Will Clark – Banks O’Dee winning the Aberdeenshire Cup shows it is right decision to open up the Highland League
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THERE are a lot of people who think there should not be the chance of relegation from the Highland League and the door should not have been opened to the divisions now classed as tier six.
Well, the winners of the Aberdeenshire Cup proved they are wrong.
Banks O’Dee became the first junior team to win the competition in its history as they romped to a 4–1 win over Formartine United in the final.
The North Junior Super League heavyweights route to the final was arguably as hard as it got.
After a 6–1win over Keith in the first round, they went on to defeat the top two teams in the Highland League.
A 2–0 win over Inverurie Locos in the quarter finals and then going to runaway Highland League leaders Fraserburgh and recording a 2–1 victory. No team in the Highland League has managed to defeat Fraserburgh so far.
So for all the arguments about tradition and the fear of losing teams from the Highland League who have played in it for decades, there is an argument for progress as well.
And Banks O’Dee winning the Aberdeenshire Cup and beating the heavyweights of the Highland League justifies the decision to allow the North Junior Super League, North Caledonian League and Midlands League clubs the chance to play at a higher level.
Banks O’Dee were denied a place in the Highland League in 2009 when three places were available to expand the league from 15 to 18.
Out of the four teams that applied to join the league, they received the least number of votes and missed out at the expense of Formartine United, Strathspey Thistle and Turriff United.
This was despite them being the strongest out of the four teams at junior level at that time, having won the league for the second successive season.
Despite having the best facilities of the four at Spain Park, there was the feeling the only reason they didn’t get in was because of geography.
There were claims clubs in the Highland League didn’t want a second team from Aberdeen in the division, with Cove Rangers, now playing in League One, in the SHFL at the time.
When Cove Rangers were promoted from the Highland League in 2019, there was talks of Banks O’Dee being invited to join, but they informed them weren’t interested at that time.
But being part of the pyramid system and Banks O’Dee meeting the eligibility requirements to join the Highland League, you would have to consider them to be heavy favourites to be part of the SHFL next season.
They still have to win the North Junior Super League first. But currently undefeated with seven wins out of seven, knocking Turriff United out of the Scottish Cup first round and will be desperate to prove their SHFL credentials when they take on Nairn County in the second round, they deserve the chance to make the step up.
There will be some clubs who will be looking over their shoulders nervously and if they finish bottom and end up in a play-off with Banks O’Dee, they will be heavy underdogs.
The Highland League is part of the pyramid system. Teams in the division want to be promoted to League Two, the same opportunity should apply to teams wanting to the SHFL. Those crying about relegation being introduced? Grow up.