Ally Maclennan will play his first cup tie since 2019 when he appears for Caberfeidh in the Cottages.Com MacTavish Cup final against Kingussie at Bught Park in Inverness on Saturday.
MacLennan has responded to an SOS from the Strathpeffer side after the discovery that full centre Ben Macdonald will not be home in time from holiday in Florida.
“Ally gave up playing when the pandemic struck as he’s self-employed and work took priority,” said manager Jodi Gorski.
“But when we found there was a dates mix up and Ben wouldn’t be back in time for the final, I approached Ally to help us out and he agreed.
“He’s been doing a lot of shooting and walking, so he’s still reasonably fit.
“He played last Saturday and was a bit rusty but his touch is still there and he’s looked good in training this week.
“Ally’s still only 33 and has turned down several invitations to join the Scotland squad, so his quality isn’t in doubt and we’re delighted to have him involved.”
The Ross-shire men last won this trophy in 1937 and were runners up two years later, but this is their first MacTavish final since.
Gorski said: “Some of our club’s finest players of recent generations didn’t have the privilege of playing in this final, so I’ve told our lads this is a huge opportunity for them.
“Kingussie are hugely formidable, but if we play at our best then we’ve the ability to win.”
Kingussie, 28 times winners, are chasing their 20th triumph in 34 years, but as they have not won it since 2011, only Lee Bain, Fraser Munro and James Hutchison have winners’ medals.
The Badenoch men, without teenager Ian Fraser who fractured his leg two weeks ago, have been boosted as James Falconer will get the stitches removed on Friday from the knee gash sustained on his comeback last weekend.
“James is all clear to play, which is important to us,” said manager John Gibson.
“He was unplayable for 25 minutes last week and showed what we’ve been missing.
“It’s also a relief that Lee Bain, Fraser Munro and James Hutchison, who have all been out injured, have now got game time and shown up well in training.
“This experienced quartet, plus Dylan Borthwick back from a US trip, gives me the luxury of options I’ve not had for a while and will hopefully help the team to build momentum and put in better performances than in the last couple of games.
“Bain isn’t yet 100 per cent fit but he’s replaced Alex Michie and Lee is showing a new lease of life.
“We’re undefeated this season and skipper Savio Genini and our young players are chasing their first MacTavish winners’ medals. But we know Caberfeidh can score through Craig Morrison and Kevin Bartlett so we’ll need our defence to be on best form.”
Gorski feels that Kings will try and mark international ace Craig Morrison out of the game, which won’t be easy and which can leave space for others.
Craig’s brother, Blair Morrison, the skipper, marshals the defence superbly but the Sky Blues will have their work cut out subduing the prolific front four of Genini, Falconer, Roddy Young and Ruaridh Anderson.
Kingussie, beaten in extra time by Kinlochshiel in last year’s final, start firm favourites but they face opponents with huge motivation to end that long wait.
The game starts at 4.05 pm at Bught Park to allow live TV coverage via BBC Alba. Presenter Micheal Steele introduces the action, with commentary from Hugh Dan MacLennan and analysis from Katie Drain.
BBC Alba will also screen the Glasgow Celtic Society Cup final between Glasgow Mid-Argyll and Kyles Athletic on Saturday June 25. Live coverage begins at 4pm as holders Kyles Athletic look to defend their crown at Peterson Park, Glasgow.