Robert Baxter, who refereed the last Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup Final in 2019, has, in his managerial debut season, steered Kyles Athletic to within 90 minutes of this year’s final.
Their marathon trip to Beauly saw Kyles edge through in a penalty shootout to reach Tuesday’s semi-final ballot at Oban and raise hopes of their 21st Camanachd triumph – a tally surpassed only by Newtonmore.
“I was a substitute when Kyles won the cup in 1994, but didn’t get on the field”, recalls Robert. “Then I refereed two finals. But taking Kyles to the final would be my greatest thrill.
“Beauly battled all the way in coming back from two goals down in extra time, but we held our nerve in the shootout. The lads are on a high after our run of wins and we’ll have a decent chance whoever we get in the draw.”
Robbie Macleod made Kyles’ 94th minute breakthrough and they went further ahead through an Angus Renwick own goal four minutes later.
Brave Beauly hit back with David Maclean’s 104th minute strike and Jack Macdonald levelled in 109 minutes.
The home side were spot-hit sinners with misses from Macdonald, Robbie Brindle and then Calum Morrison enabling Kyles to win the shootout 3-2, but ex-Newtonmore ace David Maclean said: “We came very close and our club needs to be competing in these important games.
“Many of our younger lads were playing in their first quarter-final and there’ll be other chances for them. We’re still in two other cups and there’s a good vibe about.
“Kyles are very good at pressurising you and have as good a chance as anyone of winning the Camanachd in a season where anyone can beat anyone else.”
The big crowd saw Beauly half-back Colin Macdonald shine as the outstanding player afield.
Kinlochshiel have no issues reaching semi-final stage
Joining Kyles in the ballot are Kinlochshiel, whose 6-0 home demolition job on visitors Oban Celtic takes them into the semi-finals for the first time in nine years and the second time ever.
Shiel manager Johnston Gill is hopeful that international centre-half Conor Cormack will recover from his broken hand in time for the last-four tie.
Skipper Keith MacRae struck twice in the first 11 minutes to douse Celtic optimism and his brother John slammed a third just on the interval. Ally Nixon netted early in the second half and youngsters Archie MacRae and Zander Macrae added further goals to delight the Reraig Park fans.
The other quarter-finals – Oban Camanachd v Lovat and Kingussie v Kilmallie – will be played this weekend.
Kinlochshiel will now face Kingussie in the Artemis Macaulay Cup final at Oban on August 21 after Kings were 4-0 winners over Lovat in the first of a well-attended double-header at Beauly.
Lovat held their own till Roddy Young’s breakthrough in 51 minutes, then Ruaridh Anderson eased the pressure with a 68th minute strike. James Falconer fired a double in 79 and 87 minutes to take Kingussie’s impressive goal haul to 37 in only eight outings.
In the Mowi Senior League action, Kevin Bartlett grabbed five goals in Caberfeidh’s 8-3 win over Strathglass at Strathpeffer, while captain Arran MacPhee’s hat-trick helped Fort William beat Lochaber 4-0 at Spean Bridge.
Jordan Murchison, Jamie Gillies and Iain Maclellan put Skye three up inside half an hour at Portree, but Josh Macdonald-Haig and Conor Golabeck slammed second half goals for Glen Urquhart, who could not force an equaliser.
Fraser Watt’s treble helped Inveraray beat visitors Aberdour 6-0.