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Shinty: Everything you need to know ahead of the start of the 2024 season

Kyles Athletic bolster their attack ahead of the new campaign.

James Pringle celebrates scoring for Skye against Beauly in the Balliemore Cup final. Image: Neil Paterson.
James Pringle celebrates scoring for Skye against Beauly in the Balliemore Cup final. Image: Neil Paterson.

Kyles Athletic have made a key signing on the eve of the new shinty season with skilful attacker James Pringle joining from Skye Camanachd.

A Mowi National Division and Ferguson Transport & Shipping Balliemore Cup winner with the islanders, Pringle follows the same path as former Skye teammate Will Cowie in joining the Tighnabruaich men.

He has been making the 480-mile round trip from Edinburgh to Portree to feature for Skye for the last seven years, even travelling from Southampton to play one Saturday, but the miles have taken their toll.

Pringle said: “I felt the travelling, and also not being able to train with the team each week, was getting too much so made the tough decision to leave Skye.

“I then got in contact with Kyles and I’m really looking forward to it. Kyles have been really accommodating.”

With Robbie Macleod now retired, Kyles will be led this year by a coaching team of Roddy Macdonald, Callum Millar, John Whyte and Andrew King.

Macdonald said: “We’re pleased to get James signed up.

“He came to a couple of our open training sessions in Glasgow, and he looks like he will suit our style of play. He was keen to join up with us as well, so we are happy with that one.”

Pringle isn’t the only addition with David Zavaroni bolstering the midfield and George Thomson adding to the defensive options as Macdonald explained: “David Zavaroni has been back with us, and he’s trained really well. He’s very keen to help out this year so that’s a real boost as well.

“George Thomson is also back training with the Tighnabruaich and Dunoon-based boys.

“He isn’t sure how much he will be available at present as he’s currently moving into a new house but he’ll hopefully play once that’s all sorted.

“These boys will definitely help all areas of the team. We’re still a tight squad but sometimes that’s not a bad thing.”

Selection headache for Evans

Kyles welcome Oban Camanachd on Saturday as the south’s two big guns clash.

Visiting manager Gareth Evans has plenty to ponder, especially with news that the experienced Daniel Cameron has been sidelined for the first month of the season after suffering a blow to the hand in the pre-season friendly against Kingussie.

Evans said: “Daniel Cameron will be out for at least a month as it’s been confirmed that the top of his thumb is broken in five places.

“The game has also come too soon for Daniel Sloss. I’ve been giving the injury situation a bit of thought as I need to be careful not to bring players back before they are ready and risk having them out for a longer period.”

Oban Camanachd manager Gareth Evans. Image: Neil Paterson

Champions Kingussie begin their quest for a fourth successive league title against Kinlochshiel at the Dell.

Cameron Bremner’s foot injury is the Kings’ main concern, and boss Iain Borthwick said: “Cammie trained this week, completing all the sessions.

“Saturday might be too soon for him though, but hopefully he’ll be fully fit for next weekend’s game against Glenurquhart.

“Lee Bain is just back from holiday so we’re going to give him game time with the second team but, other than Roddy Young, everyone else is fit.”

Shiel boss Willie MacRae said: “We had some niggles last weekend, but everyone is fine and I’ve a full squad available. No one expects us to take anything from the game, except me, and all the boys are up for it.”

Scotland bosses set to lock horns

Promoted Lochaber play Caberfeidh at Spean Bridge in a match which brings together current Scotland manager Garry Reid and former Scotland boss Ally Ferguson.

Visiting boss Reid said: “The players have worked hard in pre-season under Gavin Campbell’s guidance and look fit and ready for the games ahead.

“We haven’t set any goals but have the mentality to want to win every game and, on our day, we are capable of beating any team. I also realise sport is not straightforward and it’s a long season, so we’ll need a touch of luck along the way if we are to bring silverware back to Castle Leod, but we’ll give it our best try.

“We have close to a fully fit squad, and the shinty season is now reliant on a depth of squad.

“We used 25 players last season and we’re lucky to have some talented young players coming through.

“The competition was ferocious in the Premiership last season, and I don’t see it being any different this year.

“Lochaber are well-led, organised, and motivated by Ally Ferguson, one of shinty’s top coaches. They are a tough tackling, hard-working team who play some nice shinty, and we will have to be at the top of our game to get the win.”

Lochaber manager Ally Ferguson added: “It’s our first venture back to the Premiership in some years but we are there on merit and whilst we know it’s a real step up, and a different level, the lads are all looking forward to it.

“Our priority is to work hard and compete the very best we can and see where it takes us.

“We have a couple of players missing due to suspension and holiday, but most teams encounter that during the season. We have a good squad and capable lads who can come into the squad when needed.”

MacDonald seeks winning start

Skye Camanachd welcome Newtonmore in manager Willie MacDonald’s first competitive game in charge.

The islanders beat More home and away last season so the Blue and Whites will be out for revenge.

Skye keeper Murphy Henderson is due to move to Australia and is replaced by Ryan Morrison who has returned from Australia.

Willie MacDonald said: “We won’t have Ruaraidh MacLeod or Shockie MacLennan due to work commitments, but we know that will happen from time-to-time because Ruaraidh is on the rigs and Shockie is a paramedic. We’ll call up a couple of boys from the second team to replace them.”

Newtonmore co-manager Norman MacArthur said: “Skye is always a difficult trip and we saw what happened last season.

“That said, I’ve been looking through the fixture list and it is full of tough games. I think a lot of sides will take points off each other and I certainly don’t see anyone running away with the title this season.”

MacMillan at the ready for Lovat

Lovat play newly-promoted Glenurquhart. Lovat boss Jamie Matheson deputised for absent keeper Stuart MacDonald during the preseason but said: “If Stuart isn’t fit, Ronan MacMillan will play in goals.

“He’s been terrific for the second team over recent seasons, and was their player of the year twice, so he has earned his shot for the first team.

“Ronan could certainly play at a higher level but he’s just unfortunate to have Stuart in front of him.

“I have a fully fit 20-man squad to pick from and we’ve had a really good pre-season. Glen will be tough opposition as they are a big physical side and will want to start the season on a high and show everyone they belong in the top league. We’ll need to be at our best to get the points.”

Glen manager David Stewart added: “We have a couple of injuries and another couple of boys unavailable. We know it will be hard but we’re all looking forward to being back in the Premiership again.”

The match of the day in the Mowi National Division is the clash between promotion hopefuls Beauly and Kilmallie. Beauly miss the suspended Ryan MacKay.

Elsewhere, Oban Celtic play Inveraray at Mossfield whilst Col Glen face Fort William at the Dunoon Stadium. Newly-promoted Bute host Glasgow Mid Argyll.

The addition of Dunadd and Kinlochshiel means the Women’s Camanachd Association Mowi National Division will be a 10-team league this season. Boss Scott Campbell and his assistant Iain Robinson have decided to stay on at champions Badenoch who open their title defence against Glenurquhart on Sunday.