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  • North Caledonian Football Association

In the immortal words of Elvis Presley, Loch Ness came "so close, yet so far" at the end of their first campaign competing for the Macleod & MacCallum North Caledonian League.

Prominent members of the summertime Inverness & District amateur leagues, the Inverness side stepped up to the seniors during the pandemic, competing in the temporary six team Ness Cup League.

Upon the full resumption of the league in 2021, they took their place in the eleven team league for the first time.

Under the guidance of founder - and now manager - Shane Carling, Loch Ness quickly found their feet last season, coming very close to a momentous first-try championship that would have been the first time such a feat has been achieved since Halkirk United were crowned champions after their inaugural season in 1993-94.

In the end, having held first place in the table for several months, they succumbed to defeat at the hands of St Duthus, Halkirk United and Invergordon during a torrid end to the campaign, with the latter taking the title.

Nevertheless, they emerge from their maiden season as a side amongst the "bookie's favourites" to challenge for the title this year.

Carling is coy about the success his side have had.

He said; "I thought we overachieved in terms of what we aimed to do, which was to finish in the top four. So, being in contention to win the league right to the end was a massive achievement for the club."

"For the coming season though, we are looking to follow on from the last, and try to go one better. Reaching a cup final is definitely a goal for us this season."

The club's decision to retain its amateur side has created a new balancing act for the Loch Ness gaffer, with the club competing all year round for honours. It has been almost two years since the manager, or the side, have had a "break", as you might call it - and their twelve month schedule leaves little room to take a breath for pre-season preparations.

"Trying to fit pre-season in with the boys playing amateur league is a little difficult. We have friendlies lined up for the coming weeks and we will be ready for the first game of the season."

"We are very lucky that the majority of our squad are all coming back for the coming season with a few new additions who have a lot of experience."

Life for Loch Ness in the North Caley has been somewhat nomadic so far, having moved between various temporary homes before eventually settling on King George V Park in Fortrose.

The manager hopes that home advantage can be to his side's advantage as they welcome Orkney to the Black Isle on August 20th.

"It's good to have a home game for the first game of the season. Playing Orkney is going to be a hard test for us for the first game but one we are excited for."