Thanks again to Hugh Dan for sending this in.
Kyles triumph in Classic Scottish Hydro Camanachd Cup Final
Inveraray….5 Kyles Athletic….6
(match report courtesy Keith Mackenzie (trying to hide the fact he’s a Kyles man) and the West Highland Free Press)
A travelling fairground had pitched up outside Oban’s Mossfield Park, but the rollercoaster was to be found in the adjacent field where Kyles Athletic edged an epic Camanachd Cup final with a 6-5 victory against Argyllshire rivals Inveraray.
Roddy MacDonald struck four goals in a man-of-the-match winning display as Kyles recovered from 4-2, and then 5-3 down to complete a memorable comeback in front of some 3,000 spectators. It’s the 21st time the famous old trophy will be adorned with blue, white and red ribbons [that’s enough Keith – ED], although Saturday’s triumph ended the Tighnabruaich side’s 18 year wait to lift the sport’s most sought-after prize. And as with last year’s final, when Newtonmore shattered a 25 year hoodoo, the manner of victory could hardly have been more dramatic.
You would have to go back to 1980, when Kyles were victors against Newtonmore — to find a final decided by a similarly high-scoring margin. The pace of Saturday’s first all South final since 1983 was simply relentless, as the two sides lived up to their pre-match billing as teams committed to open and attacking shinty.
Kyles had the first sight of goal when wing centre Robbie MacLeod fired wide after exchanging passes with David Zavaroni. But it was Inveraray who settled quicker, forcing two corners in quick succession before making the breakthrough in the seventh minute. A slip from Kyles defender Rupert Williamson after a Stuart Robertson hit-in allowed Chris Crawford to scamper clear on the right and from his cut back Russell MacKinlay was alert to stab home on the volley.
It was a clear signal of Inveraray’s attacking intent, but Kyles responded and Roddy MacDonald flicked inches wide after a raking Duncan Kerr pass. The same pair would combine to better effect in the 12th minute, as Kyles levelled from a goal Inveraray’s veteran keeper Graham MacPherson will want to forget. His fresh air swipe after another looping effort from Kerr presented MacDonald with the chance and from five yards he stretched his long limbs to turn the ball home.
If he struggled with the opener there was little MacPherson could do seven minutes later as Kyles took the lead following a devastating breakaway move. John Whyte flicked on Donald Irvine’s thumping clearance and MacDonald did the rest, riding two challenges before sliding in another composed finish.
That calmness wasn’t being replicated in the Kyles defence and Inveraray would take full advantage as they struck three goals in nine minutes. Inveraray’s mobile forwards Crawford, Garry MacPherson and MacKinlay were clearly in the mood and a ponderous Kyles rearguard was breached in the 20th minute. MacPherson took advantage of the space afforded to him to bullet home from 20 yards. Two minutes later the lively Crawford nipped in after a David MacPherson hit-in to fire Inveraray ahead
And the goal-glut continued in the 29th minute when MacKinlay outmanoeuvred Calum Millar with two deft touches to push the Royal Burgh side further in front.
With the wind at their backs Inveraray poured forward in search of more goals, but Kyles keeper Kenny MacDonald, 50 years young, swatted away a MacKinlay volley to deny the striker his hat-trick. Just before half time the veteran custodian made another vital save, this time to get his stick behind a rasper from Euan McMurdo. Not to be outdone Graham MacPherson, at 40 a relative youngster when compared to his opposite number, denied Thomas Whyte a third for Kyles just before half time.
Odd as it sounds after hitting four first half goals but Inveraray might have felt a slight tinge of regret at failing to score more by the interval. They could, and perhaps should, have been further in front and given the open nature of the game a two goal deficit never looked insurmountable.
So it proved as Kyles, turning with the wind at their backs, gained a foothold in the match when MacPherson unceremoniously up ended Kerr inside the area. The resultant penalty from MacLeod wasn’t the cleanest, but a wicked kick off the surface was enough to carry the ball beyond the Inveraray keeper. Kyles looked to have the bit between their teeth but Inveraray regrouped, and another piece of brilliance from the outstanding Garry MacPherson restored the two-goal lead after 54 minutes. Crawford’s clever reserve pass sent MacPherson clear and from the right wing he swept a searing drive into the far corner of MacDonald’s net.
Kyles needed a quick response, and once more they got it when Fraser MacDonald, the oldest outfield player at 42, blasted home a beauty from wide on the left.
The goal was to signal a Kyles onslaught which would last until virtually the closing moments of the match. Within five minutes the teams were level, as the increasingly influential Fraser MacDonald teed up namesake Roddy to lash into the roof of the net to complete his hat-trick.
Incredibly, there was still close to half an hour to play but the tide had swung the way of Kyles, and their vocal travelling support sensed it as the decibel levels on Mossfield’s hill grew ever louder.
In a bid to stem the flow of pressure Inveraray replaced wing centres Stuart Robertson and David MacPherson with Andrew McMurdo and Ruairidh Graham. But Graham would last barely two minutes before pulling a muscle, and MacPherson would return for the closing 20 minutes. In the meantime Kyles brought on Ewan Campbell for John Whyte in their search for a winner.
The outcome would be settled 12 minutes from time and it was no surprise to see Roddy MacDonald, who had driven on his team’s attack superbly, grab the all-important goal. His near post finish was typically unerring, and with that the Kyles supporters were sent into raptures.
The blue and white hordes were nearly silenced as in a final twist Crawford saw his deflected shot cannon back off the post before being hacked to safety.
The fulfilment of a boyhood dream was how man-of-the-match Mac Donald would sum it up after the final whistle, as he collected his first winner’s medal alongside his goal keeping father, who was claiming his third. They are now the first father and son to have won the Albert Smith medal — another footnote in a historic day for the entire Kyles Athletic club.
For Inveraray, there was only crushing disappointment. What could be a last hurrah for a fine generation of players ended in cruel defeat. But the fact a game as compelling and as competitive as this one produced only one yellow card tells it own story. Both sets of players can take huge pride from their contribution to a 90 minutes which showcased everything good about the sport.