Dreams of Camanachd Cup glory begin
The 2012 Scottish Hydro Camanachd Cup got into full swing on Saturday, with the first round taking place all over the country.
The Camanachd Cup is, in my mind, shinty's most prized possession. If you grew up playing shinty, you dreamed of lifting the Camanachd Cup long before any thoughts of owning a Ferrari or going to Disneyland, although in hindsight maybe I was just misguided!
It was all of shinty's North and South First Division Clubs that were in action, with the winners all joining the pot for the second round, where the Premiership clubs get introduced.
The battle to win the Camanachd Cup has begun. Pic: SNS.
Glasgow Mid Argyll, Beauly, Skye, Strathglass, Kilmory, and Lochaber all progressed through to the next round. The next round draw is likely to take place next week according to the Camanachd Association.
In the Orion Premiership, Newtonmore remain firmly at the top after brushing aside Fort William 3-0 at the Eilean.
Danny Macrae was once more on form when he scored two, with Chris Sellar topping up Macrae's double.
Lovat, however, continue to bite the heels of last year's champions 'More, and managed to salvage a point at Tighnabruaich late in the game.
Lewis Tawse opened for the north-side, with Kyles responding with two quick goals from Ewan Campbell and one from the spot from Robbie Macleod. Greg Matheson equalised with less than ten minutes remaining to share the points, and help make the 344-mile round-trip worthwhile for the Kiltarlity club.
Glenurquhart also shared the spoils with Kingussie. Kings talisman Ronald Ross opened the scoring, however that lead was short-lived as 'Glen equalised minutes later through Fraser Heath. Heath then swung the tie in 'Glen's favour as he pressed Glenurquhart into the lead.
It was Martin Dallas who then levelled for Kings, while Ross did one better and once more gave Kingussie the advantage. It wasn't to be a Ronald Ross-winning headline though, as in the dying seconds Billy Urquhart found the net to finish the match 3-3.
Kilmallie claimed their first win of the season over Kinlochshiel. John Stewart opened the scoring for Kilmallie after only 15 minutes, which remained the same till the break.
Finlay Macrae levelled the tie after half-time but it was Stewart who once more popped up to find the winner and seal two points for the Caol men.
Inveraray also claimed both points with Garry Macpherson's 74th-minute penalty, the only goal to separate the home side against Bute.
This weekend kicks off the first round of the Artemis Macaulay Cup. The Macaulay Cup is Shinty's second largest competitive cup, leaving the league aside.
This competition is quite unique in its layout, as you end up with a north v south final. The divide between north and south shinty is the Ballahulish Bridge. Every village from Ballahulish down play south shinty, while obviously anything past the bridge towards Fort William plays north.
The cup final however is always played in the South at Mossfield Stadium, Oban in August.
In the south, last year's winners Kyles Athletics head to Inveraray for their opening tie, while in the north, 2011 runners-up Newtonmore have to cross further west to Balmacara to face Kinlochshiel.
Also in the south, Oban Celtic take on Bute, Glenorchy face Oban Camanachd and Taynuilt tackle Glasgow Mid Argyll.
Northbound, Glenurquhart take on Kilmallie, while my little brother Hughie captains Spean's Lochaber against Premiership giants Kingussie.
Fort William travel to Kiltarlity to face Lovat. If I remember correctly, Lovat exited Fort from this competition last year at the same stage and beat them again two weeks ago in the league and Fort will certainly be looking to make amends in the cup.
Lovat, however, have been playing extremely well at present in the midst of possibly the finest season of their generation.
I'm happy to say I'll be back joining my Fort team-mates this weekend. After spending a week playing at the Shetland Folk Festival, I'm looking forward to once more being chased about the field by wooden sticks rather than Vikings swinging at me with swords.
Safe travels to all clubs and supporters.