Today marks ten years since an important day in Camanachd Leòdhais history.
It marks ten years since Conor Macdonald lifted the Far North Sixes trophy in Scourie on a glorious sunny Sutherland day in June.
The Far North Sixes was a tournament the club were looking forward to debuting in, as it was a felt it might be a more suitable level of competition for Camanachd Leòdhais. Battered and bruised by some horrific cup maulings, it really felt for that small tight knit group of players that had gone through the four seasons prior that coming up against mainland opposition was like swimming the Minch in a suit of armour. All the hard effort, training twice a week only to take a smashing away from home, like the 18-0 scoreline against Skye in Portree a month before, was really starting to take its toll. The long term sustainability of shinty in Lewis & Harris felt at stake.
There was significant risks however, Kinlochbervie had a cracking team of u18s who were playing regularly at youth level all across the Highlands, and even down in Oban and the St Andrew’s Sixes. Well-coached and motivated, they would travel almost anywhere for a game, and indeed had won the Mid-Minch Medal Youth Tournament in Stornoway comfortably the three times it was held, the most recent earlier that month.
The Farr Camanachd first team as well had some solid units as well, including Andrew Henderson, who would sign for Lewis for a season the next year. It was going to be an intriguing day
There was also the added complication of Calum ‘Stompy’ Stamper sleeping in and missing the Ferry, but also having the strips in his car. There was a little bit of classic intrigue, as Eòghan and Diablo, assisted by John Nally had put the senior players, Scott Murray, Daniel ‘Gaga’ Gallagher and Conor Macdonald (who captained) into the ‘B’ Team, decked out in Alba strips, and the ‘A’ consisting of Eòghan, Duncan Edwards and the majority of the youngsters wearing Nicolson Institute yellow.
It would prove to be a rip-roaring day.
Here’s the Stornoway Gazette report from the 8/6/2010
It was a great day for shinty but in particular shinty in Lewis and Harris as Conor Macdonald of Camanachd Leòdhais hoisted aloft the Kinlochbervie Fishselling Company Cup at the Far North Sixes in Scourie last Saturday.
With nearby Suilven cloaked dramatically in mist, the trip north from Ullapool was sun soaked until reaching Scourie where a thick harr lay over the park. However, as the day progressed this layer burned off and eventually the scene was set for the sun to shine on na Leòdhasaich’s finest hour since the Hebcelt Cup in 2008. This trip to Duthaich MhicAoidh was to be a true day of glory, a raid on the North West Highlands of a type not seen Domhnall Cam MacAulay’s day.
The club were able to send two teams to their debut in the competition which has been running for three years. Nicolson Institute coaches John Nally and Iain Sinclair combined with Eòghan Stewart to manage the teams.
Lewis “A” got things off to a start and considering they were the weaker team they faced up to a the host Kinlochbervie who only a long range looping shot from Kyle Clark could beat young Euan Gilmour in goals in the final minute. The addition of Stewart, who sat in at fullback and marshalled KLB’s mercurial striker Oliver Feliz robustly but fairly, helped but this was a great start by a team which consisted almost entirely of less experienced and younger players and apart from Stewart and Duncan Edwards had been beaten convincingly by KLB in Stornoway last month.
The Lewis “B’ team then made their debut in the competition against their “A” team and both teams played in a good competitive spirit but James “Tich” Morrison swept in a couple of nice goals to ensure the “B” team got off to a flying start although Callum Blane almost sneaked one past Conor MacDonald in the A team goals when it took a wicked deflection of Macdonald’s shin.
James “Jambo” Morrison and James “Tich” Morrison lined up in attack and “Jambo” was a real nuisance as Lewis “B” then took on the Farr “B” team, several of whom were wearing kilts in a hark back to traditions of days gone by. Farr “B” were perhaps the weakest team in the tournament but they were hearty and stuffy and it took two moments of magic from “Tich” Morrison to unlock their defence. His two goals were worthy of winning any game. The first one saw him turn one way then the other and drive it past the keeper from 20 yards and the second was a well struck ball from a well weighted pass by Connor Chalmers, on as sub for Jambo, that tore in to the net.
The “A” team were then unfortunate to suffer almost exactly the same fate as they did against KLB in their game against Farr “A”, where a long looping shot with 30 seconds left on the clock killed of the spirited youngsters. Farr “A” were a good tough outfit and it was probably the “A” team’s best performance of the whole tournament. Ryan MacCallum worked away well in midfield as did several of the other youngsters, Blane, Ally, Toby and the slightly older Duncan Edwards.
Both Lewis teams stood aside and drank in the feast of shinty that enfolded in front of them, and were careful to analyse their opponents strengths and weaknesses. With KLB having won all their previous 3 games, including a furious game with their local rivals Farr “A”, the scene was set for what was practically a final with the hosts.
Both teams took a couple of minutes to settle but then Lewis started to dominate with Scott Murray standing predominate. The full centre dealt well with the athletic Clark and Dodi and hopefully he can take this from into next months HebCelt fixture against Uist.
At the back Paddy Sinclair and Daniel “Gaga” Gallagher kept Feliz quiet and the “Gaga” cleared the ball of the line in the only moment of real danger for na Leòdhasaich.
