MacTavish Cup - It's been too long for Kinlochshiel

Kinlochshiel celebrate their Premiership title success
Kinlochshiel celebrate their Premiership title success in 2017

Kinlochshiel manager Johnston Gill reckons it is time the dominant Badenoch sides were challenged as they prepare to contend for shinty's MacTavish Cup.

The Lochalsh team take on defending champions Newtonmore in their first appearance in the final.

"It's been too long for the likes of Kinlochshiel," he told BBC Scotland.

"It's not so much that Newtonmore have gone backwards, it's that other teams have come forwards."

His side claimed their first ever league title last season, becoming only the second club to have prevented either Newtonmore or Kingussie taking the Premiership crown.

"They're always going to be there, they've got pedigree - we are a young team in comparison," Gill continued.

"Newtonmore are a very great side, as are Kingussie who I honestly believe will be back in the frame in the next couple of years.

"They've strong squad and a lot of players to pick from where others like ourselves might suffer if we get injuries and suspensions.

"But we're determined to stay up there as long as we can and do as well as we can."

'Any team can win any trophy'

Gill led Kinlochshiel to the top flight in 2016 when they claimed their first silverware in the shape of the MacAulay Cup before becoming Scottish champions the following year.

As they bid for another first in their history - a shot at the season's first senior trophy - he believes the growing success of other teams is crucial for the sport.

"Everyone is improving especially in the Premiership where every game is very close. You can see it changing to where any team could win the Camanachd Cup, the MacAulay Cup and the league," the Balmacara coach explained.

"We're up there with them so have every chance, the same as everyone else, and it's great for shinty."

It has been a long road to success for the side who open their new park later in the year, and Gill credits 12 years of work by the club and locals.

Newtonmore v Kingussie
Newtonmore have won the MacTavish Cup 41 times, while Badenoch rivals Kingussie claimed it 27 times

"The committee's just been fantastic in backing the team all the way and the community too with their hands in their pockets helping us in any way they can.

"We're reaping the benefits now and will do for a few years to come.

"It filters down to the community - people are excited at every game and we've probably trebled the number of people who come to watch us at home and we also have quite a good travelling support.

"And {with the finals} being on television we're getting sponsorships in from different people who maybe wouldn't have looked at us before and probably gone with the bigger teams - they're now looking at us and seeing we are the real deal."

'A win would be the icing on the cake'

Shiel remain very much in contention for all three cups in the Grand Slam and have so far held on to the top Premiership spot, taking confidence from ending More's seven season long league winning run going into the final in Inverness.

"We've vastly improved over the last 2-3 seasons and no doubt it's going to be close.

"In the last four games they've beaten us once so we're fairly confident we can continue winning against them and get the result we're looking for.

"On the day it's who wants it the most who'll get it.

"Everything is looking well for Kinlochshiel - a win on Saturday would be the icing on the cake, or maybe the marzipan and the icing will come later on."