A SECOND half Sean Stewart double ended a 56-year trophy drought for Beauly’s reserve side as they came from behind to beat Fort William 3-1 in the Strathdearn Cup final at Invergarry.
In a match played under wet and windy conditions, Beauly survived Fort William’s first half pressure to pull away after the interval for a deserved victory.
Stewart’s contribution typified the character that runs through the team with the 26-year-old plumber managing to battle back from a broken ankle — his third career threatening injury in the last five years.
Beauly also had a notable contribution from their four under-17 players — Colin MacDonald, Calum Morrison, Ryan Symonds and Ryan MacKay — were all exceptional and bodes well for the future.
Both teams struggled to overcome both the overhead and underfoot conditions with the long grass hampering flowing shinty, while the stormy weather made life difficult with the ball holding up in the strong wind.
Beauly played with the wind behind them in the first half, but it was the Fort who probably edged possession and in the 19th minute Scott Knox took advantage of hesitant defending to drive home the opener.
Beauly’s Kyle MacDonald was the busier of the two goalkeepers, but goalmouth incidents were few and far between in the opening 45 minutes.
The Fort held their lead with relative ease up to the break and with the strong wind on their backs in the second half, the Beauly camp were fearing the worst.
However, they came roaring back and two minutes into the second half Conor Ross broke forward from the midfield to grab the equaliser from close range.
Beauly continued to enjoy the bulk of the pressure and just after the hour mark a Scott MacLean pass found Stewart in space and he survived a couple of tackles before tucking the ball in at the near post.
Beauly then increased their lead in the 75th minute when a blistering shot from Stewart proved too hot for the Fort goalkeeper with the ball ricocheting off his stick into the roof of the net.
Fort William staged an all-out attack in the final 10 minutes, but Beauly stood firm to see the match out.
In the Orion Premiership, Newtonmore and Kyles remain level pegging at the top after Saturday’s matches with the Badenoch side leading the table only on goal difference.
Newtonmore ground out a 2-0 win over a dogged Bute side in Rothesay and now they need just two points from their remaining two games to retain the title for the third season in a row.
Bute, who are already relegated, put up a tremendous fight and Newtonmore only sealed the points in the 80th minute from a Callum Stewart strike.
Earlier, Ackie MacRae had put Newtonmore in front in the 25th minute, but the champions-elect had to endure some awkward moments as the islanders chased their first win of the 2012 league campaign.
Kyles had to come from behind to take the points against Kinlochshiel before eventually running out convincing 3-1 winners.
Keith MacRae gave the visitors an excellent start with a goal in the 15th minute, but Roddy MacDonald levelled on the half hour mark. A second half double from John Whyte secured the points.
Kyles have one game remaining, but with the Camanachd Cup final just two weeks away, they have a free day on Saturday by which time Newtonmore could have clinched the title if they take maximum points from their match against Glenurquhart at the Eilan.
Kyles’ Camanachd Cup final opponents Inveraray fell to a 1-0 defeat by Glenurquhart with the Glen’s winning strike coming from the spot with goalkeeper Stuart Mackintosh converting in the 24th minute.
This was MacKintosh’s second successful conversion of the season since the Glen’s management team handed him the first-team penalty duties following a series of misses by outfield players including a semi-final shootout loss against Newtonmore in the MacTavish Cup.
MacKintosh, who captains the side, followed up his penalty strike with a terrific penalty save from Gary MacPherson to ensure that both points would travel North.
In a bizarre twist referee Robert Baxter had awarded a penalty to Inveraray after judging that Glen full back John Barr had impeded Inveraray striker Russell MacKinlay’s attempt to return to the field of play.
Lovat grabbed a precious point following a 2-2 draw with Kingussie at the Dell. Goals from Rory MacGregor and Savio Genini saw the Kings go two in front before Owen Ferguson reduced the leeway in the lead up to half-time.
A superb Calum MacAulay strike in the 57th minute secured a valuable point for the Kiltarlity side and keeps their bid for a third place finish — their highest ever — on track.