KEITH REILLY, the new Lothians captain, reckons he couldn’t have got the job at a better time after watching Danny Kay inspire the latest crop of Capital talent by becoming a Scotland squad member.
Silverknowes star Reilly has just taken over the prestigious post from Mark Timmins, the man he lost to in the 2000 Lothians final.
The 47-year-old got off to a flying start as his new charges followed up a win over Kingsknowe by thumping Stirlingshire 9-1 at Haddington.
A weekend defeat at the hands of Borders was Reilly’s first setback but he’s now gearing up for a crunch clash with Northumberland followed by an even bigger event – the Scottish Area Team Championship.
“The call to ask if I wanted to become the new captain came out of the blue,” revealed Reilly, who has been a Lothians stalwart since making his debut against Angus at Letham Grange in the late 1990s.
“It is a huge honour and a privilege to do it. We’ve got a lot of good players in the Lothians at the moment and I think the future is looking bright.”
Kay wasn’t even on the radar when Lothians, the record 13-time winners, finished fourth in last season’s Scottish Area Team event at Prestwick.
But the Dunbar player reached the final of the Scottish Amateur at Western Gailes a few months later and went on training trips to both Abu Dhabi and South Africa with the SGU squad over the winter. He looks a certainty to spearhead the six-man side for this year’s Area Team title bid at Blairgowrie and there are plenty of other good players vying to be joining him in Perthshire. Dunbar’s Zander Culverwell, Allyn Dick of Kingsknowe and Reilly’s clubmate Graham Robertson are certainly in with shouts after they all won SGU Order of Merit titles last year.
Craigielaw’s Ross Noon, last season’s Lothians Order of Merit, and Swanston New left-hander Malcolm Campbell are other contenders. So, too, are experienced campaigners such as former captain Keith Nicholson (Haddington), Steven Armstrong (Turnhouse) and Gary Corrigan (Greenburn).
“I honestly don’t think I could have taken over the job at a better time,” declared Reilly, a four-time Dispatch Trophy winner with Silverknowes.
“We’ve got a really good group of players at the moment and the exciting thing is that it includes a great mix of youth and experience.
“The likes of Danny Kay, Ross Noon, Zander Culverwell, Anthony Blaney and Lewis Bain, who reached the quarter-finals of the Scottish Boys’ last week, are all excellent young players so that’s great for the future.
“But, at the same time, we’ve also got some great old heads in Keith Nicholson, Mark Timmins and Gary Corrigan and I believe you need to have players in their 30s or 40s there to help the youngsters.”
Reilly has been something of a trailblazer for Silverknowes, paving the way for the likes of Robertson, Tam Caldwell, Ian Doig and now Paul Heggie to also represent the Lothians.
But it would be difficult for anyone to disagree that Robertson now holds the mantle of top dog down at Cramond after his win in the Edward Trophy at Glasgow Gailes towards the end of last season.
The new captain is clearly relishing the challenges ahead, which include using the match against Northumberland at City of Newcastle Golf Club on Sunday week to come up with some winning foursomes pairings.
“It’s my job, along with fellow selectors Tom Gowan, Robert Bald and Andrew Douglas, to try and get the best pairings possible from the current crop.”