Nicolson Senior Girls are still Queens of the North

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Mother Nature did her very best to knock them off their stride but once again the unstoppable, insurmountable, incomparable Nicolson Institute Senior Girls football team are North of Scotland Cup holders.

For the sixth year in a row and the 12th time in 17 years, the famous trophy, competed for by schools with far higher school rolls and from towns and cities with far bigger populations than our own is this week residing in the Springfield Road trophy cabinet.

Despite our super talented girls having no competitive girls league of their own to play in, they remain the undisputed Queens of the North as they maintained their vice-like grip on the top honours in the North of Scotland.

The girls bossed a young Dingwall Academy side in the final, toying with them at times, like a predatory cat with a hopeful mouse but they were never in danger of losing this match.

Even an absolutely horrendous journey to the final failed to knock them off their stride. The early morning crossing over the Minch proved to be one of the worst I’ve ever experienced as the new MV Loch Seaforth was tossed around the sea like a piece of tin foil in a gale.

Rolling from side to side, crashing into the waves which sent trays, trolleys and anything which wasn’t chained down flying across the vessel.

If the difficult near four-hour crossing affected the girls they didn’t let it show. From the start they took one glance at the trophy and began to steadily plough their way towards another moment of glory.

All across the park there were stand-out displays with the departing Fantastic Four; Mairi Maclennan, Kirsty Macdonald, Leanne Macdonald and skipper Christine Mackinnon, especially keen to sign off in style.

The star senior quartet have been the corner stone of the senior girls team now for three years with each racking up so many winners medals between North of Scotland Cups and the Schools Scottish Cups that they put King Midas to shame.

Losing the experience and ability of those four who are all leaving school this summer will leave a void in the squad which the team manager will hope the blossoming youngsters can step up and fill.

All involved played their part in the victory but another stand-out performer was the tireless Mary Macleod in centre midfield. The teenager had only spent a few hours and one single night at home after a weekend away with Stornoway Running and Athletics Club but she showed boundless energy, more gears than an entire season of Top Gear and an insatiable thirst for goal.

Leanne Macdonald (2), Mary Macleod, Sian Mackay and Christine Mackinnon (2) all netted on a day in which the Nicolson barely had to break out of second gear.

Kirsty Macdonald, less than a week after being named star player for her performance in midfield in the Schools Scottish Cup semi-final, was in between the sticks, admittedly reluctantly due to team’s lack of a natural keeper.

It speaks volumes about the all-rounder Kirsty’s ability that she is equally at home with the ball in her hands or at her feet and while she would be the first to admit she would rather be scoring goals than keeping them out, she provided a formidable last line of defence.

Her versatility will stand her in good stead as she prepares to move across the Atlantic for an American college soccer scholarship but on this kind of form she has no concerns.

She had a hand, or a right boot, in her side’s first chance as a huge kick out up field bounced in the midfield and unleashed Leanne and Mary on goal. Both had efforts well saved by the keeper but it was an ominous warning of things to come for Dingwall.

It took just seven minutes for the Nicolson to take the lead and puncture the Dingwall hopes as Leanne showed feet which were moving so fast they made the defenders dizzy.

Dancing between three flailing attempts to steal the ball she slalomed clear on goal like a skier weaving between trees before prodding the ball into the bottom corner.

Mary rifled in the second just two minutes later with a well struck shot form 18-yards which nestled inside the post and bulged the side netting.

Time and time again Mary was stamping on the accelerator and motoring through the Dingwall pack. They had no answer to her powerful pace and strength and they had to watch her punch holes in their defence repeatedly.

It was all one-way traffic as the Dingwall bench watched the game through cracks in their fingers. Mairi Maclennan cracked a shot from distance off the underside of the crossbar and the woodwork might still be wobbling now.

The ball rebounded into the six yard box where team mate Sian Mackay had gambled and followed the ball in where she was rewarded with a simple tap-in

Leanne scored the fourth goal after superb link-up play with Maclennan. The two sixth year pupils combined with Maclennan bursting up the right flank and spearing the Dingwall back line with a through ball which dissected both centre-backs and sent Leanne clean through.

There was only ever going to be one outcome as Leanne hit the ball first time and it sailed into the net, shaving a coat of paint off the inside of the upright on it’s way.

Nicolson coach Jack Bain reshuffled his deck as the game wore on to ensure invaluable game time was given to all his travelling squad. The rolling sub system in place at this level allowed him to send his fringe players on as they stake a claim to be handed starting jerseys next year when the departing quartet move on.

As part of the reshuffle, skipper and star defender Christine Mackinnon was moved from her regular berth at the heart of the rearguard and into an unfamiliar central midfield role.

The move paid dividends as Christine used her strong running and natural strength to dominate from the centre of the field and she grabbed a pair of second-half goals in the process.

Both her goals came with well timed bursts into the Dingwall box where she showcased no fear of letting fly within range.

The big story of the second-half was once again Mother Nature who tortured both teams, spectators and the travelling reporter with her latest mood swing.

This time a 20-minute onslaught of hail stones was sent to test the girls with those on the sidelines barely able to lift their gaze from the ever-whitening turf for fear of losing an eye.

The hailstones hurled down at a ferocious pace and in huge numbers, quickly rendering the turf slippery with the teams losing the flight of the white ball at times as skipper Mackinnon admitted she felt like ‘Bambi on ice’ at times.

The final whistle signalled another glorious afternoon’s work for the Senior Girls who have had the North of Scotland Cup in Stornoway so often they must now consider the trophy a permanent resident of the school.