ORKNEY’S amazing commitment to meeting their away obligations has been well documented since they were formed in 1966.
The islanders’ dedication to travelling has been a source of admiration among opponents over the years, occasionally overshadowing their achievements on the pitch.
Depending on where the club are scheduled to play, the usual arrangements are to catch an overnight ferry to Aberdeen on Friday evening, followed by a light breakfast and then meet up with the team bus before making their way to the venue of their game.
Among the clubs played over the years are Berwick, Jed-Forest, a number of clubs in both Edinburgh and Glasgow, and various points on the east coast, including Aberdeen.
The most challenging trip was 15 years ago when Orkney were scheduled to meet Strathmore at Forfar in an end of season Caley Division One decider, with had a 12.30pm kick off until the harbour master at Aberdeen stepped in.
He determined the conditions were too stormy that morning for ferries to disembark, resulting in the squad having to sail on to Rosyth in the Firth of Forth.
The team bus duly met them there and drove back up to Forfar where the game finally kicked off at 8.15pm. Not surprisingly the islanders lost out, albeit narrowly, and after a short break set off on the return trip to Scrabster where the team caught the ferry back to Stromness on the Sunday morning.
In stark contrast, last Saturday’s [21st January] travel arrangements for National League Three game at Burnbrae where they played promotion seeking West of Scotland were a walk in the park, as the club had arranged to fly down on Saturday morning and after a leisurely night in Glasgow flew back on Sunday afternoon.
The drama was instead restricted to the pitch, which was played on the home side’s 4G surface as the main pitch was frozen.
Orkney produced their best away performance of the season but at the end of the day had to settle for a narrow 31-30 defeat after a remarkable end-to-end affair. They at least took some consolation from two bonus-points for the four tries they scored and a losing by less than seven, while jumping into fifth place in the league in the process.
But the defining moment in a thoroughly entertaining game came early in the match when the Pickaquoy side scored their first try on their way to a half time lead of 18-14. The visitors bench were unable to find a kicking tee, leaving stand off Connor Hancock no option but to unsuccessfully attempt to drop-goal the conversion.
Head coach Derek Robb was philosophical about the fine margins in the game but said with apologies to William Shakespeare: “For the loss of a kicking tee, a match was lost, but these things happen. I would rather concentrate on our superb performance.”
Thus another chapter in the rich history of the game was written at a club with 158 years of its own history.
“There’s one thing for sure, it’s never dull when you play and coach at Pickaquoy,” said Robb who has also captained Highland.
He was also happy that his stand off was over the trauma, adding 10 points to complete his rehabilitation.
Orkney have since consolidated that lofty position with a 23-22 home win over sixth placed Howe of Fife on Saturday, aided in no small part by the visitors opting opting to run a last minute penalty in front of the Orkney posts to the astonishment of both head coaches.
Meanwhile, West’s match versus Strathmore was postponed on Saturday due to a frozen pitch, leaving the Burnbrae men second in the National Three table, nine points adrift of Gordonians but with a game in hand.