKay from Caberfeidh has bolstered the ranks of a Beauly team that has been full of youthful promise in recent seasons following successes at juvenile level.
Euan MacCormick leads a clutch of good young talent in the Braeview ranks, who’ll carry attacking threat from free-scoring Ross Forbes, Robbie Brindle and Jack MacDonald.
Beauly won only four out of 14 matches to finish sixth out of eight in the national league in 2019. However, their results have been much more impressive after the sport resumed post-pandemic.
They knocked Glenurquhart out of the Balliemore Cup, took Kyles Athletic to penalties in the Camanachd Cup while in the league have enjoyed extremely tight battles with seasoned premiership campaigners Newtonmore and Lovat.
MacLeod has watched Skye slip to defeat to Kilmallie and Fort William in recent weeks – but reckons the cups have brought out the best in the islanders this campaign.
Aside from Will Cowie, ruled out for the season early in the year, it will be the first time in 2021 that Skye have a full complement to pick from, said MacLeod.
Ross Gordon, out since early August with a hand injury, made his comeback against Kilmallie last weekend while John Gillies is also poised to return for the first time since sustaining a head injury playing football on the 28th of August.
Gilleasbuig Macdonald, who captained the team to victory in the competition in 2008, is joined in the squad by his elder brother Somhairle, who featured as a teenager when Skye played an epic final against Lochcarron in 1999.
The islanders lost on penalties that day, and fate dealt them a similar hand when they faced Strathglass at the same stage four years later.
Kenny MacLeod added: “I’m not sure about another penalty shoot-out – but I think it will be close. I am confident we’ll see a strong performance from the team and hopefully it will be enough to take back the cup.
“It’s exciting for everyone to be in the final and an important trophy for the club. For most of our players it will be their first taste of a national final – we want them to enjoy it and to make the most of the opportunity.”
Beauly sealed their place in Saturday’s final with a thumping 7-0 victory over Bute at Caol last weekend.
Robbie Brindle and Ross Forbes each hit doubles, with David MacLean, Jack MacDonald and an own goal from Calum MacMillan completing the rout.
Article by Keith MacKenzie, image by Willie Urquhart.