Wester Ross is geared up for an invasion of Oban to cheer on Kinlochshiel against Lovat in Saturday’s Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup final and the three MacRae brothers are bidding to make history.
But 2015 winners Lovat are out to spoil what would be a massive party if the trophy heads to Balmacara for the first time.
Rival captains Keith MacRae of Shiel and Lovat’s Stuart MacDonald, who are former international team mates, met in Inverness yesterday and agreed that attack will be the formula for both sides.
Goalgrabber Keith MacRae, a 34-year-old electrical engineer in Kyle of Lochalsh, is set to line up alongside brothers Finlay (35) and John (31) in their club’s debut in shinty’s biggest occasion.
He said: “It’s a great thing for the family and for our wider community.
“People are stopping me in the street to talk about the game and the area seems right behind us. Even Skye folk say they’re supporting us,which is unusual!
“We’ve been playing well and winning other cups in recent years that it’s surprising many that this is our first Camanachd final.
“Our new pitch Reraig Park has helped us this year as, unlike our former ground at Kirkton, it is consistently flat and allows us to pass the ball much better.
“We’ve worked hard but are taking it comparatively easy in training this week, restricting to sprints and stuff.”
Scotland goalkeeper and skipper Stuart MacDonald, a 31-year-old plumbing and heating engineer, won the man of the match medal when Lovat won six years ago for the first time in 62 years.
He said: “This is a final without an obvious favourite, with either team capable of winning if they hit form on the day.
“I think it’ll be similar to our semi final against Kingussie when it was end to end stuff – and I hope we get the same result.
“I admit that I struggled to get back into shinty after the pandemic struck as I need to play every week to keep my hand to eye coordination. It did affect me, even in training, so it’s great to reach this final.
“By Saturday I’ll have trained 10 evenings in two weeks, just to keep my eye in. A group of lads turn up at our pitch every night to do some work and they fire shots in at me.
“Shiel are good, strong and fit and have goalscorers, but Danny Kelly and Daniel Grieve have been solid in a defence that’s been so reliable in front of me. We carry our own goal threat, particularly Fraser Heath who holds the ball superbly and makes it so difficult for defenders.”
MacRae responded: “We know Lovat have a good forward line but our defence is up to the task. And Jordan Fraser has been excellent up front for us this year – working on his fitness during lockdown has given him new energy levels.”
MacDonald added:”It’s a huge occasion for our community as well and we’ll not lack for support. It’s a final that could come down to the break of the ball and who is more focused when that happens.”