Focus is firmly on the future for Newtonmore's second team boss Peter Ross
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The Newtonmore second team will have a key role to play in the club’s development over the next few seasons and that is something manager Peter Ross in mindful of.
Having taken charge of the ‘More seconds in 2020, his side continue to dominate the north regional league and cup competitions.
He’s also watched on as the all-conquering Newtonmore primary school team won the coveted MacKay Cup a couple of years ago and they have now progressed to clinch the league and MacMaster Cup double at under-14 level this year and, as they progress onto under-17 level, they will soon be knocking on the second team door.
Ross is very aware of the responsibility that comes with introducing young players to second team shinty and he is particularly clear on the importance of communication.
He said: “It’s harder for the young boys these days so it’s important to build their confidence when they come into the team.
"We have a lot of talented youngsters, too many to all play at once, and it can be a headache trying to fit them all in.
"I try to rotate the players so they all get a turn on the field and I’ll explain to the substitutes why they are not starting and that communication is very important.”
The formula is working well with ‘More retaining both the Mowi North Division 1 title and the HIS Sutherland Cup to follow up the previous year’s treble.
The Camanachd Association 'stats pack' ahead of the HIS Sutherland Cup final revealed, perhaps surprisingly, that the Newtonmore squad had a younger average age than opponents Skye Camanachd and this is something that pleases the ‘More manager.
He said: “I want to make the team younger every year. We lost five players at the start of the 2023 season with Craig Macleod, Martin Hall and Craig MacIsaac moving up to the first team and Scott Chisholm and Evan Menzies both retiring.
"Scott was a huge player for the second team, playing a really important role. However, a wrist injury proved to be a problem.
“Other youngsters have played for the first team during the season and that’s great as, first and foremost, our role is to prepare players so they ready to be introduced into the first team.
“We replaced the guys we lost from last year with youngsters and, depending on who the first team want for next year, we’ll do the same again.
“Ross Haig, Kyle Clark and Lewis MacKintosh were substitutes last season, but they will all get more game time in the year ahead. Kyle missed games through injury but he’s fit again and sometimes he’s just unplayable at training so it will be good to see more of him on the pitch.
Some great young talent at the club
“You’ll also see more of Jacob Bain. He’s a young shinty player who really excites me.
"His father and grandfather were great players and Jacob has all the attributes too. He’s brave, maybe too brave at times, but he really has a chance of going all the way.
“Joey Brannan and Logan Mccormack each played three games last season and they will get game time again with the seconds and we are keen to see them develop.
"There’s also Joe Coyle. I’ve been coaching youths since I was 20 and I’ve not seen natural talent like his. He scores goals, he has balance, a great weight of pass and he’s a good lad too.
“Of course, he also plays football; he’s a centre forward at youth level for Ross County and I hope he can make a career for himself as a footballer.
"There will always be a place for him at Newtonmore though.
"His brother James isn’t 13 yet and he’s also impressive whilst Brodie Campbell and Donald Ross are great prospects who are just a year or two younger than the current crop and like Archie Bloor, Josh Stewart and Rory Gilligan, they all have talent.
"We may even see young Cameron Mitchell get a shot in goal.”
Newtonmore supporters got a taste of the next generation in the league match against the Inverness first team at the end of September.
It may have ended in a 4-3 defeat, which was only ‘More’s third league reverse of the season, but the positives outweighed the result with 12 juvenile players in the squad and an overall average age of just 16.3 years.
Speaking after the game, Newtonmore assistant manager Mark Taylor said: “Whilst it always means a lot to win games, it was great to give the young ones playing time.
"Peter and I thought they all put in a great shift, and they really enjoyed it.”
Ross said: “We’ll always try to play attractive shinty, with fitness, pace and ability. We want to be on the front foot with a full centre holding position in the middle of the park and our wing centres getting forward and both Brodie MacBean and Tristan Ross got goals from wide positions last season.
“Be in no doubt that Newtonmore are in a good place as a club right now and in Rory Kennedy and Steven Macdonald, we have two of the best players in the game playing for us.
“There is a great set up behind the scenes too and I’ve been really impressed with both Lesley McKenna and Noel Baxter who lead our training.
"Getting Lesley on board is one of the best things we’ve ever done.
"She always has a smile on her face and has achieved so much in her own right whilst Noel is former ice hockey player
and is so knowledgeable about what the players need to be at their best during games. They are both professional athletes after all, and they have high standards and that rubs off on the players.
“Newtonmore have to be the top team in shinty at every level.
"There is a togetherness at the club and all our coaches watch our other teams and want them to do well.”
The new season can not come quick enough for the youngsters looking to make their mark.