Inverness Shinty Club put faith in the future for new league campaign
INVERNESS are looking to give future prospects a chance in a bid to help them climb back up towards the top divisions of shinty.
Last year, the club requested to be demoted from the National Division, the second level of shinty, over fears the young age of their squad would not be competitive.
Inverness were deducted eight points at the start of the North Division One campaign but avoided relegation, finishing ninth out of 11th after winning eight and drawing four of their 20 matches.
Inverness would have finished sixth if they were not deducted eight points.
Their good showing last season has inspired coach Drew MacNeil to field a younger team than in 2019 due to the talent available.
“Our league position last season wasn’t a true reflection due to our points deduction,” he said.
“We had a good record for being a young team and this year we have gone for an even younger team by promoting players from the youth set-up. We are expecting to be competing at the top end of the league.”
He added “Last season, I underestimated how important winning is for a feel-good factor.
“To be consistently winning and competing in matches puts a buzz around the team.”
The club runs the Inverness Shinty Academy which is thought to be the best youth set-up in Scotland.
Coaches currently work with 400 pupils at primary schools in Inverness.
MacNeil says the sport in Inverness could grow further in the next 12 months in the hope that the senior team benefits in the future.
“We are only three years into our plan,” he said.
“But we are already teaching 400 kids at primary schools in Inverness.
“We are aiming to train 500 kids next year as the schools can’t get enough of us.
“It will take us five years to get exactly where we want to be.
“But already having two under-14 teams playing for the club is an indicator that we are retaining the kids that are coming through.”
Inverness face Division One North champions Newtonmore Reserves in a pre-season friendly at Bught Park at 11.15am tomorrow.
MacNeil believes Inverness can challenge them for the title they’ve won four years running.
He said: “Newtonmore’s senior team need to freshen up their squad and the only way they can do that is by taking in their younger players.”