The Ashes… Rangers vs Celtic…. the north London Derby….. England vs Germany…. Ross County vs Inverness Caledonian Thistle….these are just some of the great sporting rivalries in the world. And now, we can add to this list: the darts challenge between the villages of Shieldaig and Lochcarron.
You’re going home in a Lochcarron mini-bus
Nestled in the picturesque highlands of Scotland, passing tourists will admire the landscape and the rows of whitewashed cottages. However, unknown to them, underneath this picture-postcard facade, there lurk the beating hearts of some of the fiercest darts competitors in the northern hemisphere.
Kenny Cool with Cuddy: brilliant arrows when sober
The Shieldaig team, captained by my good friend, Kenny ‘Cool’ MacLeod, threw down the gauntlet (or ‘Claymore’) to Gus and the gnarled, arrow-chuckers from Lochcarron. Only few weeks before, Shieldaig had beaten Lochcarron, and now there was the smell of revenge (and scotch eggs) in the air.
Tommy and Mattie: the future of darts
The Shieldaig team comprised of the veteran players – as well as the younger athletes including Tommy and Mattie. They obviously look delighted here, as being selected for the Shieldaig team is a great honour, and the result of a rigerous training regimin that invloves early morning runs, complicated mental arithmatic and a strict diet of Irn-Bru and Tennants.
Jim: Shieldaig’s expert pub sportsman and botanist
Over eight singles matches, and four doubles the advantage swayed one way and then the other. For a while it looked like Lochcarron would be a pushover. But they came back strong and Shieldaig had to rely on players like fisherman, one-time botanist and local pub legend, Jim Alexander, to bring Shieldaig back into the game.
Kenny Cool, Shieldaig’s team captain
The main personal rivalry is between the two teams best players and captains, Kenny and Gus. Last time they played, Kenny won. Gus was clearly determined to restore his personal honour and Lochcarron’s reputation as the bully-boys of highland darts.
Gus, Lochcarron’s team captain
This time, Gus’s power game shone through and he won his match with Kenny. But before long, Kenny bounced back with the nights only ‘one hundred and eighty’ and this highlight helped win his doubles match.
Murdo John wins a match for Lochcarron
The tension mounted. Lochcarron’s Murdo John clinched a nail-biter. Meawhile, a phenomenal amount of beer was washed down with numerous multi-coloured shots; players and spectators alike were then thankfully kept on their feet by a well timed arrival of scotch eggs, pizza and haggis drumsticks.
Its thirsty work being a Shieldaig WAG
Despite the Shieldaig WAGS best attempt to distract the Lochcarron fellows with their ravishing good looks and a fine exhibition of speed-drinking, after twelve matches, the teams were even.
To decide the game, it was going to be a team match of ’1001.’ The darts equivalent of a penalty shoot-out. Initially, Lochcarron stormed into the lead as each player took it in turn to throw. But when all looked lost, boy-band look-a-like, and local heart-throb, Scott Taylor, calmly threw a 140.
Throwing on the McFly: an old head on young shoulders
Nevertheless, Lochcarron were way ahead and throwing to win. But they just couldn’t close out. Even so, it seemed a certainly Shieldaig would lose any minute.
Gary: shortly to have a rendevous with destiny
Cometh the hour, cometh the man….. with all eyes on the dart-board (except the Shiledaig WAGS who were sinking another round of shots), Gary calmly stepped up to the ocky.
The WAGS relive the tension with another round of shots
The last time I can remember this amount of sporting tension, Colin ‘Monty’ Montgomery, was putting to win the Ryder Cup.
What would happen? Would Gary cover himself in glory? Would this be the moment of failure that would haunt him to his dying days? One can only imagine the pressure he felt.
He threw… HE SCORED!
The moment of victory: Gary hits the spot
The bar errupted. It was a magnificent victory for Shieldaig, but more than that, it was a victory for darts.
There were handshakes and congratulations all round. Lochcarron were spirited losers, knowing their day would surely come, sometime in the future when the two giants of highland darts meet again.
The darts over, its time for the ‘sesh’ to begin