AFTER a shaky start, Kinlochshiel held their nerve to eventually beat Oban Camanachd 3-0 at Mossfield Park on Saturday and lift their first ever Marine Harvest Premiership trophy.

It was a well-deserved victory for Johnston Gill’s Wester Ross side who now stand alongside Fort William as the only teams outside shinty’s Badenoch heartland since the inauguration of the top league back in 1996 to have been crowned Premiership Champions.

With nearest challengers Kyles Athletic’s fixture against bottom side Glasgow Mid Argyll postponed due to an unplayable field, ‘Shiel went into Saturday’s match knowing that a single point against Oban would be enough to see them through to success.

In the event, they took both points on offer, but had to endure a tricky opening period before their forward line finally got to grips with the task they had been set, scoring three second half goals without reply to clinch the title.

The first half wasn’t so straightforward for the aspiring champions however, as the lively Oban side posed problems for them at the back with youngster Daniel MacVicar at full forward testing the pace of veteran full back Paul Macrae and his colleagues – and the visitors had to be thankful for the competence of goalkeeper Scott Kennedy who had to deal smartly with a number of awkward ground shots.

At the other end ‘Shiel created their own chances, but they were extravagant in front of goal, wasting several opportunities to put Oban keeper Gavin Stobbart under serious pressure. The tight marking of Oban defender Scott MacMillan and fullback Gary MacKerrachar also hampered the ‘Shiel front men from making progress.

However as the half wore on, prompted by the excellent distribution of full centre Finlay Macrae, ‘Shiel gradually began to exert more control in midfield – but were still unable to make a decisive breakthrough before half time.

After the restart however matters changed dramatically. Manager Gill had introduced substitute Jordan Fraser into his forward line before the break in an attempt to freshen things up and his strong direct style had an immediate effect just after the restart when he picked up a pass from John Macrae and fired the ball past Stobbart for the opener.

‘Shiel grew in confidence after the strike and began to dominate the play with Oban, who had worked hard in the opening phase, unable to sustain the energy of their opening play. Fraser further underlined his importance to the cause when he doubled his side’s lead in the 69th minute, rocketing the ball home from outside the “D” before Keith Macrae sealed victory with a third ‘Shiel goal.

Oban then briefly threatened a late comeback but Daniel Cameron’s excellent strike was well saved by Kennedy while Aiden Macintyre’s miss from close range denied his side the consolation goal which they probably deserved.

Matters were resolved at the other end of the Premiership too with Lochaber ensuring another year in shinty’s top flight thanks to the point earned in a 1-1 home draw with Camanachd Cup holders Newtonmore.

After a goalless first half, Newtonmore got their noses in front when Evan Menzies profited from a slip by Lochaber defender Barry Macdonald, putting his side into the lead after 68 minutes. Veteran Lachlan Cameron hit the Lochaber equaliser six minutes later and though the Spean Bridge side had defender Brian Macdonald sent off just before the end they were able to hang on without further loss.

That vital Lochaber point means that the second side to drop out of the premiership, along with Glasgow Mid Argyll, will now be Kilmallie, losing 2-1 at home to Lovat who clinched their victory thanks to a late strike from Lewis Tawse.