CAUTIOUS optimism is the prevailing mood in the Bute camp ahead of the opening day of the 2012 shinty season this Saturday.
Both Bute teams are in action this weekend, with the first team travelling north to face a much-changed Fort William side for their first game back in the top flight – now known as the Orion Group Premiership after the completion of a two-year sponsorship deal with the Inverness-based firm – while the Bute second team have a local derby against Col-Glen, just three weeks after a pre-season friendly between the sides.
And it’s clear that both first team coach Barry Martin and his second team counterpart David Kilpatrick are desperate to see the serious action get under way.
“We’ve been there, done it and got the T-shirt,” Barry said of the senior team’s return to the top division, “but we’re still looking forward to the season with excitement.
“After we were relegated in 2010 it felt like the end of the world, but now we’re back where we want to be, with players who have been there before and know what Premier League shinty is like.”
David Kilpatrick, meanwhile, is keen to see his second team players build on the considerable improvement shown in 2011.
“We’ve got a good, healthy squad of 24 guys,” he said, “with a good mix of younger and more experienced players.
“I’ve got high hopes that two or three of the younger players, like Adam Stirling and Calum Hatton, might take the next step and start to figure in Barry’s plans for the first team.”
* More from both Bute coaches in this week’s issue of The Buteman - on sale from Thursday, March 1.