Camanachd Leòdhais go into season 2013 with optimism but also with awareness that this third league season will present new and more dangerous challenges.
Certainly, one cause for optimism is the reintroduction of Saturday morning youth training at Stornoway Primary from 10 until 12 noon under the tutelage of Boyd MacKenzie and John Nally. Youth shinty has been restricted to schools in recent years so this new training will lead to more youngsters being able to access the sport. Last Saturday a dozen youngsters were in attendance and hopefully this Saturday will see even more. Send your child along! More details at camanachdleodhais.com.
Now follows a season preview of the opponents Lewis will face in Marine Harvest North Division Three.
Lochcarron (Blue/White); the Wester Ross side are undoubted favourites for the league after their second team folded and the club elected to enter their first team into the lowest tier. The club has lost a few players due to this but in retaining Crisdean Finlayson and his brother Calum, two players who impressed regularly in North One, the club should have enough in the tank to win the league with ease.
Boleskine (Amber and Black Hoops); the Inverness-shire side will have a chip on their shoulder with the descent of Lochcarron and will be doing their damndest to upset the applecart. A strong, robust side who have given Na Leòdhasaich a few beatings, players such as Doneil MacLeod, Lewis Smith and Craig Pirrie give a big Harris and Lewis connection to the team. Lewis open the season against them in Farr this Saturday.
Lochaber (White and Red Hoops); It may seem a surprise their first team having a massively successful season last year with a North One title, the Balliemore Cup and a MacTavish Cup Final appearance to boast of that their second team slipped out of North Two. However, the Spean Bridge side have always used their second side well in preparing skilful and strong players and have won this league before, famously with a last minute playoff goal against Donald Lamont’s Aberdeen University in 2010. Lewis face Lochaber for the first time on June 8th in Spean. An outside bet.
Kilmallie (all blue); The Caol Lochaber side may benefit from their first team’s relegation from the Premiership. A title challenging First Divison side always energises the second string and Kilmallie can certainly call on experienced players who can make the difference, but consistency is the key. Another outside bet for the league. Nick Lavin remains a class act in midfield.
Lochbroom (Blue/Red & Black); The Ullapool side will be trying to push on from last year’s strong showing, ex-Kinlochshiel starlet Neil ‘Darkie’ Fraser will be important in terms of goals. Sneaked an extra time win against Lewis in the Minch Cup but had a confidence boosting 2-2 draw with 2012 champions Beauly last Saturday.
Caberfeidh (Skye Blue, White); The Strathpeffer side will as always be a mix of promising youth and old stagers bringing the youth through. Cabers are famed as a physical side but can produce some silky play. Will be happy with ensuring a conveyor belt of talent to the first team and sticking it to Boleskine and Lochcarron.
Strathspey (Purple, Black); after an epic 6-6 draw at home with Lewis, last year’s new comers built up a good head of steam with fitness and the element of surprise and finished above four points above Lewis thanks to a crucial maiden win at Shawbost. Will be hoping to maintain momentum
Strathglass (Maroon, Sky Blue); Glass failed to make the trip to Lewis last year but the Cannich side are a club on the up with the return of Callum Duff, a man with strong Niseach connections, as shinty supremo at the club. Likely to improve on last year’s performance. Lewis face them on 9th March.
Inverness (Red); The Town have had the appearance of a club in crisis as the first team manager resigned and then reserve team manager Allan MacLeod was appointed in his place. Things have settled recently and can perform on their day. Finished bottom last year and will aim to avoid that ignominy this season.
Where will Lewis finish up? Our island’s team will hope to make progress on last year’s third bottom spot and start to turn losses into draws and draws into wins. More regular goalscoring and a slightly tighter backline will make all the difference and hopefully the club can have a successful home season when shinty returns to the Hebrides on May 11.