SHINTY is headed for a bright future according to the Camanachd Association, with the traditional centre of power in Badenoch being challenged from the west and the south.

Kinlochshiel’s league win was made them only the second side to take the trophy from Speyside joining Fort William who won the title in 2016.

Nor is the competition confined to the sport’s northern region with Tighnabruich’s Kyles Athletics having claimed two trophies in the course of the season, one of them the Macaulay Cup in which they beat Newtonmore 7-4 in the final.

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“Looking ahead to next year already, it’s going to be so competitive,” said Derek Keir, the Association’s chief executive. “With Newtonmore in three cup finals this year, they’ll be back strong along with a number of other teams. Kingussie have a lot of players coming through, Kinlochshiel will be looking to retain the title and Kyles will be contending too.

“There are teams coming into the league that are on a bit of a winning streak, so all way through the league teams will be gathering momentum.”

Keir was speaking after it was announced that Marine Harvest had agreed to continue its sponsorship of the game for a further three years.

“You don’t get by as a small governing body without the support of your sponsors. This will take our association with Marine Harvest up to 33 years. That consistent support allows you to plan ahead,” he said.

He believes that will allow the sport to continue its development programmes while reclaiming its proper place in wider awareness.

“We see shinty as an iconic Scottish sport,” said Keir. “The skill and technique required is understated and that’s something we need moving forward. Everything is heading in the right direction. Looking ahead to the next three to five years developing the women’s game alongside the men’s game is hugely important for us and we’re looking to continue the trends that are there.

“With increased participation there are also challenges in the smaller communities so we need to support them to retain their members and identify opportunities to get new people involved when it’s required because some of the most rural places in Scotland are putting out one or two shinty teams. That’s a strength shinty has that a lot of other sports would like to have in being able to reach out into the communities we’re reaching.”

The announcement of the new deal came just a couple of days after Kinlochshiel won the Marine Harvest League Premier League.

That the Badenoch teams remain a force had been demonstrated the previous week when Newtonmore, league champions of the previous seven seasons, retained the Camanachd Cup while, after a difficult few seasons, Kingussie showed signs of re-emerging as a major force under the new management of Dallas ‘Wild Thing’ Young, finishing in the top half of the table.