KLB as a team have a very strong connection with Fort William Shinty Club so it was all the sweeter for young “Tich”, who grew up in Inverlochy supporting their local rivals Kilmallie, to slam home the winner after dispossessing the KLB defenders. The roar from Eòghan Stewart on the sidelines was deafening and the support throughout the day from the “A” and “B” teams for each other was fantastic. As the referee Graham Cormack blew the whistle KLB were distraught and Lewis celebrated as they realised that they only needed to not lose by more than one goal against Farr “A” to secure the title.
Farr “A” gave the “B”s probably their toughest encounter of the whole day although with Murray again on top form the outcome of Lewis losing was never on the menu although Conor MacDonald was called into action more frequently than in the three previous games. In the end, “Tich” could not add to his top scoring tally of 5 goals (a tally which now makes him the club’s all-time top scorer on his debut for the seniors!) and the game was an entertaining 0-0 draw which secured the trophy. Lewis celebrated as if they had beaten Kingussie 10-0 to lift the Camanachd Cup itself.
The final game of the tournament was a hearty game for the “A” team against Farr “B”. Eòghan Stewart moved to full centre with Duncan Edward in goal and the hard-working Toby Smith on from the start. Despite almost constant pressure, the kilted men (and lady) from Bettyhill somehow kept a clean sheet. A highly entertaining 0-0 draw brought down the curtain upon a fantastic day.
All that was left was the presentation of the trophies. In the Junior competition Farr were able to overcome KLB after a playoff but it was a delighted Conor Macdonald who had the honour of being the first Lewis captain since Paul Duke in 2008 to lift a trophy for competition.
Scott Murray was a deserved player of the tournament, bossing the midfield imperiously and was unlucky not to get his own name on the scoresheet. Murray showed the form that he has always been capable of and hopefully this is a great sign for the future with the two James Morrisons, Paddy Sinclair and Ryan MacCallum all looking like senior material already.
Eòghan Stewart thanked the organisers, in particular Heather MacNeil, but the whole community of the North West were very welcoming and hopefully Lewis can host a similar tournament in the near future. It was a day for making new friends and creating competitive rivalries which are the lifeblood of sport.
We also did a previous look back in 2014 which can be read here.
The legacy of the win is really crucial to the next steps of the Camanachd Leòdhais story. The boost in confidence it gave the club, coupled with the success of the inaugural Craig’s Sixes a month later certainly reinvigorated the enthusiasm around the club and the next step was league entry. Scott Murray indeed showed that he could run a game, a feat he did many times with aplomb as Lewis entered the leagues. More importantly though, a significant number of youth players involved in both teams that day went on to play key roles in the Dubh is Gorm, including Paddy Sinclair, Michael MacLeod, Al Reed, and Connor Chalmers. One player who never kicked on to the senior team was goal-scoring hero James ‘Tich’ Morrison, although he did provide great memories later that summer with a complete mugging of Uist Camanachd’s defence in the HebCelt Cup.
The Far North Sixes was always a great day out at the pitch in Scourie, impeccable run by Heather MacNeil and Pauline MacLeod and their committee at KLB. The weather almost always scorching, except for one particular year. It provided a lot of good memories with Al Reed and Steven Morrison picking up player of the Tournament in 2015 and 2016 respectively, as well as a development opportunity for young Leòdhasachs. The final running of the tournament in 2017 saw us send three u14 teams and it was greatly enjoyed by all.
Sadly the once thriving Far North shinty scene has withered away to virtually nothing. Kinlochbervie’s stalwarts finally decided to take a step back a few years ago, Lochbroom, Ullapool’s senior team and our one time landlords have been defunct as a league unit since 2015 (other than a 2016 appearance at the Far North Sixes), the Farr High School team in Bettyhill is long gone (and the Naver Athletic Club that entered cup competition for one season is even longer gone), and the shinty club in Caithness, despite a couple of forays in the cups, has never kicked on to becoming a league club. A big loss for the Camanachd Association to have everything North of Garve on the mainland be a shinty desert again, but perhaps one day there will be a return to Minch Cups, Mid-Minch medals and Far North Sixes. It was a great time for the Sport of the Gael in the Far North, and when some sort of normality returns one might hope to see at least some type of revival.
Whatever the significance of the event historically, it was also just a great day for all involved, the drive back to Ullapool through stunning scenery and a quick catch up in the late lamented Broom Bar before catching the ferry home. A day that had all the best things that shinty can offer. Good play, good friends and good weather.
Lewis A v Lewis B 0-2, v KLB 0-1, v Farr A 0-1, v Farr B 0-0
Eòghan Stewart, Toby Smith, Duncan Edwards, Al Reed, Callum Blane, Euan Gilmour, Michael MacLeod
Lewis B v Lewis A 2-0, v Farr B 2-0, v KLB 1-0, v Farr A 0-0
Conor Macdonald, Scott Murray, James ‘Tich’ Morrison, Connor Chalmers, Paddy Sinclair, James ‘Jambo’ Morrison, Daniel ‘Gaga’ Gallagher