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Big derby match is called off after Covid case in Newtonmore camp

By Gavin Musgrove

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NOT YET, BOYS: Iain Richardson (Newtonmore) and Ryan MacWilliam (Kingussie) in an earlier derby.
NOT YET, BOYS: Iain Richardson (Newtonmore) and Ryan MacWilliam (Kingussie) in an earlier derby.

The wait goes on for the eagerly anticipated Badenoch shinty derby after a Newtonmore player tested positive for Covid-19 with other players in the camp having to also now self-isolate.

Some first-team squad members had travelled to London for the Wembley showdown between England and Scotland in the Euros 2020 group qualifier last Friday night which ended goalless.

Kingussie and the Blue and Whites were due to be meet in the Mowi League B clash at the Dell tomorrow, but the match was postponed on Wednesday – just as the Red and Blues got the green light for spectators to return to their ground.

The Eilan club contacted the Camanachd Association requesting the match be called off and the governing body agreed in line with the Covid-19 regulations.

Newtonmore boss Orsten Gardner said: “We have one confirmed case of Covid-19 and at the moment have five players who are having to self-isolate.

“We were already short of players because Steven MacDonald was banned, and there are a couple of other players with niggling injuries.

“We had to make the call.”

Newtonmore manager Orsten Gardner.
Newtonmore manager Orsten Gardner.

Gardner said the club became aware of the situation on Tuesday. “A couple of the players went down for the game, but there were meant to be a lot more of them as well,” he said.

It is understood a number of friends – not connected with the shinty club – of the player also travelled to Wembley from the village and will now also have to self-isolate.

Gardner said: “I guess it was almost inevitable that this would happen. We, as a club, had put in place that on their return they were not allowed to play or come to training until they had been tested negative.

“It is what it is; obviously we wanted to play Kingussie on Saturday, and I am sure they will not be very happy about what has happened.

“However, we are 100 per cent within the rules.”

He added: “I suspect the game will now be played when there is a free weekend or at the end of the season.”

All being well, Gardner is hopeful their next game on July 3 against Lochaber will be played.

Newtonmore’s second-string Strathdearn Cup match with Grantown’s Strathspey Camanachd is still scheduled to take place this weekend.

Gardner said: “No one in this bubble was affected by the positive Covid-19 case, and providing we do not use first-team players which, of course, we have no intention of doing, it can be played.”

Kingussie president Russell Jones is disappointed the wait continues.

“This is the second week in a row that our first-team match has been cancelled, which is very frustrating for our players, and this weekend we would also have had supporters back in to the Dell,” he said.

“Tickets had been due to go on sale on Tuesday.

“We will now look forward to the visit of Skye Camanachd a week on Saturday, and tickets for that match will go on sale on Sunday.

“We haven’t had a gate since March 2020, so it will be great to welcome people back but, of course, there will be social distancing and we are doing everything to the letter.

“Those who buy their tickets online – and they can only do it through Eventbrite – will see just where the zones and pods are laid out and will pick which they want to be in. All is explained on the site.

“We can’t wait to see everyone again at the Dell and expect some 450 fans on the day.”

It is understood the Dell is the only shinty ground so far to be allowed to admit spectators.

A Camanachd Association spokesman said: “Some clubs, including Newtonmore, have had to postpone their fixtures this weekend due to Covid concerns.

"We are aware of potential concerns in other areas too and we continue to work with our member clubs to ensure that any further issues are addressed in the appropriate manner.

"We would urge all members to be extra vigilant at this time."

On spectators returning to the game, the spokesman said: "At present – while it is possible for teams with enclosed grounds to have spectators – the hoops that each club has to jump through are extremely difficult for a volunteer led club to manage.

"We would like to urge fans of other teams to be patient.

"Volunteers and committees are already being stretched to capacity with following the standard regulations to get our sport back up and running. We will continue to work with SportScotland to try and prioritise a return of fans to shinty grounds up and down the country."

The Oban Derby – Oban Celtic versus Oban Camanachd – is another casualty tomorrow as Oban Celtic have squad members self-isolating.

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