2023 has been a great year for Camanachd Leòdhais so far, but also one that has given plenty of opportunity to look at how far the club has come, with a coming together of fixtures and other events that reach back to the formative years of the senior club. We hoped to get John Fogerty in a Dubh is Gorm shirt but as you know we’ll have to do with this old classic of Gary Innes.
This Saturday presents another of those as we travel to An Aird for the first time to face Fort William. This is will be the third time the two clubs have faced each other, but the first time since league entry. All three meetings have been Strathdearn Cup – the trophy for reserve level teams in the North Area. This will be a Quarter Final.
Lewis first faced Fort William in 2007 on the 26th of May at Inverlael. This was the club’s very first season as a senior side, and had only two previous games, the Minch Cup v Lochbroom, and the first ever game away to GMA in the Sutherland Cup at the start of May.
With youngsters looking to break into the Fort William firsts who were in the midst of an imperial phase which delivered five Camanachds in six years and a Premier Division title, and a strong handful of veterans of their 1992 Camanachd Cup win also still pulling on the boots, the An Gearasdan second string were formidable to say the least.
On a warm day at Inverlael, the Fort ran up an 11-0 score, and a defensive line of Gaga, Duncan, Tyson and player-manager Eoghan Stewart were put through their paces by the marauding Abraich. Duncan commented at the end that he’d never been so tired after a game of shinty. In retrospect, it was a bold performance by a very inexperienced Lewis team as the Fort had handed out the same scoreline to several other clubs in their own division that season.
Lewis Camanachd squad v Fort William 2007; Conor Macdonald, Daniel Gallagher, Duncan MacIntyre, Eoghan Stewart, Stuart Campbell, John Hutton, Paul Duke, Scott Murray, Peter Gomez, Micheal Macdonald, Alasdair MacKenzie; Substitutes – Duncan Edwards, Niall Bartlett, David MacKenzie, Craig Morrison
Lewis always seemed to be magnetically attracted to the big guns of reserve shinty in the cup years, with Kingussie appearing in 2008 and then the Fort again in 2009.
The game against Fort William in 2009 was a sorry affair, but with one sparkling moment that will always be worth mentioning. The Strathdearn cup matches were often most challenging as they usually meant Lewis who had only played a couple of games, were playing battle hardened teams 8 or 10 games into their season.
The Fort went into a comfortable 3-0 lead after 20 minutes, when Alasdair MacKenzie collected a rare ball up into the Fort half, turned his marker and sent a screamer from around 30 or 40 yards past the Fort keeper. The first ever senior goal by a Camanachd Leòdhais player, and what a goal. The best thing was Ally then almost scored an identical goal a couple of minutes later.
However, this seemed to rile the Fort boys who decided to stop messing around. Their new attitude coupled with a general collapse from Lewis meant the half time score itself was 11-1.Some stability must have returned in the second half as it was only 9-0 on aggregate in the final 45. The final score, a whopping 20-1 was and still is a record defeat for the club.
It was indeed a sore day, but also one that needs marked. The resilience to keep going in the face of such results is very much part of what has bred the club’s culture of overcoming any challenge that came its way. Indeed, perhaps the ultimate challenge and one that put such results into perspective was to tragically come along just weeks later. The defeat against Fort William would be the final appearance of Craig Morrison, who would pass away later that summer at the age of 20. Craig was a dedicated player throughout the early years of the club, and is still remembered with the Craig Morrison Stornoway Sixes every year.
It will of course be a very tough match for the Dubh is Gorm at one of the iconic shinty pitches – the place where Skye Camanachd raised the Scottish Cup on the 2nd of June 1990 for example or the famous all Lochaber final of 2005 where the Fort overcame Kilmallie in the rain – but hopefully in reflecting back upon the results above, one can see how far shinty in Lewis and Harris has come in 16 years, and the Camanachd Leòdhais team can put on a performance that exhibits all the best qualities of Hebridean shinty – resilience, comradeship and passion. If you are in the area please come along and give your support.