Lewis Camanachd registered one of the finest performances of the club’s short existence at Battery Park in Lochcarron on Saturday, but were denied a famous win by a late penalty.
The sun was up and the Wester Ross sward was in a soft but good shape as Lewis faced their first ever fixture against Lochcarron’s ‘first XII’, after their consolidation to one team for the 2013 season. Despite Lochcarron falling to two unexpected defeats in the first fortnight of the new season, the islanders were apprehensive and living in expectation of feeling the full force of the mainlanders’ frustration in this fixture. However, the tale of the afternoon would be very different
Conor MacDonald had not enjoyed the most stable start to the season but a magnificent save in the second minute from wily old veteran Iain ‘Jek’ MacKenzie settled the Gaelic student’s nerves and brought out one of his finest performances in a Lewis shirt.
Scott Murray, yet again, was a magnificent sight in midfield and ran the show, linking well with his midfield comrades and the returning Dougie Shaw at Buckshee back.
Lochcarron’s lack of success in front of goals led to growing frustration in their ranks as they tinkered constantlybto find a way through. However, Eòghan Stewart and Daniel ‘Gaga’ Gallagher were in imperious form.
Close season signing Seumas Charity hammered the ball past Kenny Ross to put Lewis into a well deserved lead on the half hour mark.
MacDonald made a fine save low to his right with five minutes before halftime to ensure na Leòdhasaich entered the interval in the lead.
In the second period, Lewis controlled the game well and although Lochcarron mounted pressure, the defence for the most part dealt coolly and calmly with the attacks
MacDonald yet again made a pointblank save on the hour mark from Kenny ‘Duffy’ Murray.
With ten minutes left, a seeemingly innocuous shunt from Daniel ‘Gaga’ Gallagher on Lochcarron co-manager Kenny ‘Duffy’ Murray resulted in a penalty being awarded by referee John Sloggie. Iain Jek MacKenzie placed it expertly into the far corner but MacDoanld was not far away.
It was a sign of great resilience that Lewis pushed on for the win at this juncture instead of reverting to a siege mentality but there was no further scoring from either side. Innes Lamont and Michael MacLeod pulled off some audacious tackles in the dying moments.
Lochcarron were happy to have grabbed a point and the islanders although disappointed with the loss of the late equaliser celebrated their first point against one of the bigger teams in the league. Indeed, the bulk of the squad had played in North Division One last year and record Scotland cap Kenny Ross, whose mother is from Harris, paid tribute to the Lewismen’s performance after the game. ‘I thought Lewis were excellent.’
Iain ‘Diablo’ Sinclair was effusive in his praise of his players, almost aspiring to classical imagery of Caesar crossing the Rubicon, ‘We crossed the river today. We can start shedding any inferiority complex we might have had that these larger clubs will beat us.
Every player played excellently and I am very proud. It was great to have some travelling support as well and also the support we receive via our Twitter account is just magnificent.’
Sinclair’s squad will need to bring out their A-game this Saturday with a visit to rivals Strathspey in Grantown. Last year’s fixture was an epic comeback by Lewis in 6-6 draw which can be found on youtube and is well worth a watch. However, the home game at Shawbost resulted in the Leòdhasach’s worst performance of the season and a 2-1 capitulation. This game is the proverbial ‘four-pointer’ for the islanders.