Carpe Diem Carloway - Local football season kicks off tonight

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ITS predecessor was only decided on the final week of action when 2011 champs Back FC were dumped by Lochs which cleared a free run to the title for Stornoway Athletic who subsequently turned over town rivals United to clinch the championship.

The Lewis and Harris football league returns to the limelight TONIGHT (Friday) where it will surely not be too long until it is fully back in its swing. Its relentlessness is almost always inescapable on the back of a campaign widely hailed as one of the most exciting in recent years.

That status was largely bestowed as a result of the drama that followed the final weeks, where any one of Aths, Back or Lochs could have taken the crown.

For a long spell Back FC looked to have sewn up their seventh championship crown, but in a matter of weeks Aths clawed back the difference and with some help in Leurbost they conjured up a first title since 2006 to divide the gap between Goathill Park and Upper Coll to joy and despair.

Signing players or winning any number of cups cannot substitute the feelings of a moment like ending a lengthy spell without being league champs.

Though it is from within such excitement that football has become both an island and a national obsession, Aths’ fans now hope to repeat their success, this time through dominance of the local game.

Even allowing for a winter of transfer business that has been spearheaded by the superb signing of DJ Clinton from the West Side - Aths now possess a depth of talent that their rivals could find unmatchable.

But they will of course be pushed hard by a handful or rivals and none more so, in my own eyes, than by Carloway who look, on paper at least, better equipped than ever to mount a challenge.

It is surely now or never for the ‘Way who have secured the signature of Fraser Macleod, a player who is a cast-iron guarantee of 30 goals a season and who probably should fire them to title glory.

But then my tips last season were so far off the mark I couldn’t tell you what date Christmas is.

It looks to be advantage Carloway following the signing of Macleod. But they have been favourites before, they have even been in charge of their own destiny, only to smash the self-destruct button with a sledgehammer. Would anyone really put the mortgage on it being straightforward from here on in?

The West Side, as they have in the past few years, have are strong on paper and look capable but do they believe it themselves? I’ve tipped them regularly in recent years only for the Siarachs to fall short. Elsewhere, Lochs have an excellent core group but their squad is among the smallest in the league and they could struggle if hit by injuries to key players. Back too will always be in the mix for the gongs.

Lewis and Harris FA Chairman Kenny Maciver’s hired helicopter could be buzzing about like a dragonfly with amnesia in September as it zigzags across the Hebridean sky between Leurbost, Carloway, Upper Coll or Goathill on the final night.

The only thing I do know is that someone will win it, one of the following nine clubs, and there is no doubt for me that between now and September the championship lead will be tossed around like seagulls in a storm. But it’s going to find a haven by Monday, September 2nd, one way or another.

See this week’s Stornoway Gazette (on sale now) for a full club by club guide, with predictions, for the season ahead.