AFTER an absence of three years, Inveraray will take up their place next season in the Marine Harvest Premiership courtesy of a fine 3-1 away victory at Beauly. The win saw them clinch promotion to the sport’s top division as runners-up to champions Kilmallie in the lower-ranked National Division.

For player/manager Ruaraidh Graham – who is thoroughly enjoying the privilege of playing alongside his son Ruaraidh junior in the colours of the Royal Burgh’s senior side – the move up has come at the right time.

“Going down to the National Division when we did was probably the best thing for the club at the time,” he said. “It allowed us to rebuild with younger players. There is still a small core of experienced players left from our glory days – Garry MacPherson and Douglas Dando amongst them – but it’s been the younger lads who have really helped us take the step back up.”

That his side possesses a fair measure of resilience was amply proved by the nature of Saturday’s victor. The north side’s Braeview Park has never really been a happy hunting ground for Inveraray over the years and matters certainly got off to a sticky start after unfocused defending saw the home side’s new signing David Fraser set-up Jack Macdonald to flick the ball past keeper Scott Maclachlan for the opener inside two minutes.

The visitors quickly got into their stride, going on to have the bulk of the first-half play, though they were unable to find the net through a mixture of misfortune and excellent play from Beauly keeper Josh Grant. At one point he pulled off an excellent double save, keeping out the initial drive from former internationalist MacPherson, before blocking the follow-up strike from youngster Fraser Watt – who had pounced on the rebound.

Despite dominating possession, it was clear Inveraray’s traditional 2-2 southern forward formation was not firing on all cylinders, with too many balls hit high up the middle where the aerial ability of Beauly defender Andrew Morrison saw them successfully cleared away on numerous occasions. With Beauly then ominously beginning to look like breaking out themselves towards the end of the first half, the Inveraray manager switched his front formation to the northern diamond shape with two wing-forwards in an attempt to stretch the home defence in wide positions.

The positional changes paid dividends three minutes after the start of the second half when a ball forward from MacPherson was picked up by half-forward Lewis MacNicol, who turned quickly to move two yards clear of his marker Calum Morrison and drove the ball from twenty yards past the unsighted Grant for the equaliser.

Inveraray kept up their forward momentum, taking the lead in 59 minutes courtesy of a Watt penalty awarded after frontman Neil Campbell had been brought down in the D by Beauly full-back Andrew Morrison. The visitors’ pressure was then further rewarded in 76 minutes with McNicol’s second goal of the afternoon, which came about when he latched on to a cross-field pass from Watt to knock the ball home.

Elsewhere there was mixed news for Skye Camanachd who were relegated from the Premiership after losing 4-3 at Oban. Their women’s side however had a more successful afternoon clinching their third WCA Marine Harvest National League title in a row after a 5-5 draw in Portree with Badenoch & Strathspey.