Lucky number seven for Carloway cup heroes

Carloway won the Eilean an Fhraoich Cup for the first time in their history after beating Lochs 4-2 at the Creagan Dubh.
Carloway won the Eilean an Fhraoich Cup for the first time in their history after beating Lochs 4-2 at the Creagan Dubh.

It was said that there were there a number of cast-iron guarantee;s in island life.

Firstly that the sun will rise the east before setting in the west; the sea is blue; the midges unforgiving and finally that Carloway never win the Eilean an Fhraoich Cup.

Carloway won the Eilean an Fhraoich Cup for the first time in their history after beating Lochs 4-2 at the Creagan Dubh.

Carloway won the Eilean an Fhraoich Cup for the first time in their history after beating Lochs 4-2 at the Creagan Dubh.

On Friday the sun rose in the east above Lewis as normal before setting in the west above the blue seas. And the unforgiving midges sharpened their ferocious bite in a frenzied attack even more vicious than usual.

But while all those cast-iron guarantee’s continued something else happened as Carloway lifted the Eilean an Fhraoich Cup for the first time in their 83-year history.

After six Eilean an Fhraoich Cup final defeats over the years: 1955, 1956, 1957, 1999, 2012 and 2014 – fans of Na Gormaich would have been forgiven for fearing the oldest football trophy in Lewis and Harris would never find it’s way to the Carloway sideboard.

This time though the planets all lined up to help Carloway complete the grand slam of football trophies in Lewis and Harris football.

Carloway won the Eilean an Fhraoich Cup for the first time in their history after beating Lochs 4-2 at the Creagan Dubh.

Carloway won the Eilean an Fhraoich Cup for the first time in their history after beating Lochs 4-2 at the Creagan Dubh.

Goals from Angus Grant, an own goal, Eachainn Miller and Kenny ‘Dokus’ Macdonald saw the Way edge Lochs out on their own home patch on a night of apocalyptic weather conditions which followed the most ferocious half hour of torture distributed by midge’s which wouldn’t have been out of place in an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

“It was a great result and I’m delighted for the players and the club,” Carloway manager Graeme Miller told the Gazette.

“We knew it was massive for the fans but the reaction has been incredible and it has been a weekend we will never forget. Word of thanks to the Lochs Committee who put on a great occasion.”

The past four years have been the most successful in the history of the club as their golden generation, led determinedly by skipper Domhnall Mackay, have ended all of their infamous jinxes and hoodoos.

An unlucky run of 12 successive cup final defeats between 1980 and 2012 had gone by since Carloway won the Stornoway Cup in 1957 before a 55-year barren run.

In 2012 they won their first senior football trophy in half a century when Mackay held the Co-op Cup aloft. Their first ever Lewis Cup followed just a week later in the same year.

12-months on and the Acres Boys Club Cup and the Jock Stein Cup were won for the first time.

Carloway also won the Lewis and Harris league title for the first time in their history in that same glorious 2013 campaign but the Eilean an Fhraoich Cup remained ‘the one that got away.’

Six EAF Cup final appearances and six lonely walks into the changing rooms empty handed until this year.

August 12, 2016 will go down in club history as they day the Blues scratched that last island football itch and took the precious silverware home.

They didn’t have all on their own way though against a Lochs side who were determined to crash the Carloway party and in no mood to see another side party on their patch.

The first-half saw the Creagan Dubh besieged by an army of ferocious, feeding midges which made it incredibly difficult to stand still in one spot and watch the game. Throughout the half I was forced to patrol the touchline around the pitch with flailing arms and shrieks and from a distance I must have looked like I was on fire and trying to put the flames out.

On the park the action was also hotting up. Teen striker Angus Grant was back in the Carloway front line for the final as he turned out for the district of his parentage and it was he who opened the scoring.

Eachainn Miller, later named as man of the match, picked up the ball 30-yards out before driving purposefully into the box on the left hand side where he threw up a glance to see where Grant had found a pocket of space before drilling the ball across goal and into his team mate’s path who couldn’t miss from four yards out.

