Tolsta FC's finest hour and a half
The Eilean an Fhraoich Cup Final Replay of 26 September 1981 was undoubtedly Tolsta Football Club's finest sporting hour (and a half). Although not given much hope against a much feted Ness team who were on the verge of great things, Tolsta's team excelled itself on the day and defeated Ness 6-4, more comfortably than the margin suggests.
After a 3-3 final at Coll Machair the previous week, the replay was played on a Saturday at Goathill Park in front of a decent crowd, despite the appalling weather. Although Tolsta went behind to an early goal, they mastered the heavy ground conditions much better than their opponents and raced to a 4-1 lead with goals from Magnus Johnson (2), 'Charlton' Murray and Iain 'Mini' Murray. Ness responded with another goal before half-time and scored again after the break to make matters a little tense, but Tolsta were able to extend their lead with further goals from Magnus and Charlton. Ness scored a late consolation, but the match was over as a contest.
On reflection, this was quite an achievement by the Tolsta team as they became the first village team to win the Eilean an Fhraoich Cup, a feat which has not been repeated. In addition, all the players were from Tolsta, or of Tolsta parentage. In subsequent years, Tolsta continued to perform well in the competition despite a restricted player pool. The team reached several semi-finals and appeared again in the final of 1986, but a depleted team lost 4-1 to Back, Derek MacLeod scoring Tolsta's only goal.
By the 90s, there were more frequent and heavy defeats with one or two notable performances such as the narrow 4-3 loss to Harris (the eventual winners) in the 1993 semi-final, but there was no real success to speak of and no apparent cause for optimism. The problem of a lack of eligible players had worsened and, unfortunately, Tolsta were unable to enter a team in 1998, although re-entering in 2003, after an absence of five years.
There were two notable absentees from the 1981 photograph shown here, namely, Murdo Johnson who was unavailable for the game, but who, with his brother Magnus, made a massive contribution to Tolsta's Eilean an Fhraoich campaigns and to Lewis and Harris football in general. The other was the late Iain Murray (Patchy), who gave seven of the players photographed here their first opportunity in senior Lewis and Harris football. As we recall, and despite the players' protestations, lain did not want to be in the photograph because he had not managed the Tolsta League Team during that particular season. In retrospect this was a great shame.