Co-op Cup Final: Barra v Point
Saturday 22 August
– Barra looking to become the first Uist and Barra League team to win the trophy
– Point in the hunt for four trophies this season
For this year’s respective finalists, the path to the 2015 Co-op Cup final has been punctuated by emphatic victories, last-gasp winning goals and a penalty shoot-out success, prompting as much tension for the coaching staff along the way as it has provided entertainment for the fans.
This Saturday’s final represents the last stop of a whirlwind journey that has been this season Co-op Cup, with both Barra and Point looking to take charge, as opposed to ending the tournament as mere passengers.
After comfortable wins in the early rounds over first Benbecula 1-9 and then North Uist 6-0, Point were made to work hard for their place in the final, edging out Westside in the semi-final on penalties, following a 3-3 draw.
Barra’s passage to the showpiece match was tense throughout both of their matches. Dramatic late efforts, first from Craig Ferguson in the 2-1 win over Lochs in the 2nd round and then from James Davidson in the 3-2 semi-final victory against Carloway, means they still have the chance to become the first Uist and Barra team to win the Co-op Cup.
Both clubs have enjoyed fantastic campaigns so far, with much still to play for this season. Barra are hot on the heels of Iochdar Saints as the Uist and Barra League approaches its conclusion, while Point, currently sit top of the Lewis and Harris League, albeit having played a game more than their closest rival Lochs.
Point has excelled in cup competitions this season, having already won the Jock Stein Cup, and will contest the Moldova Lewis Cup Final against Lochs on September 5.
Barra will be eager to go one step further than they did in this year’s Summer Cup, where following a fantastic 4-4 draw against Saints in the final, they eventually succumbed 7-4 after extra time.
If the two teams’ league form is any indication of how they might perform, then picking a winner will be no mean feat. The clubs have played 40 league games between them in their respective leagues, Barra (17) and Point (13), and each have so far lost on just two occasions, both times to their title rivals, Barra twice against Iochdar Saints and Point twice against Lochs.
While Point’s most recent defeat came at the start of August in a 2-0 reversal against Lochs, Barra has been in scintillating form in the league. Since losing 6-3 to Saints back in June, they have won eight of their last nine league fixtures, with a 3-3 draw against Benbecula, the only blemish on a near perfect record. Indeed, Barra’s ability to score goals could be the difference between a good season and a year to remember. Not only have they averaged a goal scoring ratio of 3.7 goals per game, but they have also scored in every game they have played this season.
Point’s strike rate is also impressive, only twice have they failed to find the net, with an average of 2.8 goals per game. Defensively, both teams have kept four clean sheets in the league so far this season, although Barra’s record has improved considerably in recent matches with three of those shut-outs coming in their last four matches.
With so little if anything to separate the teams when it comes to statistics, Am Paipear decided to gauge the opinion of two men who have experience of managing against both finalists.
We spoke to Iain MacDonald, manager of Benbecula, who were eliminated by Point in the Co-op Cup and recently drew 3-3 with Barra in the league and John Docherty, manager of North Uist, who were also defeated by Point in the Co-op and have recently faced Barra in the league.
Iain MacDonald: ‘I personally think the game will be tight as they both play an expansive game, get the ball wide, play a passing game, both are two very good footballing sides with excellent players. Point will probably come into the game as favourites but I can see Barra giving them a close run game and possibly being the first team from the Uist and Barra league to win the trophy.’
John Docherty: ‘I think it will be a good game, I expect Point to edge it though , they are a very strong side and strong in most positions, and very well organised. They are certainly the best side we have played this year and I think they will just have too much for Barra. However, I have been impressed by Barra this season and they certainly have one or two individuals who can turn a game , and you never know an upset just might be on the cards.’
Barra’s Neil Ferguson also spoke to Am Paipear about his side’s chances of becoming the first team from Uist and Barra to win the competition.
Neil Ferguson: ‘We have enjoyed this competition and we enjoy playing Lewis and Harris teams as it’s refreshing to come up against different teams and different styles of football.
We don’t know an awful lot about Point and they probably don’t know a lot about us either. We did play them last year in the quarter-finals of this cup and we beat them on penalties after a 1-1 draw, but I think both sides have improved since then. Our other two ties in this cup have been very tight, so I am expecting the same. It’s a cup final though so anything can happen. We are all really looking forward to it and hope we can rise to the occasion to become the first Uist and Barra side to win it.’
While it remains to tight to predict a winner, what can be guaranteed is a fantastic match in prospect. Two teams fighting for the title in the respective leagues will meet, both believing they have what it takes to succeed. For Point, a win would secure their third trophy this season, with a further two up for grabs. While Barra know a victory would mean they would become the first team from Uist and Barra to win the Co-op Cup. Neither team will lack the motivation, but which side will rise to the occasion? A fascinating final awaits.