After 600 days, senior football finally returns to Lewis and Harris

It has been almost 600 days since senior football was last played and enjoyed here on Lewis and Harris after the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the beautiful game entirely in 2020 and for the first half of this year.

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 2:36 pm
Point in action against Harris (Pic by Eric Mackinnon)

But this week football finally returned to the isles as Garrabost, Upper Coll and Fivepenny each rolled out the green turf carpet and flung open their gates for spectators as a hat-trick of friendly matches saw senior football resume.

Back, tipped for a big season this time around after some impressive recruiting to add to their impressive young players, ran out 4-0 winners over Carloway. Finding the net for the Broadbay Blues were the returning Fraser Macleod against his former club, Euan Macdonald, Reece Croft and Stevie Mutch.

In Ness a second half winner from Micheil Smith helped the hosts to a 3-2 win over Stornoway Athletic. The two sides had been level at the break, sharing four-goals with Leigh Johnson scoring both for Ness.

In Garrabost the Red half of Broadbay were in action against Harris in front of a bumper crowd who also took advantage of a first chance to sit in the superb, newly built stand to watch their side and welcome football back after its enforced period of hibernation.

An even first 30 minutes saw the two sides feel one another out with a couple of stops from the Harris keeper all to note early on.

But Point drew first blood on 32 minutes when Josh Smith’s free kick from distance squirmed through the keeper’s gloves as the wet conditions and slippy ball made the skidding ball difficult to handle.

Not that losing the goal kept Harris down for long and they were quickly back on level terms.

James Maclean’s charge up from left-back saw him sent a perfect diagonal pass to the inside right channel where Ross Allison had drifted into space. Allison, making his first Harris senior appearance since leaving Lochs, let the ball take a bounce off the turf before drilling his laces through the ball with a vicious strike.

Point keeper Daniel Macdonald got his hands to it but it had too much power to keep out and it nestled in the roof of the net. The return of senior football was a joyous sight and it also brought with it the feelgood factor.

The stand and touchline in Garrabost were lined with children, parents, pensioners and district councilors all delighted to see their team back in action.

The second-half proved to be a more one-sided affair than the first as Point cranked up the pressure and scored five times in a dominant 45-minutes to earn a 6-1 victory.

Cameron Macarthur netted shortly after the restart to start the second-half stroll. Ellliot Ruddal craned his neck to divert a low, stooping header into the bottom corner for 3-1.

Point boss Angus ‘Stoodie’ Mackay turned to his bench and sent on youngster Daniel Macleod for his first taste of senior action. A regular in the U15 and U18 sides, young Daniel is the third generation of his family to turn out for the Point senior side now as he follows in the studmarks of his hugely successful grandfather Murdo ‘Biodan’ Macleod who won four league titles with the Reds in the 1950s and his father Ross Macleod, also a serial league winner with Point and a player who also helped the side also take the Highland Amateur Cup home in 1994.

And the 15-year-old showed he wasn’t sent on to make up the numbers as he marked his debut with an assist as his outswinging corner was headed into the net by Josh Smith.

Liam Mackay and Mikey Jones’ late free kick wrapped the match up at 6-1 but the real winners on the night were football fans throughout the isles who finally welcomed the game back. It’s been a long time and after 589 days since the Lewis and Harris League title play off took place in October 2019, senior football is finally back and we couldn’t be happier.