Camanachd Leòdhais were on Sutherland Cup duty this weekend, visiting the Dell for the first time and going toe-to-toe with last year’s finalists Kingussie for much of the match before falling to a 4-1 defeat.
Continuity with regards to team selection has been a key for Lewis this season and manager John MacAskill was able to call on much of the same side that were disappointed not to defeat Beauly a fortnight ago. Donald Lamont continued at half forward whilst Newtonmore man Paul Duke returned at wing forward to face his village’s fiercest rivals. Wing centre Ronan Sinclair missed the game due to work commitments so MacAskill drafted in Connor Chalmers, playing his first game for the club since 2017.
There was a mix of youth and experience in the Kingussie squad. Former Scotland international and first-team captain Ryan Borthwick started at half forward with cousin Liam in defence. Ryan Gunn started at wing centre whilst club stalwarts such as Kevin Thain and Rory Fraser were held in reserve.
Kingussie will have thought they were in for an easy day when they took the lead after just six minutes. Following good play down the left wing, a ball to the back post found Ryan Borthwick who fired a shot high into the roof of the net.
Lewis weren’t overawed by the occasion however and looked to find a way back into the game. Full centre Scott MacLeod was working hard and sending several dangerous balls into the attack but the ball wasn’t quite falling for the Lewis forwards.
Lewis continued to push for an equaliser and got their just rewards in the 24th minute when a marauding Lamont latched onto a clever pass from Duke before smashing a half volley into the net. It was a proud moment for Lamont as the goal marked his ascension to the top of the club’s career goal-scoring charts, overtaking former player Will Church in the process.
Both teams were pressing as they looked to get the lead but both defences were on top. Lewis full back Ryan Symonds in particular was having a wonderful game, ably supported by fellow defenders Innes Lamont, Daniel ‘Gaga’ Gallagher and Michael MacLeod.
Kingussie’s Gunn decided to take matters into his own hands and uncorked a shot from forty yards that looked destined for the top corner but MacAskill managed to tip it over the bar with his caman.
Just when it looked like the teams would be deadlocked at the half, the home side took the lead as Borthwick squeezed a shot past MacAskill during a goalmouth scramble.
Lewis almost had a second equaliser shortly after the half when Duke had the presence of mind to react first to a rebound but unfortunately the ball popped up into the air and the wing forward couldn’t quite connect with it.
Kingussie were awarded a penalty just shy of the hour mark when Gallagher was adjudged to have felled his man inside the ‘D’. MacAskill almost saved the effort but the ball found the back of the net and earned danger man Borthwick his hat-trick.
There was almost an instant riposte from Lewis as they continued to find a way back into the game but Duke was unable to force the ball into the goal following a tussle in the ‘D’. Kingussie finished off the tie after 76 minutes when Callum Miller’s low effort finally beat MacAskill following a string of excellent saves from the Lewis goalkeeper.
Lewis will have taken plenty positives from a game against a team in the division that has been involved in shinty since 1890. Lewis have a free weekend before they visit Lovat on April 27th in the Strathdearn Cup.