LOCAL shinty interest is focused on the derby between Marine Harvest National Division outfits Beauly and Strathglass tomorrow.
This is Beauly’s home fixture and the throw-up takes place at Braeview Park at the unusually early time of noon to allow spectators to make the short hop over the hill to Drumnadrochit where the Balliemore Cup final between Caberfeidh and Fort William is due to start at 2.30pm.
For Beauly manager Allan Macrae, whose side narrowly missed out on a Balliemore Cup final berth after a 4-3 loss to Caberfeidh back in June, the focus remains firmly on the rebuilding task which he set himself when he took over the reins in October 2016.
“It is always important for us to focus on the positive,” he said. “We have had an uneven season, but that is not unexpected given that over the last two years for whatever reasons we have lost some quality players to other sides.
“Our focus is on moving up if we can to the Premier league and I see very game as a step forward to that eventual goal. Last week’s 4-3 victory over Oban Celtic was a case in point.
“We showed great character in coming back from a two-goal deficit to win out over a good side – and we certainly hope to keep that going against Strathglass, although we know it will be no easy task.”
Beauly’s recent revival has a lot to do with the return to the fold of free-scoring forward Marc Maclachlan, but equally important has been the return from long-term injury of two excellent players in the shape of the experienced Barrie Macdonald and Sean Stewart, who add a quality to Macrae’s pool that was lacking at the start of the season.
Macrae, however, does well not to underestimate neighbours
David Balharry’s Strathglass – despite the fact that they presently lie in second bottom spot in the National League – have made great strides this year after stepping back up to the Nation Division.
Although their youngsters found it hard to cope with the physicality of the competition in the early weeks of the season, last week’s close Camanachd Cup encounter with Skye showed that the team is beginning to mature at the higher division.
In Josh Fraser and Scott Douglas, the Cannich side have two players who have clear Premier League potential and the Beauly defenders will have to be vigilant at all times.
While Beauly will definitely benefit from home advantage and should have just enough experience to see them through, this clash – the first between the teams this season – certainly looks much tighter to call than it would have done a few months ago.
Over at Drumnadrochit’s Blairbeg Park, Caberfeidh face Fort William in the final of the Balliemore Cup with Strathpeffer-based Caberfeidh, beaten finalists last year, being slight favourites to win the trophy if only on the grounds that they carry the bigger goal threat up front in the person of Scotland international striker Kevin Bartlett.
The striker, who was his country’s top point taker in last year’s international contest with Ireland’s hurlers, is unsurprisingly his side’s top scorer this year, with 25 strikes though fellow forward Craig Morrison is also no slouch in front of goal.
The fact that this prestigious final is being held at Drumnadrochit is a coup for the Glenurquhart club and testament to all the hard work the Glen committee have undertaken to make their both their playing surface and off-field facilities among the best in the country.
The other local fixture this weekend is at Farr where home side Boleskine welcome Lovat for a North Division Two encounter. Boleskine will certainly be looking for a home victory to move them up the table, but they will find the young Lovat side, revitalised after recent wins over Lewis and Lochaber, a tough nut to crack.
Finally, Scotland’s women’s side play their annual international shintycamogie fixture against Dublin County Ladies at Na Fianna, Dublin, tomorrow.
Scotland are managed for the last time by former Glenurquhart player Stuart Reid, who is stepping down after the match as he moves to take up a new position with the GAA in Cork.
Further local interest will be in the performance of Lovat Ladies star Laura Gallagher, who is the sole Inverness area player in the Scotland side.