HOLDERS Newtonmore retained the cottages.com MacTavish Cup when they defeated Kinlochshiel 2-1 at Inverness’s Bught Park on Saturday in a match played in heavy rain that at times made for tricky underfoot conditions.

However, the final was never less than entertaining and the victory not only sees More win the trophy for a third successive season, it puts their name on the MacTavish, first played for in 1898, for a record 42nd time.

For manager PJ Mackintosh, the triumph was particularly sweet after his side’s indifferent start to their season. He said: “We came into the match as underdogs given the way people have been talking about Shiel this season. The conditions didn’t really suit our style of shinty, they made the game slower than we would have liked. However, I’m proud of the way the players stuck at it and never gave up.”

The win was certainly built on the back of a gritty defensive performance, with half-back Rory Kennedy and veteran full-back Norman Campbell allowing the Kinlochshiel front line very few clear strikes on goal.

At the other end, More’s lively teenage forward Iain Robinson severely tested Finlay MacRae in the opening minute with the Shiel full-back conceding a foul just outside the box. The subsequent play saw Evan Menzies fire a chance over the bar, with Robinson then testing Shiel keeper Scott Kennedy and minutes later firing over.

Kinlochshiel gradually got the measure of the game and mounted their own spell of pressure, although one of the trickiest situations Newtonmore keeper Kenny Ross had to deal with was an aerial mis-hit by Campbell which almost caught him out.

A series of corners for Shiel followed and Ross made a fine stop from Jordan Fraser but in trying to clear a specul-ative attempt from a tight angle by Ali Nixon, he missed his strike and allowed Keith MacRae to push the ball home from close range and open the scoring on the half-hour.

John MacRae might have made Shiel’s situation more secure minutes later but he fired his chance over.

Newtonmore returned to the attack but Shiel keeper Kennedy was up to the task with two fine stops from Menzies, whose ability to turn quickly on the wet surface was making him increasingly dangerous in attack.

Eventually, just before the break, Menzies managed to engineer a goal. After dropping deep to pick up a crossfield pass from Steven MacDonald, he fired the ball hopefully forward into the Shiel defence where it deflected into the net for the equaliser off the raised caman of full-back Finlay MacRae.

Newtonmore scored what proved to be the winner after 54 minutes thanks a piece of individual skill from Robinson. Following a long ball driven forward by Craig Ritchie, he outpaced and then held off the challenge of Finlay MacRae before slipping the ball past Kennedy from a tight angle.

With their noses finally in front – and despite the fact there was more than half an hour to go till the final whistle – the holders were able to manage the game effectively enough to see themselves safely over the line.

For Shiel, whose skipper, Paul MacRae was named man of the match, there will be further opportunities to win trophies this season but they will certainly feel they should have made more of this one.