Thursday, September 18, 2014

Camanachd Special- Check out the Crowd!!

It should have been the biggest day for Glen shinty since the Loch Ness Inn changed its menu. A monster day as MacAllister himself might have said. It wasn’t. That’s all that can be said about it. There is little point at this stage writing a report about the game such as it was: by now the news has moved on and since most people in the Glen were there they saw it happen and will have formed their own opinion of what occurred on the day. The three folk that stayed to drink in the Ben Leva will have been privileged to hear the on-the-spot analysis of Fraser Inglis who called it right. How does the Wing Centre know this? He recorded the match and watched the play back and at every point where Fraser was asked what he thought, he commanded his brief and called it right.
Apart from that, congratulations have to be offered to Himself M.B.E. who turned the game as he did the semi. He provided the first goal for Savio Genini, scored the second - going past two defenders - and nabbed the fourth. Congratulations are certainly due to the Glen defence for stopping him getting a hat-trick! That would have been too hard to bear.

Well done to Savio Genini too for two superb finishes and for showing the strength of character to keep his head up when some early touches did not go for him. Well done to the rest of the Kingussie lads too and to Russell Jones and Wee Davie and that fine friend of the Glen, Houston Old on the sidelines who coaches their forwards. He seems to do a fair job.

 As for the Glen they have to learn to score when they have the opportunities and they should try hard not to get injured. On the other hand we have to thank these lads ;all of them , on both sides , put their livelihoods on the line. They don't get paid but one missed block can mean a big loss of income.
To step back a little, it might be best to reflect on the fact that the Glen got to two major cup finals in the one season which can only be a good thing. The greatest step is to come but that will be up to the players who make it into the side in the future and the real task is to work hard at keeping the sport to the fore in the community to a high enough standard so that these chances can come round again.
In the meantime the Wing Centre and Glenurquhart Shinty Club would like to thank all who came to support us at the Bught Park on Saturday. Exiled Glenners came from near and far, from home and abroad to swell the ranks of the faithful and the colour, noise and excitement generated by the Glen support made the day the success it was and gave the sport one of its biggest Camanachd Cup crowds since the Glen were there last. Thank you one and all.
Enjoy the pictures of players and spectators from Sheena Lloyd and the Wing Centre’s trusty old mobile. Also included is one of the Strath Ladies team with our minibus: they actually won their cup. Grrrr!!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Yes We Can!

Glen are in the Camanachd Final but while everyone on the street is excited and on edge  - and the village is putting on a bit of colour - most of us close to the club are pretending it’s just another game.


It’s almost as if there is a little part of us all that wonders if after 26 years the Glen have the right to be there. Of course they have: this sort of thing just does not happen by accident. Results don’t lie. The team has performed well throughout the season and has not actually lost since the MacTavish final.

At present they stand third in the Premier League, just ahead of Kingussie.
It is also clear there is some depth to the club from the manner in which the second string played against Skye the other week. A last minute mixture of vets and under 17s with three or four more mature players holding key positions (and the keeper back in Drum helping out the firsts in a pre Camanachd rehearsal) combined to give the Islanders a reasonable game. Had it been earlier in the summer and the side had Raymond Robertson, Jack and Ben Hosie available then the whole thing might have been closer still. These points clinched the championship for Skye.
The best team in the division is of course Newtonmore and they have come through the traumas of a huge injury list to make it 5 Premier League championships in a row, helped, it has to be said, by second placed Lovat who missed an opportunity to create history by losing points in games in which they should have done better. These two sides and of course Kyles Athletic then went on to lose vital games in the Camanachd - and so the big day devolves on two teams whom it is fair to say would not have been everybody’s first choice to put down on the betting slip.
So where are we now in the run up to the Camanachd final? Well we are at the silly photograph stage. Lee Bain - a former Glenurquhart High School pupil it should be noted - has already been snapped in his working togs and very smart he looks too though he has disappointingly swapped the traditional Strathglass “deerstalker” hat for the natty tweed cap more in favour amongst the Badenoch toffs. Still it seems to suit the young man. Lee has had some injury problems this season but now he seems to be back on his feet again - and Kingussie will need him to be - because he is a big player for them and having grown up in Strathglass he knows how the individual Glenners play better than anyone else hefted to Badenoch.
Rumours have also abounded that a photo shoot was going on in the Glen too, so the Wing Centre has been waiting patiently for a pic of a monster or a castle to turn up somewhere. The only thing the Treasurer insisted on was that he was certainly not going to pay “Hysterical Scotland” prices for entry to the Castle for any players to be pictured against an historical background. It appears these snaps have been taken and will appear sometime over the weekend in publications more favoured than this one. The photographer was kind enough to send one or two over.

 Note how Hutchie does not touch the trophy. That will be an old Badenoch superstition going back to the days of the Black Officer of Ballachroan who met his match at Gaick. Now the Officer was a fair player in his day but from a Glen point of view maybe it’s a pity the game is not being played at Gaick. Maybe even the Old Grey Man of Ben Macdhui will make an appearance in the Kings strip , if he isn't already playing in the guise of Ronald ?
Note that for the Glen’s “Heathie” there is no equivalent superstition. That is most probably because the red and blacks have not actually appeared in enough finals to build up a genuine superstition.

Meanwhile the Glen is getting set up for the big day. A wee stroll around the centre of Drum shows the shops are getting geared up for the match with window displays of black and red - and the Post Office is selling tickets faster than it is selling the latest edition of the Glen Bulletin.

