Lewis and Harris Football league preview

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The wait is almost over.

One week from tomorrow, just eight days, and the 2016 Lewis and Harris football season will once again be upon us.

In Brazil they herald in the new league season with banners proclaiming the land of samba, carnival and football. What we may be lacking in samba here on the isles we make up for with players who brave the elements and all kinds of weather – often in the same match.

Hailstones in the first-half with a gale in the second before a sunny spell in stoppage time.

But we all can’t wait. For many it is the sporting highlight of the year, a collective human experience which binds families, communities and districts together.

Part gripping sport soap opera acted out over five months, with eight different sporting starring clubs on seven different pitches.

Over a 20 week period, when club heroes will be forged in the fiery heat of footballing battle, ancient blood feuds are reignited, all draped around a series of 90-minute thrillers peppered with the occasional sprinkling of magic dust.

Island football can become all consuming over the summer months in what can be described as a Hebridean sporting eclipse.

The prospect of the Maroon machine, fuelled yet by long established greats Andy Murray and player manager David Macmillan, welcoming back into the fold another veteran star in John ‘Uig’ Morrison following several years out injured is a tantalising one.

Champs in 2015 Lochs will take some stopping but eyeing a return to glory are West Side, themselves champs in the not-so-distant past.

Beyond the top two favourites to be slugging it out for the top prize lie a menacing slate of opponents. Carloway and Point will again pose a threat to anyone while Ness have a new boss at the helm as they bid to make the step from promising youngsters to genuine contenders.

Elsewhere Stornoway United finished the season on a rich vein of form and boss Grant Hunter will be keen to hit the ground running while Goathill rivals Athletic have a new player manager of their own in keeper Colin Macritchie.

Back are another club with a new man in the dug-out as James ‘Bomie’ Macarthur makes a return to the hot-seat with the Blues who had a difficult 2015 campaign but will surely be stronger this time around.

The anticipatory thrill amongst supporters of all clubs is palpable with each hoping for a Disney-scripted campaign rather than one which could curl Wes Craven’s blood.

Who will experience ecstasy or who will make history? The last five league seasons has seen the trophy reside in five different club sideboards. It hasn’t been defended since 2010 but Lochs, having been the last to do so, will be determined to repeat the trick this time out.

See this week’s Stornoway Gazette for a full 10-page, club by club guide to the new season. On sale Thursday, March 31, 2016.