The countdown is under way ahead of the 115th Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup final between Kingussie and Oban Camanachd at the Bught Park, Inverness on Saturday.
Kingussie manager Iain Borthwick certainly knew how to win a Camanachd Cup as player; nine winners medals are testament to that, but his job now is to pass on his experience as his side looks to retain the famous trophy for the first time since 2003.
Borthwick has no hesitation naming his favourite final: “The 12-1 win over Newtonmore in 1997,” he replies before the question is completed.
“Games between the sides had been tight in the lead up to that final, although we were winning, and there was the usual banter back and fore ahead of the big day.
“It was our first year with Neil Bowman as trainer and he had us in great shape on what was a very hot day. It was one to remember for the Kingussie support.”
‘The boys have been flying in training’
The Kingussie injury situation ahead of Saturday’s final is becoming clearer if not yet confirmed as Borthwick explained: “James Falconer and Rory MacKeachan continue to receive physio and will do so until the day before the game when we’ll make a decision.
“Zander Michie and Kieran Macpherson are fine while Thomas Borthwick came through last week’s game and completed this week’s training without any issues.
“The boys have been flying in training and we have options. Calum MacKintosh has been excellent when playing up front and Savio Genini looks sharp whilst Fraser Munro’s return gives us additional experience in midfield. Lee Bain can play in a number of positions and that’s a big help.
“The Macaulay defeat to Oban was a harsh lesson for the boys. It upset them and they don’t want to go through that again. That gives me confidence and we can’t wait for Saturday.”
‘The side has pretty much picked itself’ for Kingussie v Oban Camanachd Cup final
Oban Camanachd’s team news is more straightforward.
Manager Gareth Evans said: “Our starting side for Saturday is already picked and, to be honest, the side has pretty much picked itself over recent weeks.
“My assistant Iain MacMillan and I still have decisions to make on the substitutes and I’ve changed my mind twice on that since Saturday.”
Evans served a three-match touchline suspension last month but found the experience enlightening and intends to be in the stand for the final with Iain MacMillan on the touchline.
He said: “You simply get a better view of what’s going on from the stand.”
Players urged to seize opportunity
Memories from Oban Camanachd’s final appearances in the 90s have stood Evans, who has played in four Camanachd Cup finals, in good stead.
He said: “I came on in the ‘95 final when we lost 3-2 to Kingussie in Oban and there were grown men crying in the changing room afterwards. That’s what it means to people.
“I was a substitute in the ’96 final and didn’t get on so although I have a winner’s medal, it feels like I didn’t earn it.
“I don’t remember much about the ’96 final itself, although I’ve watched it back many times since, but I do remember the late Nonnie MacInnes raising the trophy as captain and his speech afterwards.
“What a leader he was. I also remember the police escort into Oban afterwards and there must have been 1,000 folk there waiting for us. It was amazing.
“There have been hard times since then and that’s when you really find out who is behind the club.
“Not winning the Celtic Society last season was a major disappointment so we targeted it and the Macaulay this year and have won both.
“Oban Camanachd has never won all three cup competitions in one season during our almost 135-year history so there’s an opportunity on Saturday to make a lot of people very happy and it is up to us to grasp it.”
Kingussie v Oban Camanachd Cup final marks occasion
This year’s final marks 100 years since shinty’s showpiece event was first contested at the Bught Park in 1923 and the historic venue closes shortly afterwards for major refurbishment work but before then, it has one last story to tell.
Throw up is at 2pm and Des McNulty is the match referee. A large crowd is assured but anyone unable to be there on the day can follow the action live on BBC ALBA.
Earlier in the day, the best of youth shinty is on display as Skye Camanachd under-14 and Newtonmore under-14 meet in the MacMaster Cup final. Throw up is at 11am and Jamie MacPherson is the man in the middle.