A youthful 16-man pool of Shetland’s footballers, containing 10 players aged 24 or under, will be in Kirkwall for the annual inter-county match against Orkney on Saturday.
Reigning champions and league leaders Whalsay provide five of the squad, while there are four representatives of second-placed senior side Celtic. Six of those picked for the squad have never sampled action against Orkney before and the new faces include two teenagers, Celtic defender Robert Smith and Whitedale midfielder Alan Johnston.
At 30 years of age, Karl Williamson is the elder statesman of the squad, while James Johnston is expected to take his tally of caps against the Orcadians to a dozen as Shetland seek to retain the Milne Cup, which they won 1-0 last year thanks to an extra-time header from Alan Duncan.
The full squad is: Erik Peterson (Ness), Paul Grant (Celtic); Gary Jamieson, Richard Arthur (both Whalsay), Ross Moncrieff, Robert Smith (both Celtic), Merv Jamieson (captain, Delting); Leighton Flaws (Delting), Karl Williamson (Whalsay), Neil Laurenson (Thistle), Alan Johnston (Whitedale), James Johnston (Spurs); Keith Pearson, Bryan Irvine (both Whalsay), Joe Leask (Celtic), Ross MacDougal (Delting).
Meanwhile, hopes are high for Shetland in the hockey inter-county clash after last year was proclaimed a “new era” in the sport in the isles. A much-improved showing last year saw Shetland lose out 2-1 in a close-fought encounter.
The match is being broadcast live on BBC Radio Orkney at 1.30pm, followed by the football at 4pm, and a Shetland Hockey Association spokeswoman said the coverage would “add a new dimension to the excitement with support not only from faithful travelling fans but with everyone’s granny, neighbour and friends of friends tuning in back home and around the world”.
The team has been managed by Peter Sharp this year with an emphasis placed on motivation and teamwork. Playing for Shetland this year are captain Brenda Leask and vice captain Maggie Irvine, described as a “dynamic duo with experience and authority to lead the players to victory”.
The team also welcomes back experienced players Ava Sim, Rhiannon Inkster, Zoe Irvine, Maree Simpson, Nicola Blance, Jillian Copland, Toni Sidgwick, Stacey Laurenson and Josie Jamieson. Fresh faces in the team earning their first senior caps are Susan Morrison, Lynne Scollay, Naomi Johnson and sisters Shona and Aimee Keith.