A large crowd was on hand at Bayhead last Saturday to watch Camanachd Leòdhais and Uist Camanachd vie for the Heb Celt Cup in glorious sunshine. The sides could not be separated after ninety minutes and after a 1-1 draw, the match went to penalties.
After a tense penalty shootout, it was Lewis that came out the victors, winning 2-1 on penalties.
Lewis were light in defensive options with both Ronan Sinclair and Daniel ‘Gaga’ Gallagher unavailable due to work commitments. Peter Gomez joined Stevie Morrison at wingback. Paddy Sinclair started at halfback with Michael MacLeod behind him.
Scott MacLeod was back in the centre line after a two-week hiatus whilst Connor Chalmers squeezed in one final game at wing forward before heading offshore. Willie MacLeod continued in goals.
Uist boasted a strong side; the quality in the spine of the team was particularly noticeable.
Keith MacDonald returned to the side to play in goal with captain Graham Black starting at full centre.
Inverness man Connor MacIntyre was at halfback whilst Glasgow Mid Argyll’s Scott Anderson was at fullback.
Rab MacAskill and Aberdeen University’s Donnie MacRae each flitted between full and half forward.
The game started at a breakneck pace despite the hot temperature.
Lewis were enjoying plenty territory with both Donald Lamont and Stewart MacRitchie looking dangerous but clear cut chances were hard to come by.
It was a different story at the other end where Uist were looking the likelier to open the scoring.
Indeed they were the width of the post away from scoring when MacAskill’s howitzer from a tight angle rattled the frame of the goal.
MacRae’s speed was causing all sorts of problems and moments later, having raced away from his man, he found himself one-on-one with MacLeod but the Lewis keeper made a good save.
Lewis were now fully aware of the threat MacRae posed but did not heed the earlier warning and found themselves 1-0 down after 28 minutes.
Black launched an aerial ball forward from midfield and with the Lewis defender unable to intercept it, MacRae spun his man and collected the pass from Black.
This time he got the better of MacLeod and stroked the ball past him.
The goal brought a response from Lewis who were looking for an equaliser before half time.
Lamont thought he had brought his side level with a sweetly struck shot from twenty yards.
MacDonald was equal to it though and made the first of a number of excellent saves that would eventually see him awarded man of the match.
Just before half time, Paul Duke’s late run from deep was rewarded when he latched onto the end of a cross from the left.
The ball skipped up in the turf allowing Duke to volley the ball goalwards but MacDonald made an excellent stop to ensure Uist took a lead into the second half.
The defending champions started the second half on top but the Lewis defence prevented any clear-cut chances, with Gomez having a particularly strong game.
Momentum changed ten minutes into the second half when Uist’s Anderson received a ten-minute sin bin after a cynical challenge to bring down Lamont as he looked to be through on goal.
Lewis began to crank up the pressure and looked the fitter side. Lewis sent Duke to full forward and brought Scott MacLeod into full centre.
With MacLeod driving Lewis forward, they were pushing for an equaliser but whether it was defenders or the keeper, shots kept hitting Uist bodies.
With Anderson back on, Uist brought MacRae back to halfback to try to hold onto the lead.
With the game now being primarily played in the Uist half, manager John MacAskill brought Sean MacLeod and Dylan Murray on for Lewis.
Lewis were now finding joy down the left wing with Murray getting to the ball first and playing dangerous balls towards the Uist goal.
It was this method that resulted in the Lewis equaliser on 72 minutes.
Murray sent a good pass towards Duke at full forward.
Duke then laid the ball off to Lamont whose low shot slipped just past MacDonald’s foot and levelled the scores.
Lewis pushed for a win inside normal time but despite further forays forward, Uist held on and the match went to a penalty shootout.
Upon winning the toss, Uist chose to go first but the advantage was squandered when Black found the wrong side of the post.
Scott MacLeod stepped up and nearly ripped the net with a terrific strike to give Lewis the lead.
Uist were unable to draw level thanks to an excellent save from Willie MacLeod before Michael MacLeod’s penalty went just over the bar.
Willie MacLeod was the hero again as he saved Daniel Harrison’s penalty to maintain the 1-0 lead but Lewis couldn’t capitalise as Ally Lamont’s penalty went wide.
Rab MacAskill was able to finally get Uist on the scoreboard as he buried his penalty into the top left corner.
With MacDonald saving Donald Lamont’s subsequent penalty, he then stepped up to take Uist’s fifth penalty but his opposite number made his third save of the shootout.
Duke had a chance to win it for Lewis but he fired wide.
Duke’s miss meant that the shootout went into sudden death with the order reverting to those that took the first penalties for their side. Black came forward for a second time but his effort went a whisker wide of the post.
Lewis now had a second chance to win it and it was up to Scott MacLeod who had scored earlier in the proceedings.
Perhaps inspired by the goalkeeping heroics of his namesake, MacLeod composed himself and fired another rocket that gave MacDonald no chance, sending the Lewis team into rapturous celebrations as they mobbed the two MacLeods.
After an exciting game of shinty between two sides that gave everything, the Heb Celt Cup was back in the hands of Lewis.
This Saturday, Lewis will be back at Shawbost for the final home game of the season.
Strathspey will be the opposition and throw up will be 2.30pm.