Skye Camanachd stand on the cusp of glory with the club requiring just a point from their final league match away to Inveraray on Saturday to clinch the National Division Championship.
The islanders secured a 2-0 win over rivals Beauly last weekend to put themselves firmly in the driving seat in the title race.
On 1st October, Skye recorded an emphatic 5-1 win over Inveraray at Pairc Nan Laoch in Portree, thanks to a Jordan Murchison hat-trick and goals from Ross Gordon and James Pringle.
However, on Saturday just a point would suffice for Kenny MacLeod’s team at Winterton against the same opponents to seal the championship and complete the league season unbeaten.
Speaking to the Free Press ahead of the club’s clash with Inveraray, Skye players Will Cowie, Ross Gordon, and Murphy Henderson touched on the key factors which have propelled the team to the top of the league, briefly cast their eyes towards playing in the Premiership, and praised the work of their coach and captain in pushing the side to towards its goals.
Last weekend’s win against Beauly must have given the team a huge lift – what was the atmosphere like among the players after the game?
Will Cowie (WC): “Big games like last week are the reason we play shinty. We have played each other three times previously this season and knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game but we were confident that we could win.
“Everyone put in a shift on Saturday and once we got the second goal it knocked the stuffing out of them a bit. Everyone was delighted with the result.
“It was a great result but we know we have to go down to Inveraray with the same level of performance if we are going to win the league.
“Winterton is never an easy place to go but we are confident we can put in another good performance and get the job done.”
That win was the team’s 10th win in a row in the league, what do you think have been the key factors that have fuelled such an impressive run?
Ross Gordon (RG): “The key factors this season have been to chase Beauly as they have set the pace this year.
“We knew we had to keep our heads down and concentrate on our game and hope we could catch them. We have all trained hard this season.”
Only a point is required on Saturday against Inveraray, what would winning the championship as well as gaining promotion mean to the team?
Murphy Henderson (MH): “When we sat down as a team at the start of the season we all agreed that promotion was the bare minimum and going up as champions was the goal.
“We are aware of the challenge that awaits on Saturday, Inveraray are a brilliant team on their day and the Winterton is never an easy place to go, especially with so much at stake.
“Winning the league on Saturday would display all of the hard work not only the players but also management have put in over the season.”
Ross, you are in a rich vein of form with 13 goals in your last seven matches. How enjoyable is it to be scoring so freely in a winning side?
RG: “As a forward it’s rewarding to be scoring goals and helping the team out to succeed.
“Although I feel I am in decent form, as a goal scorer I am always hungry for more and hopefully I can add to my tally and help the team out against Inveraray on Saturday.”
At the other end, the team have been solid with only five goals conceded in your 13 games so far. How pivotal has Murphy been in the team’s excellent defensive record?
WC: “The defence and Murphy are the foundations of our team. It gives the whole team confidence knowing that we concede very few goals.
“Murphy is never lacking confidence and has made some big saves for us at important times this year.
“We have had a few injuries at the back this season but anyone that has come in hasn’t put a foot wrong. Hopefully they can get us another clean sheet on Saturday.”
With the likes of Kingussie, Newtonmore, and local rivals Kinlochshiel awaiting Skye in the Premiership, how excited are you at the prospect of taking on the top sides on a weekly basis next season?
MH: “The prospect of coming up against the biggest teams in the game is very exciting. As a team we believe we can compete with a lot of the teams in the premiership.”
And finally, how important has your captain and coach both been in setting the tone for the side in terms of the consistency which has taken Skye to within a point of winning the league?
WC: “Kenny has been great as it is not easy running a shinty team especially when you have players living all over the country playing for the team. Communication with him is very important especially for those of us who live away from the island.
“He is very clear on what he is looking for from you through the week and on a Saturday. He leads by example with the sacrifices he makes with a young family by leading training two to three nights a week as well as games on a Saturday.
“Ally ‘Cloudie’ (MacLeod) is always vocal on the pitch and his never-give-up attitude is infectious! He is one of the most experienced guys in our young team.
“We want to show these guys our appreciation by giving them a trophy to lift come Saturday evening.”
Article by Adam Gordon, images by Willie Urquhart.