Camanachd Leòdhais overcame a determined Uist Camanachd 2-0 to raise the Mòd Cup for the first time on Saturday at Sgoil Lionacleit, Benbecula.
A goal in either half from Will Church was the difference between the two sides that were watched by a good sized crowd, some of whom migrated from the Piping Competitions taking place simultaneously in the school.
Lewis started strongly with Stuart Campbell winning the ball from the centre against his younger Uibhisteach namesake Ewen. Uist had not had time to settle when after two minutes Church had the ball in the back of the net. A scrappy goal but one the Leòdhasaich celebrated with vigour.
Uist took a little time to find their feet hitting against the wind, but with Calum “Trumisgarry” MacDonald and Niall John Campbell making excellent clearances from the back, more often than not they were able to put the Lewis backline under pressure although Conor MacDonald was not seriously challenged between the posts.
With around 20 minutes gone, referee Henry Macinnes gave a penalty against Uist, Donald Lamont’s shot was saved by Ruairidh “Blot” MacDonald, which meant that Lamont had spoiled his career perfect record from the spot. Worse was to come for Lamont when Macinnes adjudged that he had swung out at Uist captain Steven Morrison a few minutes late. Instead of being sent off, Lamont was asked to leave the pitch to be replaced by Sean MacLeod.
Scott Murray was making good progress down the wing, in a more liberated position but Lewis were being particularly wasteful in front of goals with Calum Stamper and Ally MacKenzie not putting MacDonald under any kind of pressure.
Intelligent balls into the Lewis area from Eoghainn MacIssac and Ewen Campbell were causing problems and only some scrappy defending kept Graham Black and Angus MacDonald off the score sheet.
Lewis could be relieved to reach halftime with their lead intact but also annoyed that they hadn’t extended it. Uist sensed that they could have Lewis rocking if they could snatch an equaliser.
Angus MacInnes took the field for Uist and his experience gave the Southern islanders some more structure up front and his game intelligence almost caught the Leòdhasaich off guard and only some fine defending from Paul Duke saved the day.
On around the hour mark, Uist had their best chance of the day, a deft touch in the box from MacDonald slipped agonisingly inches past Conor MacDonald’s left post. This was a pivotal moment of the game as a few minutes later Church drifted past a couple of defenders to pop the ball home and make Lewis’ lead more secure.
Uist then hammered the Lewis goals with countless corners, with MacIsaac’s tricky delivery in particular meaning the Lewis defenders had to be sharp and first to the ball but with Uist forwards on their back, the only option was to put it over the bye-line yet again.
Lewis weathered the storm as the sun began to come out and Church almost snatched his hat trick with minutes left. Stuart Campbell blazed the ball only inches over but the score remained the same and although Uist battled bravely until the end, Lewis were able to snuff out any threat as time ran out.
The trophies and medals were presented by Mary MacInnes, whose father Lachlan MacQuien was the last surviving member of the 1907 Tigharry team which won the North Uist Shinty Challenge Cup. The players also received a miniature of Abhainn Dearg whisky.
Both sides had stand-out performers all over the park, MacIsaac and Campbell were a constant threat in midfield for Uist whilst Paul Duke and Innes Lamont were solid at the back for the Leòdhasachs and the goal hero Mr Church was definitely in the running for the prize but it was Stuart Campbell who was named MG ALBA player of the match and Lewis were happy to take the Mòd Cup over Caolas na Hearadh.
The big winner was shinty in the Western Isles and the level of play was a sure sign of how far the sport has come in the last few years. It was a fitting beginning to the Royal National Mòd that an important part of Gaelic culture that has regained its place in the Hebrides was showcased in Uist.