BUMPER CROWD: Skye woman features in record-breaking cup tie between ICT and Rangers

Rangers midfielder Kirsty MacLean under pressure from Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s Lorna MacRae (Photo by Donald Cameron / Noremacpix.co.uk)

A Skye footballer was part of the Inverness Caledonian Thistle side which took part in a record-breaking fixture against Rangers last weekend.

Lorna MacRae started for the Highanders in Sunday’s Scottish Cup tie played in front of 1,031 fans at the Caledonian Stadium – the highest ever attendance for a women’s fixture in the region.

Rangers – currently top of the Scottish Women’s Premier League – ran out 12-0 winners but MacRae told the Free Press that the occasion proved “a great experience” for herself and her team-mates.

She said: “It was great to see such a crowd on Sunday, 1031 is incredible for the Highlands. We hope to see more crowds like that at future games and it would be great to get the opportunity to play in the stadium more often also.

“Sunday was a great showcase for girls in the Highlands – there are opportunities with football.

“It was definitely the biggest game I’ve played in and a great opportunity to play against Rangers WFC, it’s not often you get the chance to be on the same pitch as international players”.

Lorna in action against Rangers Pic Trevor Martin

Top flight women’s football has seen major improvements over the last five years, with the two richest men’s clubs, Celtic and Rangers, investing particularly heavily to compete for the Scottish Women’s Premiership title alongside Glasgow City, who had dominated the top league since the early 2000s.

Caley Thistle’s women’s team play in the SWF Championship – the third tier of the game in Scotland – and came up against a Rangers side that are undefeated this season.

A positive result was always going to prove a challenge.

“Yeah, the result wasn’t the best”, added Lorna, a multi decorated shinty player for Kinlochshiel and previously Skye Camanachd.

“We were already the underdogs, Rangers are sitting top of their league and are yet to lose a match this year. But we have to take positives from it and I think all the girls – despite the scoreline – enjoyed the game. Everyone gave it their all and didn’t give up.”

The geography of the Highlands and Islands presents challenges for promising youth players, of any gender, who often rely on buses, ferries or lifts from parents to get to training sessions and games that take place hours away from home. 

Lorna said this has hampered her progress over her years playing for the club.

“I have played on and off for years,” she said. “I started when Caley were Inverness City when I was 16 but it was extremely hard to commit to as I relied on public transport.

“I returned a few years ago but have failed to complete a full season, due to injuries and clashes with shinty.

“I’ll be doing my best to complete this season,” she explained before concluding, “but for now we have a busy month ahead, with Ayr and Rossvale being our next two games, so we need to reset and focus on getting wins from both these games.”

Inverness CT skipper Kirsty Deans Pic Trevor Martin

Despite the cup exit Inverness – who are captained by another shinty playing star in Kirsty Deans from Badenoch – are enjoying an encouraging league campaign.

They currently sit second in the 10-team SWF championship, having won seven and lost two of their nine matches so far.

Star studded Rangers booked their place in the 4th round of the cup thanks to 12 goals from eight different scorers.

Scotland international and ex Man United striker Jane Ross scored twice on her first start after 18 months out through injury while Rio Hardy netted a hat-trick.

Welsh international Rachel Rowe also bagged a double, with the other goals coming from Kirsty MacLean, Sarah Ewens, Lizzie Arnot, Brogan Hay and Eilidh Austin. 

Article by Daniel Cullen