CUP shinty was again to the fore this past weekend with the first-round ties of the Artemis Macaulay Cup taking place, with the upset of the day coming at Balmacara where visitors Lovat defeated present cup holders Kinlochshiel 3-2 in the tightest of games. The competition is unique in that it is still structured to guarantee a north v south final – and as such is rated by Lovat manager Fraser Gallacher as being the most difficult of shinty’s senior competitions to win.

“This is the one final that we have not actually managed to reach in recent years,” he said. “It’s always eluded us and it would be good to put that right. That said, Shiel were tough to beat though I felt we had the edge and did deserve the win. “

Lovat certainly started strongly, going ahead in the sixth minute after smart interplay by front men Fraser Heath and Marc MacLachlan created space for striker Greg Matheson to steal a yard on Mark MacDonald and smash the ball past keeper Scott Kennedy for the opener.

The Wester Ross side struck back quickly however – and when wing centre Ali Nixon’s cross-field ball found Keith MacRae in the 10th minute, his superb strike on the run flew high past Lovat keeper Stuart MacDonald. Shiel then enjoyed a short spell of dominance and ought perhaps to have tested the Lovat defence more than they did, but shots from both winger Jordan Fraser and Keith MacRae flew wide of the post. As the half wore on the balance swung again and although there was no further scoring before the break, Shiel’s Kennedy, standing in for regular keeper Stuart MacRae, showed he had not lost his touch when he pulled off an exceptional save to keep out a fierce drive from MacLachlan.

Two minutes into the second half, however, Kinlochshiel’s renewed pressure saw them take a deserved lead again through Keith MacRae when he pounced to knock home a rebound.

Lovat manager Fraser Gallacher then reshaped his frontline adopting a southern 2-2 formation and bringing on Graeme MacMillan as a second half-forward to provide width. The change quickly bore fruit and in 53 minutes Lovat were back level after a through ball from Lewis Tawse saw Matheson score from close range.

Lovat were now in complete control and eventually clinched the tie in the 82nd minute when full-forward Marc MacLachlan ran on to a long ball from centre Lorne MacKay which went over the top of the Shiel defence, allowing the big front man to knock home the winner from close range.

The win means that Lovat now face another difficult tie in the next round when they face Newtonmore, who progressed courtesy of a 5-1 away win over Kilmallie. Glen Mackintosh with two, Michael Russell, Iain Robinson and Conor Jones were the More scorers, while Callum MacDougall was on target for Kilmallie.

Also through in the north section are Kingussie who defeated home side Lochaber 5-1 and they will face Caberfeidh after the Strathpeffer side recorded a 4-2 home victory over Skye.

In the south area ties, a Callum MacLay hat-trick saw Glasgow Mid Argyll defeat home side Aberdour. They now face Bute, who beat Oban Celtic 3-1 at Rothesay. In the final tie of the round, Kyles Athletic defeated fellow Argyll side Inveraray 3-0, and they now meet Oban Camanachd in the next round after Oban were gifted the tie when Col Glen conceded.