There is little doubt that when the Ness squad cast their collective gazes over last season’s results they will see something that sticks out like a sore thumb: a thumping win over eventual champions Lochs.
Ness can be very good -- as the 3-1 win against league champions Lochs amply demonstrated -- but they can also be very poor. Consistency will again be the main problem but the Achilles heel of missing a core group of university and consequently mainland based players should not impact the team as deeply this summer.
Improvement must be measured by the Niseach’s league points total after two seasons of inadvertent focus on cup competitions.
Chris Macdonald has returned to the dug-out as manager and he has recruited long time goalkeeper Donald Macsween as assistant. After 15-years as No.1 at Fivepenny the transition from the park to the touchline hasn’t been easy for Sweeny but it is a move he was keen to make.
“I’m delighted to be helping Chris out this season and I really believe this is a season which could go well for us,” said Sweeny.
“We will have Jambo and Micheil Smith here all season rather than the here and there visits of last season. Domhnall Gillies is available too and John Alexander Maciver has resigned from Back so our squad should be much better.
“We relied too much on the Welfare boys last year and they did fantastic for us. But we need to get a core of our own guys and not have to call people I to help us.”
Having won the Moldova Lewis Cup in 2014 the undoubtedly talented troupe of Ness prospects, the Fivepenny Fledglings, were tipped to take the league by storm and become a force. It hasn’t materialised like that for Ness and Sweeny points to a league rival as a benchmark for what he admits has been stagnation.
“When we won the Lewis Cup in 2014 we were neck and neck with Point in terms of results and ability,” he said.
“We were on a very similar level as we beat them a couple of times in the league that year and in the cup final. But since then we have plateaued while Point have pushed on a lot to have two league title challenges and are one of the favourites this year.”
He added: “We know what we are capable of and I think we are only side to win in the league against Lochs in the last two years so it shows we have the ability but we have to do it more regularly. Our young players have a year’s more experience now so we need to try and push on.”
The twin turbo talents of Micheil Smith and James ‘Titch’ Morrison will be crucial to Ness’ hopes.
Both men are regulars now in the islands representative sides and are prominent performers at the peak of their powers and each display extraordinary dynamism.
Ness are not expected to win the Lewis and Harris League, of course, but Macdonald has returned to the helm of a promising squad, albeit one that could do with reinforcements in attack. If everything goes to plan, Ness should be capable of at least maintaining their position in the top five or six spots in the table while they should also be targetting a return to a domestic cup final after the glorious run in 2014.
Ness have a talented group of players but they need to enjoy another good run in 2017 to avoid the tag of one-hit wonders who don’t have it in them to ever again top the charts.