DATES for this year’s shinty-hurling internationals have been announced by the Camanachd Association, but it seems certain that the Scots will not be led by Drew MacNeil.
MacNeil has confirmed that he does not intend re-applying for the manager’s job — a position he has held for the past four years.
The former Glenurquhart manager was on a two-year agreement that ended in November at which point he appeared to be contemplating putting his hat in the ring for another two years.
But with Monday’s deadline for applications closing fast, MacNeil has confirmed that his name will not be among the applicants. "I have had nine years in the international set up and I think it is time to step aside to allow some fresh thinking and ideas to take place," he said.
"It is such a privilege to be involved and I have enjoyed every minute of my time working with the top players in the sport.
"I would love to continue, but I strongly feel that it is time to pass the baton on to someone else.
MacNeil’s first involvement with the national squad was with former Fort William team-mate Ally Ferguson and then two years as Fraser MacKenzie’s deputy before taking the reins himself in 2009.
MacNeil and MacKenzie are credited with modernising the international cross codes meetings with the Irish, both seeing the event as a way of allowing aspiring shinty players to play at the highest possible level.
Speculation has already began regarding MacNeil’s successor with George Hay, the Scottish under-21 coach, thought to be among the favourites.
Inverness will play host to the home shinty-hurling international after the Camanachd Association announced their key dates for the new season this week.
The first leg has been scheduled for Bught Park on Saturday 18th October with the return match a week later in Ireland, although the venue for that match has yet to be determined.
The Highland capital will also provide the setting for the prestigious Scottish Hydro Camanachd Cup final on Saturday 13th September.
Other key dates for the new season were as follows:
Saturday 14th June — MacTavish Cup Final (Bught Park, Inverness); Saturday 28th June — AJG Parcels Celtic Cup final (Old Anniesland, Glasgow); Saturday 12th July — Balliemore Cup Final (venue to be confirmed); Saturday 19th July — Aberdein Considine Sutherland Cup final (venue tbc); Saturday 23rd August — Artemis Macaulay Cup final (Mossfield Park, Oban); Bullough Cup final (venue tbc); Saturday 30th August — Strathdearn Cup final (venue tbc); Saturday 6th September — The Women’s Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup and Marine Harvest Challenge Cup finals 6th September (venue tbc).
Meanwhile, it has emerged that team-raising difficulties have forced Strathglass to withdraw their reserve team from North Division Three for the 2014 season.
They will, however, compete in the Strathdearn and Sutherland Cups — the sports’ junior knockout competitions.
There has been speculation that Kincraig, who dropped out of shinty a few years ago, were going to re-enter a team for 2014, but it is understood that this will not happen this year, although plans are continuing for a renaissance in the near future.
In the south, Ballachulish and Glenorchy have entered reserve teams in South Division Two.