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Caley Thistle Women's captain makes history in men's team at shinty club

By Andrew Henderson

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An Inverness Caledonian Thistle footballer is believed to have made shinty history.

Kirsty Deans (left) in action for Kingussie. Kingussie v Fort William in the MOWI North Div One game played at The Dell, Kingussie.
Kirsty Deans (left) in action for Kingussie. Kingussie v Fort William in the MOWI North Div One game played at The Dell, Kingussie.

Kirsty Deans, captain of ICT’s senior side in the Championship North, has long turned out for Badenoch Ladies – but this season has pulled on a different jersey at times.

Deans got the call to play for Kingussie in the North Division One when they were short of players, and last weekend became the first woman to score for one of Kingussie’s “men’s” team.

Camanachd Association leagues are all technically unisex, but it is extremely rare for women to feature outside of women’s competitions.

Zoe Smith had previously turned out and scored for Fort William, while Roma Fraser had played for Kingussie – but Deans is believed to be the first to find the net for the shinty giants.

Her appearance, though, was not without an element of controversy.

“I was a bit unsure how people felt – there were a few different opinions within the town itself,” Deans explained.

“Was it unfair that I could play in a Saturday league and then go and play in a Sunday league when some of the boys could only play in a Saturday league? Was I taking someone’s space that could be in that position?

“The counter argument is that they were short of numbers, that was the whole point.

“I was helping them fulfil a fixture rather than trying to take a jersey from someone else who was keen and available to play and training all the time.

“It was definitely a slightly sensitive subject, but overall I spoke to a lot of people within my club and Kingussie, and the town, to get opinions.

“There was a bit of a divide, but overall they’ve got the club’s best interests at the forefront. We’re a big shinty community, so the last thing anyone wants to do is not be able to fulfil a fixture.”

For Deans, it has been a challenge to get used to playing against men – but one she is happy to rise to.

"I really enjoyed it," she said.

"It's certainly a different pace to play at. The women's game has come on massively, I've really noticed that in the time I've been playing.

"Lots of the game are really physical, competitive games, so I'm probably better prepared now than I ever was a few years ago, but it is still that level up in terms of the physicality and speed of it.

"It just takes a bit of getting used to. It will probably take me a few games to do anything useful – hopefully it won't take much longer – but it is the next progression for me to develop as a player.

"It will only help going back into the women's game and playing there, and see if we can bring on the level of players we're playing in that. I think it will work both ways."

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