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Shinty: Blend of youth and experience helps Kinlochshiel to the double with MacTavish Cup joy

The victorious Kinlochshiel team with the C
The victorious Kinlochshiel team with the C

There is a 20 year age gap between Finlay MacRae and Plockton High School fifth year pupil Archie MacRae but their contributions illuminated the unprecedented quality of Kinlochshiel, the wizards of the west.

As they made history again, winning the Cottages.Com MacTavish Cup for first time to add to their Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup triumph, the Red Devils signalled that there may be more to come next year.

Shiel had to dig deep to overcome Kingussie 3-2 after extra time at Bught Park, Inverness, with the help of defence standing firmer than the Five Sisters of Kintail in the face of fierce Badenoch pressure.

Finlay MacRae, the 36-year-old electrical technician and former Scotland skipper, has been such an asset not just to his club but to the game and it was fitting that he should collect the Tom Mackenzie Memorial Medal for the outstanding player afield.

He said: “I want to keep playing as long as I’m enjoying it.

“This has been an amazing season, something you dream about. It completes my full set of winners medals, but this is a great team to play in and there’s a collective hunger now for more trophies.

“It can’t be a case of making history twice and then sitting back. We’ve set high standards and the appetite is there to live up to them.”

Kinlochshiel captain Keith Macrae enjoys the moment with the MacTavish Cup.

The classy full back added: “There’s a good balance, we don’t concede too many goals and when we do, we’ve attackers who can grab goals as we showed in this final.

“Kingussie had so much pressure in the second half but we held out and then the guys up front produced a couple of cracking goals in extra time. It’s what makes us so difficult to beat.”

Sixteen-year-old Archie MacRae, who cut in to coolly fire the winning goal, admitted: “I’m lost for words to describe how good I feel at playing in big games, collecting two winners’ medals, and scoring a goal I’ll never forget.

“The experienced players do a terrific job but it’s a while since the club had such a good youth pipeline with Arran Jack (16) and Zander MacRae (17) also involved in this final.

“There’s good guys in our Under-17 team who’ll see what’s being achieved and be motivated to make their own breakthrough. That’s got to benefit the club.”

Archie looks capable of going a long way in the game. A couple of 20 year olds, Duncan Matheson and Duncan ‘WD’ MacRae, also played their part on another great day for the travelling army of supporters from the west.

Johnston Gill revealed he is considering his future as Shiel manager.

“I’ll wait a month, till all the celebrations are over, then quietly make my decision,” he said.

“I’m proud our lads are now the top team in shinty. We’re there to be shot at — but we’re ready for the challenge.”

Kinlochshiel’s Archie Macrae (right) celebrates his goal with Jordan Fraser.

Shiel found a way to win in a two-hour struggle which Kingussie dominated for long spells, only to be frustrated by a mix of wasteful finishing and superlative defensive defiance from the likes of Mark MacDonald and David Falconer.

Up front, skipper Keith MacRae, the Camanachd Cup hat-trick hero, was closely marked and it was Jordan Fraser who continually carried the fight to Kingussie.

Kings looked at one stage set to win all three trophies, but finished with only one yet future finals beckon for this talented young team.

John Gibson’s men will certainly play worse and win. Alex Michie and veteran James Hutchison, who sustained suspected cracked ribs, put in a power of work while teenager Dylan Borthwick showed excellent mobility up front while Robert Mabon was solid at the back.

Kinlochshiel brothers Keith (left) and John Macrae keep the Kingussie defence busy.

It was Dylan Borthwick’s nice flick which created the space for Ruaridh Anderson to run on and crash home at the near post to give Kingussie an 11th minute lead.

Their skipper Rory MacKeachan was the game’s only booking as Kings looked slick, before Shiel began to take control and equalise with Jordan Fraser’s powerful 20 yarder from Keith MacRae’s assist in 34 minutes.

The second half was goalless but in 99 minutes John MacRae smashed a piledriver on the turn, high into the net and three minutes later Archie MacRae made it 3-1.

Kingussie, to their credit, kept surging forward but Ryan Borthwick’s close range strike came with only seconds left before the ‘Red Wave’ was celebrating.

Shiel, who have not played at home since their Camanachd glory, will parade both trophies at Reraig Park, Balmacara, before this weekend’s final league match against visitors Lochaber.

 

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