WITH the destination of the Marine Harvest Premiership title decided, the focus in the shinty world is now firmly upon the annual international shinty/hurling clash due to take place at Inverness’s Bught Park this coming Saturday.

This game comes at a time when the indigenous sport finds itself in a good place following on last week's announcement by fish farming giant Marine Harvest that it intended to renew its sponsorship for all levels of the sport – including the women’s game – for a further three year period.

That this deal extends to funding the international cross-code series is also important to the Camanachd Association who have for years lived with the fact that a lack of perceived international competition has left shinty in media and funding terms somewhat of the poor relation in Scottish sport.

Not that this situation causes Scotland international manager Ronald Ross to lose much sleep. With the announcement of his 20-man squad – which includes just four new caps – Ross has selected a squad of players who largely have experience of the hybrid sport and will be looking to continue the good home run that his side have enjoyed in recent years.

“We have raised the bar with our performances recently and have built up a winning habit with victories at the Bught last year and the year before. Ireland have not as yet announced their pool but they have so much talent to choose from we don’t really think about who they play – big names in the hurling world or not.

“We always need to focus on our own game. We know what we have to do. We will try to defend from the front and when we have the ball we need to keep it out of the air where they will dominate. We have had five good preparation sessions so far and we are as ready as we can be.”

The good news for the Scotland boss is the fact all of his players who were in Premiership action on Saturday appear to have come through their matches injury free.

In the biggest of these Camanachd Cup holders Newtonmore defeated Oban Camanachd 5-0 with two of Ross’s four international selections in the Newtonmore squad, Michael Russell and Glen Mackintosh, getting their names on the scoresheet.

In what was a surprisingly entertaining encounter, given the heavy underfoot conditions, Newtonmore took an early lead through Neil Stewart before a long-range effort from Russell and a strike from Evan Menzies put them 3-0 up at half time.

With Russell running the show from the middle, Newtonmore added two further goals – one an own goal by Oban defender Matt Rippon and the fifth from Glen Mackintosh.

Proof that Scotland’s shinty managers are all reading from the same script lay in the fact that ‘More boss PJ Mackintosh took off international full back Rory Kennedy as a precaution when he judged both points were safely in the bag at half time.

Kennedy, only recently back from injury, had up until that point been keeping Oban’s sole international squad member Daniel Cameron firmly under wraps.

In the only other Premiership clash, Kyles Athletic wrapped up their league campaign with a 5-3 away win over Glasgow Mid Argyll at Yoker.

Initially Kyles made heavy weather of this fixture and at one point were 3-1 down to the city club.

Eventually two goals each from youngster Ross Macrae and international pick Roddie Macdonald meant that Kyles gained the points that finally took them to runners up spot in the Premiership.

Kyles’ other two players in the frame for the international, defender Andrew King and midfielder Grant Irvine also came through the encounter unscathed.