• Grassroots reviews four leagues from across the Highlands and Islands.
• The leagues included are the Ross-shire Youth League, Moray Firth Youth League, Lewis and Harris Junior FA and Shetland Junior FA.
Ross-shire Youth League
A small but competitive league operating just north of Inverness, the Ross-shire Youth League attracts the same four teams year-in, year-out. The under-13, under-15 and under-17 leagues consist of Tain, Invergordon, Alness and the leagues’ big guns Dingwall. Each team plays each other twice, home and away, throughout the summer months. As for cup competitions, one cup is played through the season, while the other is saved for the end of the league campaign. Many players make the step up from the Ross-shire League to Amateur League level to represent their respective towns.
Moray Firth Youth League
Much like the Scottish Highland Football League, the Moray Firth Highland League is one of the top levels of football available to young footballers in the Highlands. However, the main difference is that it is made up of just one large section instead of two regional sections. In recent years the league has won big sponsorship deals with Vauxhall to help increase youth participation in grassroots football. The league is composed of Caithness United, Brora Rangers, Invergordon Juniors, Alness United, Ross County, Clachnacuddin, Strathspey Thistle, Elgin City, Buckie Thistle, Forres Mechanics and Fort William. Each team plays each other home and away with a cup competition also being played, of which Clachnacuddin are currently holders.
Lewis and Harris Junior FA
Despite their challenging geographical location, football in the Islands of the North of Scotland is booming. Last season a Senior Girls side from Nicolson Institute (Stornoway's main school) became Scottish Schools Shields Champions. Domestically the league is jam packed with games all year round. Last season, Stornoway United ran out comfortable league winners across all age groups. In the cup at under-18 level, Western Thistle won both trophies after impressive cup final showings. This season the teams taking part are Stornoway United, Point, Western Thistle, Back, Stornoway Thistle and Ness.
Shetland Junior FA
Youth Football in Shetland is played at a competitive level throughout the summer months. Again, despite the challenging location, the league is very competitive and, like Lewis and Harris, one team dominates all age groups – in Shetland’s case, Thistle. Thistle also won last year’s cup trophy as they continued their dominance of grassroots football in Shetland. The rest of the league is made up of Ness, Spurs, Rangers, Delting, Hostel and Whitedale.