ST. DUTHUS Football Club held their annual awards presentations at this year's Sportsman's Dinner in front of a packed room of sponsors, supporters and special guests at the Royal Hotel. The club's most coveted award for Player of the Year, as voted for by both the club committee and the players, was presented to centre half Charlie MacDonald. It was a just reward for the man many claim has been the catalyst in turning the Saints' fortunes around -- and the centre half is already looking ahead to 2019-20.
Charlie's arrival on a football field came via an unorthodox route. Despite playing football at school level, his formative years were spent playing rugby for Highland RFC, and he continued to do so until a shoulder injury forced him to give up the game.
A team sport "all-rounder" Charlie, 23, is also an established figure in shinty circles, competing annually in the Camanachd Association's national leagues during the summer. A loyal servant of his native Inverness Shinty Club since the age of 15, he has been a mainstay for the Bught Park side - competing in the National Division and having also been capped at U21 level for Scotland. Ironically, on a shinty pitch his role has always been that of a forward, which should come as a surprise considering it was Charlie's defensive abilities which gained him recognition for St Duthus.
Having played football sparingly in the amateurs, Charlie came about making his debut for Saints last October. He recounts a chance bout of 5-aside as the scouting success which took him to Tain.
"I was playing 5-aside one Tuesday night when Buddha (Barry Kenny) asked me to come along to training, and after speaking with Stuart I came along. I trained on the Wednesday and by Saturday I was on the field playing."
Charlie's debut resulted in a battling performance at the heart of a blood and thunder occasion with Thurso at the Links. The game ended 4-4 in conditions so muddy that the number on his back was left unrecognisable - usually a sure sign of a no-nonsense affair!
A win over Halkirk followed before the Saints embarked on an unbeaten run in the league which would last until late January, when they narrowly lost a close game in Orkney, despite Charlie giving his side a first half lead. In fact, his eye for goal hasn't been lost without a caman, as he has chipped in on the scoring side of things three times since he signed with St Duthus.
There's no doubt that Charlie's previous experience on the rugby and shinty fields have stood him in goodstead for the switch to competitive North Caledonian League football. His consistency has been a feature in the centre of defence and alongside veteran John Skinner he has helped the side keep two clean sheets and concede just five goals in league games this year. His form was such that both committee and player's Player of the Year awards were presented to him.
Manager Stuart Ross heaped praise on his Player of the Year after this weekend's awards.
"We are delighted to have Charlie on board for 2019-20. He was the answer to our defensive woes throughout this season and he has just continued to improve. He is a great lad, his attitude is first class and he has fit in well with our existing squad."
Charlie is already committed to Saints for next season and is looking ahead with the same belief that runs through the squad currently.
"The important thing is that we start well and take each game as it comes. With everyone available we are a very good side and we are more than capable of competing for honours."
Clip courtesy of Darren Manson, Picture House, Thurso.
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