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Shinty: Kingussie welcome back key players for cup tie against Fort William

Kingussie manager John Gibson.
Kingussie manager John Gibson.

James Hutchinson, who gained a record 13th winners’ medal last autumn, makes his comeback for holders Kingussie in Saturday’s Artemis Macaulay Cup first round tie against Fort William at The Dell.

The valiant veteran is one of five key players returning for Premiership leaders Kings who are setting out to equal their own record of 17 years ago, when they were the last team to achieve three successive wins in this national tournament.

James Falconer, who scored two goals in the 4-1 win over Kyles Athletic in last year’s final, returns from an ankle problem while Robert Mabon, Fraser Munro and last year’s winning skipper Rory MacKeachan are also fit and available for the record 25 times Macaulay winners.

“This cup has been good to us and it’s great to have important players back at the right time,” said manager John Gibson.

“Ryan Borthwick, man of the match award winner in the last final, has resumed training after a back problem but is three or four weeks away from playing.”

Fort William welcome back talisman Arran MacPhee following a two-game ban.

Lewis Murphy and Calum Shepherd also return to the squad and co-manager Victor Smith said: “We’re greatly heartened by our display in drawing with Kinlochshiel last weekend and we hope to build on that.”

Post-pandemic weddings hit teams

Lovat have not won the Macaulay trophy for 69 years but have won all four games this season and have yet to concede a goal, so they could be in the reckoning if they overcome Kilmallie at Caol.

Jamie Matheson, the Lovat manager, said: “We’re without twins Craig and Martin Mainland who are at a stag do and Lorne MacKay is at a wedding.

“Sixteen-year-old Angus Mearns, keeper Stuart Macdonald’s cousin, played the last 20 minutes against Kyles last week and did well, so he’ll figure again.”

The post-pandemic wedding glut has also hit Kilmallie who have Robbie MacFadyen and Steve Macallister as wedding guests while Michael Rodger is on a stag trip to Berlin.

Oban Camanachd, whose last Macaulay success was 27 years ago, have Malcolm Clark and Evan MacLellan back for their all-Premiership clash with Glasgow Mid Argyll at Mossfield. The pace of the home attack will test Ryan Harrison and the Mid Argyll defence.

This tie is preceded at the same venue at noon by Oban Celtic, still winless this season, facing 12 times winners Kyles Athletic, whose last triumph was in 2013. Robert Baxter, the Kyles boss, is without George Thomson and Robbie Macleod, both unavailable, while Andy King is still injured.

Ross Macmillan has moved from Oban Celtic to 2009 victors Inveraray and strengthens an attack that will be without Lewis Montgomery who begins a three game ban by missing their home tie with Col Glen.

Free-scoring Caberfeidh have been handed a walkover victory against Lochaber, who were unable to field a team for the Spean Bridge encounter.

Bute travel from the west coast to the east when they head to Fife to face Aberdour.

An honour for a legend

Newtonmore legend Rob Ritchie collects his British Empire Medal from the Lord Lieutenant in the Balavil Hotel on Saturday lunchtime – then hopes to see his team face Kinlochshiel in the Artemis Macaulay Cup first round tie at The Eilean.

Rob, 80 has been an outstanding player and official for the club and a great ambassador for shinty. He was also a distinguished Highland Games heavyweight athlete and prominent in Newtonmore good causes.

Club president Norman Macarthur said: “We’re all very proud of big Rob, who’s accepting the honour in his own village.”

Meanwhile, the Blue and White Hoops will be without internationalist Steven Macdonald, completing a two-game suspension, for their big cup clash, while Declan Brannan serves a one-game ban.

Newtonmore’s 11th Macaulay success was in 2015 – since then Kinlochshiel have lifted the trophy in 2016 and 2018.

Drew MacDonald is to see a specialist about the dislocated knee which has kept him out of More’s last three games.

Shiel are bidding to kickstart their season and the power of attackers Jordan Fraser, Keith MacRae and John MacRae will pose problems for the home defence.

Ballachulish host new club Cruachanside for the first time in the new Single Team Competition first round and David Grant carries a threat to the visitors.

In the National Division, Glen Urquhart look to grab the points at home to Strathglass to push into promotion contention.

The Drumnadrochit men have three points from three games while Strath have two points from four outings, but have thumped in 12 goals, with Penri Jones and Michael Stokes to the fore.