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Shinty: New Kinlochshiel captain targets success in 2024

Defender Conor Cormack has been named as Shiel's captain ahead of the new season.

Conor Cormack in action for Kinlochshiel.  Image: Neil Paterson.
Conor Cormack in action for Kinlochshiel. Image: Neil Paterson.

With planning for the 2024 shinty season under way, Kinlochshiel are determined to right the wrongs of last season.

Influential defender Conor Cormack has been named as their new captain and he will lead from the front as Willie MacRae’s troops undertake an intense training routine ahead of the new campaign.

The west coast side finished seventh is shinty’s top-flight last season, slipping five places from the year before.

However, they are looking to recapture the form which saw them win all shinty’s domestic trophies over a five-year period from 2016 onwards, culminating in the 2021 Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup final triumph when they beat Lovat 3-1 to lift the famous cup for the first time.

Conor Cormack was key to that success, a lynchpin in the Shiel defence since 2016 when then manager Colin Fraser took him west from Beauly.

The side raised the Artemis Macaulay Cup that same season and the Mowi Premiership a year later.

The Macaulay was won again in 2018, with a first MacTavish triumph coming in 2021, just months ahead of the Scottish success.

The commanding half back, who has represented Scotland, is an ideal choice as skipper and he said: “I’m really pleased to have been asked to captain the side for this coming season, especially as there are a number of boys who would have easily been great choices as our next captain.

“I just hope to help us gain that consistency again which has seen us have success in recent years.

“Last year didn’t go our way, but I think that we’ve identified the places where we went wrong, and everyone is committed to working hard and getting us back to lifting some silverware again.”

A natural choice for the armband

Manager Willie MacRae added: “Conor is a quiet lad but a big influence on his teammates.

“He doesn’t shout all the time but leads by example.

“Half back is a great position for a captain as the game is played around him.

“We have a few other leaders in the side, like Finlay MacRae, who assume that role as part of their natural game.”

There are also changes to the Kinlochshiel backroom team with former player Paul MacRae coming in as assistant manager whilst David MacLeod, another ex-player, along with former Lochcarron duo Iain MacKenzie and Andrew MacKenzie will assist with the training sessions.

Willie MacRae added: “Having these boys lead the training will allow me to watch all the players and things will be more structured.”

MacRae also delivered a hard message for his players.

He said: “We are going to up the tempo at training and have more ball work than before.

“Paul, David and Andrew will keep the players on their toes. Training will start at 7pm sharp and there will be fines for anyone who is late.

“John MacRae and Oliver MacRae are both fit again after missing huge chunks of last season so all the players will be fighting for positions.

“I’ll have a squad of 18 players to choose from so anyone who doesn’t put the effort in on the training pitch won’t make the team.”

Shinty: Artemis Macaulay Cup draw throws up Oban derby

Kinlochshiel meet Caberfeidh in a preseason friendly at the end of January before playing Glenurquhart and Beauly in February. Venues will be decided nearer the time. They will also play a couple of inhouse games.

Meanwhile, Lochaber and neighbours Fort William will contest the Billy MacLachlan memorial trophy at Spean Bridge on New Year’s Day.

Throw-up is at 1pm with the match in tribute to former Lochaber player, Billy MacLachlan who was also a committee member, Grade One referee and a match assessor.

Just 24 hours later, on Tuesday January 2, Lovat and local rivals Beauly contest the first Lovat Cup in three years at Balgate. Throw-up is also at 1pm.