Kings leave it late to bring up quarter of a century

Kingussie triumphed 1-0 over Oban Camanachd after a hard fought Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup Final at Bught Park, Inverness.

A swollen crowd gathered at Bught Park, Inverness for the 2023 Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup Final between Kingussie and Oban Camanachd. The two sides had met just 4 weeks previous in the Macaulay Cup Final with Camanachd winning on the day, however, the holders Kingussie sat top of the Mowi Premiership having already lifted the MacTavish Cup back in June. One thing was certain ahead of throw up, there was a sense that we were going to be in for a really hard fought battle with little between the sides.

Match referee Des McNulty threw the ball up to get the Final (which was the 100th Anniversary of the first final at Bught Park – 1923, won by Furnace) underway. The first chance of the game came just 5 minutes into the match as Lewis Cameron found Malcolm Clark on the left wing, his pass was smartly controlled by Daniel MacVicar who beat his man, but, was fouled just as he went through on goal, with nothing positive coming of the resulting free hit. Kingussie would respond by fashioning a chance of their own, this time the dribbling skill of Ruaridh Anderson on show as he slipped his marker and carried the ball 30 yards, only to be brought down as he approached the Oban goal – again the attacking team were unable to make the free hit count though.

The Kingussie keeper, Rory “Bob” McGregor (2022 Albert Smith Medal Winner), was the first to be drawn into serious action, making a good stop with his feet after Daniel MacVicar tried his luck from the left flank, McGregor was then quickly drawn into another very similar save from the rebound before the Kings backline was able to get it clear for a corner. 4 minutes before half-time and it was Oban stopper Cammy Sutherland’s turn to show his quality after persistent hassling from Thomas Borthwick enabled Kings Captain James Falconer a couple of yards of space – his low shot saved well by Sutherland. Seeming to grow into the game, it wasn’t long before Falconer had another crack, this time after some smart movement took him away from his marker, however, sadly for those in red and blue it was over the bar from a tough angle. That proved to be the final excitement of an entertaining half despite the lack of goals. Overall, Oban Camanachd were creating more chances but it was the holders who looked more likely to score from the chances that were being created.

The first chance of the 2nd half fell the way of Kingussie after a delicate knock through from Thomas Borthwick was almost pounced upon by the Kings forward line, however, Sutherland was fast off his line to marshal the ball to safety. Camanachd responded almost immediately though and worked the ball well up the left flank; Lewis Cameron and Matthew Sloss working the ball to Clark – his hit deflected of a Kingussie defender before falling kindly to MacVicar – Bught Park collectively drew its breath as he wound up but Calum Grant showed the tenacity needed in the big occasions to get back and do enough to put the forward off. Again the sides continued to exchange chances, however, a combination of wasteful finishing and sterling defensive work would mean that the game would press into the final 10 minutes with the score deadlocked and murmurings of Extra-Time and the dreaded Penalty Shootout reverberating around the stand.

Kingussie, however, had other ideas. Zander Michie dropped a free hit from the defensive area into Falconer on the left flank, he took it down and got away from his man before taking aim from distance…that shot was blocked, but, there was nothing that Oban Camanachd could do about the follow-up thunderbolt that Ruaridh Anderson smashed home from 25 yards out – the ball whistling beyond Sutherland in the net before anyone had the chance to react.

With 1 minute left on the clock there was little that Oban Camanachd could do to prevent Kingussie going on to win the Camanachd Cup for the 25th time as Des McNulty brought an end to the match. For Oban Camanachd, ultimately it would be disappointment, however, they can take some solace in the fact that they played exceptionally well from start to finish and were undone by a moment of magic rather than a dreaded individual error. Camanachd Captain Daniel Sloss deservedly received the Albert Smith Medal for his consistent and dominant defensive display, but the ultimate prize would be collected by James Falconer who received the Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup from Sandy Grant on behalf of Kingussie Camanachd.

Late hero Ruaridh Anderson spoke with the BBC in the immediate aftermath of the game saying: “Absolutely unbelievable – I can’t describe it to be honest, we knew it was going to be a really tough match, delighted that it didn’t go to extra-time. I didn’t get close enough to the goals in the first half but I thought I would get this one on target and well, the rest speaks for itself.”

The Association would like to take this moment to thank everyone who made the final such a success including the sponsors Tulloch Homes, Highlife Highland for use of their facilities, Inverness Shinty Club for their assistance in running the event as well as the teams, fans and volunteers who make our sport possible.

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