Kingussie will be without two of their most experienced players next season as James Hutchison and Fraser Munro take a step back from first team shinty.
After being part of the Kingussie second team’s 1996 treble winning side, James Hutchison established himself in the Kingussie first team squad a year later, given his debut by legendary manager Ian Ross.
It was the start of a senior career spanning 27 years during which Hutchison’s weighty winner’s medal haul includes 11 Camanachd Cups, 12 Macaulay Cups, 13 MacTavish Cups and 15 National League titles, and it would surely have been even more but for the break in play due to the Covid pandemic.
The topic is brushed aside with typical modesty by Hutchison who said: “Timing is everything and I definitely broke into the side at the right time as far as medals go as the team were flying at that time.
“Ronald Ross, Davie Anderson and Kevin Thain were banging in the goals wherever we played. We weren’t just winning games; we were winning by big margins.
“We had the Borthwicks too and I was lucky to be involved at that time. I remember Garry Munro and I came through at the same time and we were on the bench for the first couple of years, biding our time before making the starting twelve.
“I firmly believe that if the current squad stick together, they can go on and dominate too.”
Kingussie won three consecutive Grand Slams in his first three full seasons and Hutchison captained the side to another Slam in 2003 before clinching a remarkable fifth clean sweep under John Gibson’s guidance in 2022.
Nobody will begrudge James Hutchison his retiral given his service to Kingussie and the sport of shinty.
“I don’t think it has properly registered yet but the time’s right to call it a day,” he said.
“Saturdays are always enjoyable, and I’ll miss that, but training definitely gets tougher as you get older.”
Manager Iain Borthwick added: “James has been a magnificent servant, and the club enjoyed a lot of success during his time.
“He could easily have bowed out during the tough years, but he kept going, putting the club first.
“The plan was that James would take more of a back seat this year, but injuries meant he played more than either of us expected, making a massive contribution.
“James said he wouldn’t see us stuck if needed in the future and that’s typical of the man.”
Munro aims to keep playing for Kingussie second team
Fraser Munro broke into the Kingussie senior side in 2007 and his senior winner’s medal count includes three Camanachd Cups, four Macaulay Cups, five MacTavish Cup and six Premiership titles, including the 2022 Grand Slam.
His final senior game was September’s Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup win over Oban Camanachd, but he’s not exiting the scene completely.
He said: “I’d like to help the young guys in the second team. That’s what happened when I was a young player and it helped me.
“My nephew Rory Munro is with the seconds so if I can play a role, that would be something.
“Wing centre is definitely a young man’s game. You’re expected to be up and down the wing and while that’s part of the role I enjoyed; it gets much harder as you get older.
“I’m not thinking about taking it easy though. I’m still on the medal hunt and I’d like to see the Kingussie seconds do better in the cups, especially as I’ve never won a Sutherland Cup.”
Injuries also played a part in Munro’s decision.
He said: “I thought I’d broken my arm again in the Camanachd Cup final which is why I was so frustrated when I came off.
“I lost some feeling and my arm ballooned. I was starting a new job on the Monday so that wouldn’t have been good but fortunately it was OK.”
Iain Borthwick added: “Fraser has been an outstanding wing centre for Kingussie, and his performance levels have always been consistently high.
“We’ll miss James and Fraser, but their departure offers opportunities for younger players to stake a claim.”