The goal came after a lively opening where Domhanll Mackay’s header had been booted off the line by Ali ‘Koch’ Morrison and Jim O’Donnell had shot a foot wide from the edge of the box at the other end.

Grant could have scored an identical second after Dan Crossley galloped down the right and picked out Grant again with time and space at the back post but this time Gordon Mackenzie threw himself low to his left to make a superb save from point blank range.

After the break Lochs began to make more positives charges towards the Carloway goal. Ross Allison led a counter-attacking burst with a speedy break down the left but his shot from the edge of the box lacked the power to trouble Jack Maclennan.

Lochs drew level just after the hour mark as Jim O’Donnell notched yet another goal in a phenomenal campaign. Carloway’s defence were all at sea as David Macmillan clipped the ball in from the right and Lochs had three maroon shirts swamping a lone Carloway stopper in Cameron Macarthur at the back post.

O’Donnell rose at the penalty spot to steer a header into the net to level the sides on the night.

Carloway regained the advantage inside a minute as Lochs shot themselves in the foot. Kenny ‘Dokus’ Macdonald sent a long free kick into the heart of the Lochs penalty area from the centre-circle. Stopper Graeme Mackenzie swung a boot out at the ball but with conditions becoming more difficult the ball skidded off his boot and bounced into the net for an own-goal.

Eachainn Miller made it 3-1 on 70-minutes with an exquisite finish from 35 yards plus. Lochs keeper Gordon Mackenzie raced off his line to make a clearance under pressure, slicing the ball as he slid on the wet turf and finding Miller way out in midfield.

The teenager needed no second invitation as he sized up the unguarded goal and strode onto the ball to steer it with his instep into the centre of the empty net.

Carloway were threatening to run away it and five minutes on it was 4-1 as ‘Dokus’ pounced on a missed clearance by Ali ‘Koch’ Morrison which saw the ball roll through the Lochs man and to Macdonald who shifted the ball to his left before hammering home from close range.

Lochs are famous for their refusal to accept defeat and despite trailing 4-1 and with time against them they again surged forward in search of a lifeline and player manager David Macmillan almost provided it with a 40-yard shot which was top corner bound until Maclennan tipped it onto the post with a superb save.

Robert Mackenzie did net for Lochs five minutes before the end with a lobbed finish from the edge of the box as the Lochs supporters dared to dream of a dramatic fight back.

It wasn’t to be and it wasn’t their night. This night belonged to Carloway and to the class of 2016 whom have propelled themselves into the club record books as their first ever Eilean an Fhraoich Cup winners.

It was a wondrous sight to see the likes of DR Macleod, a club legend in his heyday and part of the Carloway side which reached three successive, albeit unsuccessful, Eilean an Fhraoich Cup finals in the 1950’s, grinning as the rain continued to tumble down as he beamed with pride at seeing the club’s EAF hoodoo finally lifted.

“Given the conditions I thought it was a good final and, as expected, we had to fight really hard to win it,” added Miller.

“We played some good football in the first half and were able to get behind the Lochs defence and get balls into the box – this led to a number of chances and the first goal which was well taken by Angus.

“Lochs were a threat at times, especially Jim O’Donnell, but I thought we were the better team in the first half and could have been more than one up.

“Lochs started strongly in the second half, came right back at us and got the equaliser but, there was a confidence about the team, and our reaction was to go straight back up and go ahead again.

“From 2.1, we pushed on and the third and fourth goals were great finishes. Credit to Lochs that they came back again with  a second  goal, but we defended really well in the last fifteen minutes and the team saw it out.”

As the Carloway prepared to make the walk towards the trophy presentation a playful comment from one of the Lochs camp urged them to glance at the Lochs flag on their way off the pitch – the supporters flag at the Creagan Dubh is emblazoned with the years of all their trophy wins including their 15 EAF wins.

Upon passing one grinning Carloway supporter quipped ‘I’m here to see the flag which I believe is now at half mast.’

Carloway won the EAF battle but with the two sides poised to meet again in the league run in as Lochs seek to retain the league title - the war is far from over.