NEWTONMORE Shinty club boss Norman MacArthur has said how sorry he is for his players to have the Sutherland Cup taken off them for fielding an ineligible player.
His comments come after the Camanachd Association announced their findings following a complaint of misconduct for playing Calum Stewart.
The final will now be staged again between beaten finalists Kingussie and Glenurquhart, who were knocked out by Newtonmore in the semi-final, at a date yet to be announced.
The second strings of the Badenoch giants contested an enthralling final 4-3, but it subsequently emerged that Stewart should not have been on the field as he had played too many first team games.
He netted twice in the first half-hour for the visitors at The Dell in front of some 700 fans in the final last month, and also scored against Glen in the previous round.
MacArthur said: "Of course it's a disappointment, but there was really nothing else the association could do.
"It was a mistake we shouldn't have made and the people I feel most sorry for are the players who had played so well to take the title."
The Kingussie club accepted that a genuine oversight had occurred but felt obliged to lodge an official protest to the sport's governing body after the error emerged.
The association also concluded that Newtonmore had not acted deliberately but came to their decision after taking legal advice.
Their statement said: "Our decision, which is the only realistic one open to us, is that Newtonmore must forfeit the semi-final game to the opponents and are disqualified from the 2012 Sutherland Cup competition."
One Newtonmore supporter, who did not want to be named, said that he felt that this kind of mistake would never have been made when the club had regular committee meetings every Tuesday as there were always checks on issues of this kind.
Kingussie second team spokesman John Robertson said: "We hope that everyone in Badenoch will remember the final for the great match that it was.
"From the outset we said we would accept the association's ruling on the matter.
"We guessed that the decision would be to scrap the competition for a year, but as we are being asked to play Glenurquhart in a re-arranged final then we will do so."
He continued: "After initially being told that we would have to protest within three days of the final, the Camanachd Association decided not to use Kingussie's protest and returned our £50 fee. Instead they referred the matter to the behaviour in sport committee themselves."
"We hope the matter will result in the Camanachd Association addressing some of the issues that this has highlighted, such as how can better records be kept by the association so that this can't happen again."
Steve Borthwick, one of Kingussie's coaches, said: "It was an easy mistake for Newtonmore to make and they held their hands up to it. It's unfortunate for both clubs really.
"However, we have been given another chance to win the cup and we have to get the players up for the match against Glenurquhart and get their attitude right."
Dave Fallows' opinion: This was the only possible outcome of a sorry tale and one that can only now be rectified for the players by going out next year and winning the trophy fair and square.
Rules are there for a reason and this rule, which limits the number of games any player taking part in the second team competition may play for the first team, is a sound one.
It ensures that clubs do not load second teams unfairly with senior players just to win a cup.
There is no suggestion whatsoever, of course, that that was what Newtonmore did – this was an honest mistake, but a mistake nonetheless.
Perhaps one supporter who called for tighter management control of the club's affairs through regular committee meetings has a point.
There is one issue to be resolved when it comes to replaying the final, however.
Both Glenurquhart and Kingussie have, since their exit from the trophy first time around, now 'cup-tied' some players who would have been available at the time of their original matches.
Clearly, the only reasonable option is to wind back the clock and recognise that all players who were eligible at the time of the original matches of each club against Newtonmore must remain eligible for the final.