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Will Clark - Shinty proved to be the real winner in final showcase

By Will Clark

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GROWING up in Aberdeenshire, I do not claim to be a shinty expert as the game is nowhere to be found there. I don’t think.

Kingussie captain Savio Genini lifts the trophy. The cottages.com MacTavish Cup Final - Caberfeidh v Kingussie, played at The Bught, Inverness.
Kingussie captain Savio Genini lifts the trophy. The cottages.com MacTavish Cup Final - Caberfeidh v Kingussie, played at The Bught, Inverness.

Apart from writing about Caithness Shinty Club for a couple of years at the John O’Groat Journal, it wasn’t until I joined the Inverness Courier four years ago that I started really writing about the sport.

Not to be offensive to anyone, but before I started covering the game, if you asked me to describe shinty, I would have said it is teuchters hitting each other with sticks.

But I have become a convert, and it is now one of my favourite sports to cover for our series of newspapers.

On Saturday, I went to Bught Park in Inverness to cover the MacTavish Cup finals day.

I covered three matches including the primary school final and under-17 final before the big one itself between Caberfeidh and Kingussie in the main final.

I did not have an official figure, but I reckon there must have been an attendance of around or even over 1000 fans at the stadium on Saturday.

I was blown away by the atmosphere of the occasion but also the organisation of the event.

There was something for everyone to enjoy at the final, beer was flowing, in some occasions being spilt, and plenty of food was available too which kept me fed as I powered through reporting each of the matches.

It was a fantastic showcase for the sport, in a competition which is maybe overshadowed by the Camanachd Cup.

The travelling support for both teams in the senior final was tremendous, particularly from Strathpeffer, who ultimately went home disappointed as Kingussie powered to a 5–2 win.

But the real winner on the day had to be shinty itself and anyone who was there that may have only travelled to watch the final would have been inspired to watch more.

Due to our small team on our sportdesk, we try to give each sport as much coverage as we can, although admittedly during the football season, our Saturdays are taken up following Caley Thistle and Ross County.

But this summer, I have taken time to visit shinty grounds, including Blairbeg Park at Glenurquhart as well as Balgate at Lovat, where both grounds had over 200 fans watching matches.

It has been an eye-opener to watch shinty matches this summer how good crowds are, perhaps on a par with Highland League clubs, although free admission might help their cause too.

But is shinty a sport which deserves more media coverage than it gets just now?

Credit where credit is due to BBC Alba, they did a superb job broadcasting the final on Saturday and also put instant replays of goals on its Twitter site as the game progressed.

They also broadcast the finals of other cup competitions as well as semi finals of the Camanachd Cup.

I’ve also noticed goals from league matches are now being shown on STV news packages as well as highlights and interviews on the Camanachd Association social media channels who have really upped their game this year.

On the national scene, shinty is a minority sport, but in the Highlands and west of Scotland it has a big part to play in communities.

The game is growing at youth level in Inverness too, which is huge credit to everyone involved in promoting this great sport.

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