Lewis football star Mary MacLeod eyeing title triumph with Caley Thistle Women
Mary (20), who moved to the Highland city in September 2019, scored eight goals for the Jags in the final few games of last season before netting a further three in the early stages of the now defunct original 2020 Scottish Women’s Championship North Region campaign which started in February but which was soon halted by Covid-19.
Although the winger is currently injured and missing the opening weeks of the newly established season which restarted from scratch this month (it usually runs from February to October), Mary has no doubts about the positive impact she could have upon returning to the team soon.
“We finished second in the league last season,” Mary told the Stornoway Gazette.
“That was definitely a good effort. Aberdeen won the league but they were well above all of the other teams in our league.
“We contended pretty well. We did well against all the other teams in the league and we’re hopeful of winning the league this year, that’s our aim.
“This year we have moved to a winter league due to coronavirus.
“There are 10 teams in it now because two teams have folded, they didn’t have enough players or they lost coaches.
“Obviously I only joined last September but I think our squad is better than it has ever been.
“From what the girls have said, we’ve got a squad of 25. When I joined last year there were nowhere near that many.
“So it’s really positive and everyone has really taken their game up a notch as well.
“It’s very competitive in training and it’s good because we all bring out the best in each other.”
Mary’s early football life saw her star for the Lewis and Harris women’s team (from the age of 16) and the Western Isles women’s team. She revealed that playing at this level was when she first caught the eye of Caley scouts.
“Our big competition was the Island Games which are every two years. That is an unbelievable standard because it’s all the islands from all over the world competing.
“I was also playing in the Highlands and Islands League – a lower league to the one I’m playing in now – for Lewis and Harris,” she said. “And one of our games in that was against the Caley women’s team development squad.
“The Caley women’s team coaches came to watch a few games (to see their development team) and I think the coach Karen Mason maybe had her eye on me for a wee while.
“In August 2019 we had the Highlands and Islands Women’s League Cup final at the Caley Stadium – which a few of the Caley management team including Karen – came to watch and I scored a hat-trick in that game which we won 7-0 against Clachnacuddin Women.
“It was pretty good to sign for Caley Thistle Women the following month because obviously the level we were playing at at home we would be travelling every Saturday.
“We didn’t ever have home games. Our home pitch was Ullapool, so no matter what we were having to go on the ferry and travel over.
“Most of our scorelines were like 18-0 every game or something!
“That was our first ever proper league because we had never tried to go for the North Championship or anything like that because of the way the travel was.
“We’d have had to go down to Aberdeen, really far every week, which would have cost a lot of money because of the overnight stays and stuff.
“I feel that we were well above that kind of standard of play.
“So it was nice to play at a higher level and also it’s a lot more competitive and a lot harder and you have to work harder to get into the squad and play every week.
“So it’s a bit more challenging but it’s good because it keeps you more dedicated and committed as well.
“This league works better because it is obviously only Highland teams so we can do it in a day trip.
“We are hoping to get promoted this year if we win the league. That would take us up to SWPL2.
“Only the winners get promoted automatically but I think if we finish second we still have a chance as we would go into a play-off to go up.”
Away from the football pitch, Mary is studying Sports Coaching and Development at Inverness College.
She also does a bit of community coaching work for Ross County.
In order to combine her day job with starring for Inverness Caley Women again, Mary will need to recover from the injury she picked up in a squad game the week before the new season was due to start.
“I’ve torn a ligament so I’m out for four to six weeks which is a bit annoying but it’s time to stay positive,” she added.
“It’s getting a lot better so I’m thinking I might be back sooner hopefully.”
The Rangers supporter added: “My dream is to play professional football.
“Joining Rangers would obviously be amazing.
“I’ve never been to Ibrox but I am desperate to go.
“I definitely, 100 per cent think that Rangers (men’s team) will beat Celtic and win the league this year.
“Celtic aren’t doing too well right now which is quite good.
“It would be awful if they won 10 in a row.”