The biggest day in the women’s shinty calendar takes place this Saturday – with Skye taking on Glasgow Mid Argyll in the final of the Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup.
Saturday’s meeting at the Eilan, Newtonmore, brings together two teams who are no strangers to success in the competition, with six victories between them.
Skye’s semi-final win over the cup holders and league champions Badenoch was the stand out result of the season, but islanders boss Jenna Beaton said she expected an even sterner test in the final against an improving and in-form GMA.
She said: “We’re all looking forward to the final – but we know we are in for a tough match, in many ways a harder one than the semi-final because of the extra expectations that come with a final.
“We have played each other once this year – a draw in Glasgow in the early weeks of the season but it is difficult to read too much into that.
“We travelled with a skeleton squad that day missing several players, but since then GMA have got a lot stronger. We know GMA are going to be a dangerous team.”
Rhianna Kirk captains a Skye side for whom Sarah Corrigall remains an inspirational figure – nearly 20 years since she won her first Valerie Fraser medal while playing for Glengarry.
Corrigall has scored 22 times this year and her return to the team – after missing the 2022 campaign – has been a major boost for a largely youthful squad.
Katherine Dibble, who also rejoined the Skye squad this after a spell playing football for Hibs ladies, has strengthened the defence. She should feature in the back line alongside Christina Macdonald, who missed last year’s final due to illness.
GMA manager Graeme Macdiarmid took over the team last Christmas and set the squad a target of making the Valerie Fraser final in 2024.
“We’re a year ahead of schedule, but that’s down to the girls working extremely hard,” he said. “They’ve all put in an incredible effort this year and now we’ve made the final we are determined to make the most of the opportunity.
“It’s great for the club and for shinty in Glasgow to see the team back in the final for the first time since 2015.”
Catriona Stark, who grew up in Kishorn, captains the city team, while exiled Sgitheanach Joan Nicolson has been a regular source of goals over many years.
Top scorer this season is Lucy McNulty with 16 and the city side has found the net 30 times during an impressive sequence of five consecutive wins in the run up to Saturday’s final.
The Glasgow club – who draw many of their squad from players who learned the game through the Milngavie and Bearsden club – were early trailblazers in the women’s game.
They lifted the Valerie Fraser trophy in the second year in which it was contested in 2003 before going on to further triumphs in 2006, 2014 and 2015.
Skye were champions in 2017 and 2019, and will be featuring in the final for the sixth successive occasion – a run which, owing to a two-year Covid hiatus, stretches back to 2016.
EARLIER ON SATURDAY, Kinlochshiel will once again aim for more cup glory in the Mowi Challenge Cup.
The competition is for clubs outside the top flight and Shiel won for the first time in 2021 with victory over Lovat.
The Lochalsh side, who take on Inverness, have been in sensational form this year and they are poised to seal promotion to the national league for the first time.
Lexi MacKenzie has led the charge in the goalscoring stakes for a team that is averaging nine goals a game and has yet to drop a point all year.
Still just 14 Lexi has scored 39 goals this year and also plays alongside the boys in the Kinlochshiel youth team.
She told the Camanachd Association’s website this week: “I’m enjoying my shinty the most I ever have.
“I learnt a lot last year playing against the boys in the under 14’s, but this year has been a massive step up going into the under 17’s. It’s been fantastic to be scoring goals for the Kinlochshiel under-17’s at that level.
“I really feel playing in the under-17s is helping me be a better player for the ladies.
“It would mean everything to myself and all the girls to be rewarded for all our hard work. I know it would mean a lot to the community because of all the support we’ve had.”
The Mowi challenge cup final throws up at the Eilan, Newtonmore at 1.45pm this Saturday (2nd September). The Mowi Valerie Fraser final between Skye and GMA starts at 4.10pm, and this game will also be televised live on BBC Alba.