Premier Division title goes down to the wire
The Scottish Hydro Premier Division will be decided in a winner-takes-all clash this Saturday at An Aird when Fort William host Newtonmore.
Fort William needed just one point at the weekend from their meeting with Kingussie in a replay of the Camanachd Cup final, just one week after Fort William snatched the winner in the dying seconds.
From the start Fort William looked tired and lethargic from the previous week, and it wasn't long before Kingussie took an early lead through youngster Thomas Bothwick. James Hutchison was next on the Kingussie scoresheet, much to the delight of the Newtonmore players and supporters behind the goal.
At this point I think most thought the league cup was heading three miles down the road to Newtonmore, until Brian (Boob) Simpson popped up and slipped the ball past Andrew Bothwich to give Fort a lifeline before half-time.
Fort William's Gary Innes is tackled by Kingussie's Ian Borthwick. Photo: Neil Paterson
The second half was a different story, and Fort looked like they wanted to play shinty again. A great solo run along the bye-line saw Gordie MacKinnon score a beautiful solo goal, before Boob Simpson got his second one minute later to put Fort into the lead.
However, tempers were starting to fray, and rash challenges and niggles were starting to find their way into ref Ronnie Campbell's wee black book.
Fort William's John MacDonald felt hard done by when he was sent off with 35 minutes remaining, after being carded for an incident that on this occasion didn't even involve the midfielder.
Kingussie used their resulting spare man to good effect, and 16-year-old Thomas Bothwick scored his second of the match to level the tie. Fort's backs were against the wall as Kingussie pressed time and time again, until Ronald Ross clattered Duncan Rodger, earning himself a red from Ronnie Campbell.
This is the first time I have known shinty's legend to be sent off, and Ronaldo will certainly feel hard done by after what appeared to be a strong challenge.
With 11 men against 11 left on the field, the game raged on. However, no team found a last-minute winner this time, and Fort William were delighted with a draw.
This leaves Fort one point behind Newtonmore going into the last game of the season, where both clubs clash head-on at An Aird. Fort William are hoping to pick up only their second ever league title, while the Badenoch side are praying to lift their first ever Premier League title.
So who do you think will win this weekend? Will Fort William manage to add silverware to their trophy cabinet, or does it mean more to Newtonmore to take home the league title after a 25-year gap?
In the other Premier fixtures, Oban Camanachd met Glasgow Mid Argyll at Mossfield, in a game Oban had to win to ensure their Premier survival. Fulton Ross put GMA ahead after 19 minutes, Oban bounced back quickly though through Daniel Macintryre, and Ian MacMillan. Oban's two talismen went on to bag another one each, to finish the tie 4-1.
Kyles Athletic hosted a travelling Inveraray in a game that wouldn't affect either of the club's league standing. Matthew MacColl, Colin MacColl, and Grant Irvine were the Kyles hitmen, comfortably finishing the match 3-0 for the Tighnabruaich men.
Looking ahead to this weekend's fixture list, Bute travel to Inveraray in search of two vital points. If the islanders can manage this, it will secure their Premier survival and officially relegate Oban Camanachd.
Kingussie welcome Kyles Athletic at the Dell. This could be an opportuntiy for both clubs to try out some new players in different positions - forward planning for next season.
As the shinty season races to a finish, who would have thought there would be such an enthralling end? The Premier title has never been closer and we will soon know who is to be crowned Scottish Hydro Premier League Champions 2010.