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A hundred years of shinty solitude Southern game celebrates its close family connections at landmark final

Inveraray are going for four wins in a row when they meet Kyles Athletic in today's 100th Glasgow Celtic Society Cup final at Old Anniesland, where the history of shinty's oldest competition will be celebrated with personal links right back to the beginnings.

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The holders start as favourites against Kyles, who are record winners of the trophy, having had their names engraved on the well-worn and much-drunk-out-of silver cup 28 times, but are a shadow of the great team of three decades ago. Forwards Russell McKinlay and Gary McPherson are expected to fire the bullets, but the outcome could hinge on the midfield battle between the Inveraray captain, David Robertson, whose speed and phenomenal work rate will be pitted against the guile and experience of 41-year-old Dan MacRae, who was the winning captain 20 years ago. Regeneration at the southern tip of the Cowal peninsula is not what it used to be and MacRae will not be the oldest player on view. That distinction goes to goalkeeper Kenny MacDonald, who is a year older, but Kyles will also have the youngest, in 17-year-old Donald Irvine, son of Ian, a shinty icon of the 1960s. In an age of declining standards outside of Kingussie, who are geographically ineligible to play in this competition, it is an ideal opportunity for the teams to put on a show as the society are pulling out all the stops to make this an occasion, with a crowd of 500 expected and 1000 hoped for. Southern shinty is at a low ebb. None of their teams has ever won the national league in its current format, and the region can boast only two winners of the Camanachd Cup in the last 20 years, Kyles in 1994 and Oban Camanachd in 1996. It has not always been that way, though, and there will be a look over the shoulder before the action starts. The cup will be passed along a line of 40 former winning captains, starting with 90-year-old John Paterson, who led Kyles to victory in 1939. He will be presented with the trophy by Colin McKellar, grandson of Alex McKellar, who was captain of the now defunct Glasgow Cowal when they were first winners of the competition way back in 1879. Four of Alex's great-great- grandchildren will represent Glasgow Cowal's four wins among 99 youngsters in the colours of every one of the 21 winning clubs, most prominently the royal blue of Kyles, who were presented with a set of strips by their footballing cousins, Glasgow Rangers, at the start of the 20th century. The Celtic Society are maintaining their reputation as innovators, having instituted this competition 16 years before the introduction of what is now the crowning glory of the sport, the Camanachd Cup. Three new rules will be used today as a trial, in an effort to make play more free-flowing. The penalty area will be increased from 10 to 20 yards and goals will be allowed direct from free hits to discourage fouling, while multiple substitutions will be permitted among the 15-player pools in the 12-a-side game. Inveraray have chilled out since the low point in the cup's history in 1888, when they disputed that the ball had crossed the line in a tie against Furnace and took legal action that led to the cup being suspended for 12 years. A similar thing happened in football at Wembley in 1966 - except for the litigation.

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