It was a weekend to remember for Dunoon Camanachd’s Under 14 squad, who defeated Lochaber Camanachd 2-1 in a tightly contested match at Mossfield Park, Oban.
Dunoon’s young side (some of whom are significantly younger than 14) have been improving all season, and they chose the right time to peak in the final of the National Development League, delivering their best performance of the season in a North-South contest against their Spean Bridge counterparts.
The first half saw the Cowal youngsters take control of the game right away, with the defence holding strong against sprightly Lochaber attacks, while the midfield battled well, recycling the ball to the energetic sky blue attackers.
The midfield were also taking their opportunity to test the Lochaber keeper from range, and this was the outlet that led to the opening goal. Alf Stuart’s fine running out wide created space for the onrushing Thomas Dick, who took his time before launching an unstoppable shot past the helpless keeper.
It wasn’t long before Dick was at it again, doubling Dunoon’s lead with a second strike that was spookily similar to his first – perhaps a Hallowe’en portent for the exciting young centre, who was certainly frightening the Lochaber defenders.
The half-time break saw the young Dùnachs in possession of an impressive 2-0 lead, but the coaching team warned them that Lochaber would come out for the second half with all guns blazing, and that certainly proved to be the case. The Spean Bridge youngsters were a team transformed, and all of a sudden it was Dunoon who had to do a lot more defending, with keeper Logan Gemmel being called into action on more than one occasion.
The Dunoon defence remained stubborn, with special credit going to Parker Brown, usually a forward but who put in a commanding performance at the back.
Lochaber did manage to pull a goal back to keep the match interesting, but then Dunoon settled, and the game headed into an exciting climax as both teams created chances. In the end, the lads from Cowal were able to hang on to claim a deserved victory, and cue celebrations among the sizeable travelling support who had followed them up county for the day.
Captain Hunter Black, who had been full of energy all day in the centre line, was presented with the impressive Development League trophy, and all of the players received medals which will act as a reminder of their success.
Dunoon’s youth shinty team has been a fixture in the town for decades, but there is no denying that the club is currently in the middle of an exciting period. That was highlighted by the fact that, the day after this success, both Black and his teammate Hayden Thoms competed for the South U14 regional select team against their North counterparts in a match at Fort William. This is the highest representative honour available to players at this level, and everyone at the club was delighted to see the two players recognised in this way. Thoms and Black are an example to the rest of the squad of what can be achieved, having both also made their mark on senior shinty this season (Thoms for Dunoon Camanachd’s own combined Strachur-Dunoon senior team, Black for all conquering neighbours ColGlen).
With the talent on show in Saturday’s match, they won’t be the last to use youth shinty as a springboard to greater things.
Squad: L Gemmel, S Black, J Smart, H Thoms, T Dick, H Black, T Currie, S Thoms, A Jelonkiewicz, P Brown, A Stuart.