Lochaber welcome Kilmallie in the MOWI National, in preparation for that match, we caught up with Lochaber Captain Patrick Toal. You can read an interview with Kilmallie top scorer Lewis Birrell here.

How have the preparations gone ahead of this important local derby against Kilmallie?

Coming off a free weekend last Saturday has allowed all the guys to give the bodies a rest. Something we were glad of, after 2 games in a row of playing 120 minutes of shinty! We have trained well as a group and go in to this weekend having prepared for another tough game against one of our local rivals. 


You currently sit top of the league, is that what you expected at this stage coming into the season?

Going in to this season we knew what we were going to be capable of on the back of a few players returning to our squad that we missed last year. We had a short close season and worked hard through the winter months to build up a togetherness within the squad, with a belief that we could make a quick start to the season and so far that has been the case. We are all experienced enough to realise that there is still plenty hard work to go in the season yet. We have been fortunate to have a hugely experienced coaching team in Ally Ferguson, Angus Morrison and John MacDonald leading us this year. 


Going into the season, a lot of people predicted Kilmallie and Fort William would bounce straight back to the MOWI Premiership, how does it feel to not only be in the equation but to be ahead of your local rivals?

It’s a good position to be in when we are almost at the half way point of the season. We always believed we would be in the mix for these positions and so far we’ve backed that up with our results. There is probably a group of 5 teams that are in contention for the top 2 positions in the MOWI National Division, with the 3 Lochaber area teams being involved in that. We need to keep concentrating on our own results and hope that those around us can nick points from each other. 


What do you make of Kilmallie this year, I know you haven’t played them yet but from what you have seen or heard?

Regardless of where Kilmallie are in terms of league position or how they have been playing, we know we are always going to be in a game. They have a good spine to their team with the likes of Robbie MacFadyen, Innes Blackhall and Michael Rodger. So we have to be on our game and make sure the day is about our strengths. 


Being one point ahead of Kilmallie, is this game a must-not-lose rather than a must-win?

We are looking to win the game. That’s our focus. If we do then great but Saturday won’t define our league campaign either way. 


Ben Delaney leads the scoring charts in the National with 10 goals, how important is he to Lochaber?

Ben has been great for us, it has been a huge bonus for the team and the club as a whole to get him back enjoying his shinty. He has been a player in the Premiership for over 10 years so he brings that experience and guile along with his many goals. It’s also worth noting how strong our defence has been this year. We have had the tightest back line in the league so far with Jack Dignan in particular being a standout. We will be looking to keep it tight at the back again on Saturday and see where that takes us. 


On a personal note, are you envisioning lifting the title at the end of the season as Captain yet?

It’s still very early days in the season to be thinking of that. We need to keep going about our business quietly as we have done all year and see where that takes us after 14 games.