Shinty: Bute coach focuses on positives after cup loss

BUTE Shinty Club’s first team coach Barry Martin says his side’s 4-0 Camanachd Cup loss to Lochaber wasn’t without its plus points for the island team.

Bute’s defeat at Spean Bridge was one of several eyebrow-raising results in the second round of the sport’s blue riband competition last Saturday, and might have been expected to heighten pressure on the team after a winless run of nine games in the Orion Group Premiership.

But Martin insisted there were plenty of positives to take from the tie ahead of this Saturday’s crucial Premiership fixture, away to a Kilmallie side who pulled off another of last weekend’s cup shock by beating local rivals Fort William 3-1.

“We were without several first team regulars last weekend,” the Bute coach said.

“Bryan Liddell, Iain MacDonald, James Craig, Roberto Zavaroni and Leighton Reid were all missing, so we had to travel with five second team players.”

Among those making their first team debuts last Saturday were Adam Stirling, Calum Hatton and Neil McKirdy, while veteran Tom McMillan played up front in his first game for the Bute senior side in several seasons.

“Calum and Neil especially did very well,” Martin continued. “I knew we weren’t going to find it easy - Lochaber beat Kingussie in the Mactavish Cup semi-final, so even with a full-strength squad it would have been a close run thing, and we leaked a goal at the start of the second half, which didn’t help.

“Obviously we were disappointed to lose 4-0, but in the circumstances it wasn’t as bad a day as the score might suggest.”

Four of those five missing first-teamers - Liddell, MacDonald, Craig and Zavaroni - are expected to be available for this Saturday’s trip to face Kilmallie, who are tied with Bute on three points at the foot of the table, though the islanders’ better goal difference is keeping them away from last place.

This weekend’s fixture list features only one other Premiership game, with Lovat hosting Newtonmore at Balgate. Five other top flight sides are in action in the quarter-finals of the Macaulay Cup this Saturday; Bute’s last eight Macaulay tie, against Oban Camanachd, has been put back due, we understand, to a youth shinty tournament which is taking place in Oban this weekend.