 Even the Drumossie Hotel has got in on the act.

Every second person you meet will present you with a copy of his chosen team -well not everybody but a goodly number. The Wing Centre has been handed little sheets of paper on four occasions complete with tactics, names with roles assigned. Both Lewis Maclennan and Fraser Heath are suggested to be playing in every known position except goalkeeper.

There is certainly no shortage of suggestions for a Plan B. It all makes for a nice build up. On top of all that Russell Jones of the Camanachd Association is going round the Primary Schools tomorrow to let them see the Cup.
Which brings us to the preview: “It’s too close to call” is the usual cop-out. Cop-out or not it is genuinely hard to call. For one thing it brings together Kingussie and Glenurquhart in a re-run of the classic 1988 final. On that occasion Kingussie eventually came out on top 4-2 but only after the Glen had given them a real scare taking a 2-1 lead into the half time dressing room. Kingussie were the favourites on that day and they’ll be favourites again this time simply because they have tradition on their side but that said this present Glen team now are at a different level from the squad of ‘88. This is their 4th major final in the last few seasons though in saying that, none of them has played in a Camanachd Cup semi-final before this year’s win over Skye. There is this time very little between the teams and that judgement of the relative strengths of the two sides is supported by the stats surrounding their Premier League meetings this season: both sides took points off each other with narrow home wins - and at present sit third and fourth in the Premier table with every possibility that they will finish the season on the same points though goal difference at present favours the Glen.
Back in 1988 the different goal scoring abilities of the two sides was very marked. Out of the top 6 scorers in the then North League, 4 were from Kingussie (Davie Anderson, Kevin Thain, Angus MacIssac and Steven Borthwick). Coming in at No 5 was Ron Fraser with 29, a full 19 strikes shy of Anderson.
That said tradition will certainly play a part as it does in every Camanachd Cup final but will it win the day? And for whom?  Both teams have a long history: Glenurquhart existed even before the Camanachd Association did having come into being in 1884 while Kingussie date from 1893. In cup winning terms however Kingussie clearly come out on top. While the Glen are making only their second ever appearance in a Camanachd final, Kingussie have won shinty’s premier trophy 22 times in total and 12 of these have been since 1988.Indeed in a nice nod to tradition Kingussie will wear special commemorative strips which will honour their 1914 Camanachd Cup winning team, six of whom later lost their lives in the Great War. From Glenurquhart too came many who made the supreme sacrifice - there are 52 names from the 14-18 war on the Memorial outside the Bank - but given that the last Glen team to get to an important final was back in 1902 the names of those who had a shinty connection among the dead have sadly gone unrecorded.

In today’s squads both sides have excellent forwards: while the Glen’s James Macpherson is the top scorer in the competition so far, Kingussie youngster Savio Genini who scored with a fabulous strike in the semi-final was the pick of the Badenoch frontmen for most of the season. That was until a certain Ronald Ross M.B.E. was restored to the side for the semi. Ross completely changed the dynamic of the team scoring once and netting two penalties in the shootout against Fort William. Davie Anderson reincarnated as Kingussie co-manager acknowledges the contribution of Ross but is keen to shift the focus away from the sport’s most high profile player.“Of course, Ronald has been a great performer for us but people have to remember he has only played one game in the Camanachd Cup this season. We defeated Lovat and Kyles without Ronald so it is not the Ronald roadshow in the same way as it has been before. We have players in there, like Louis Munro, Fraser Munro and Lee Bain, who have never won a Camanachd Cup winners’ medal. It will be as much about these lads because they are desperate to be like the Kingussie players before them.”
Davie is putting up the usual managerial smokescreen and why not? That said the eyes of all the punters in the stand will still be on Ronald - but he is right about one thing. It won’t all be about Ronald. The Glen have a fine squad - and if the guys in the middle can come out of the tunnel focused and get a grip of the centre-line then they have a serious chance of a result. Much will depend too on the Glen forwards not allowing Lee Bain and James Hutchinson in particular to make long clearances from defence. The Glen defence may have problems with Ronald and Savio but the King’s backline will definitely have a hassle with Fraser Heath and David Smart - Kingussie’s Bob Macgregor will have to be on top form to do the leg-work.
It is more than probable that this match will hang on smart tactics and a bit of good fortune although the referee can also make it or break it. The Glen have worked hard this season: they have held their form for the second part of the season, though the long gap without a game since the semi will not have helped. One would also wish for them to have scored more goals but League wise they haven’t conceded many either. They will have to be careful early on but then the Glen start quick too. Above all however the Glen deserve this result - and simply must want it more. Come on Lads - make this one a win for Jimmac, Big Tom, Peter English , Geordie, Ali Ban, big Ron, the Brickie, Mr. Reid, Sandy in New Zealand, Angus in Edmonton and all the supporters , players right back to the 22 guys who put this whole Glen shinty thing together in 1884. Can we do it? Yes we can!!

The pictures:the one of Lee is from Neil Patterson; Jeff Holmes gave me the one of the guys with the cup. The rest came from the Archives and from Sheena Lloyd.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Final? What final?

Wow! It’s pretty easy to imagine Ronald Ross as a latter day Han Solo- and Kingussie mastermind Russell Jones has had the cryogenically frozen shinty superstar defrosted and recycled in his team just in time for the Camanachd Cup Final on September 13th. Well it’s a theory that the Wing Centre heard proposed at the Glenurquhart Gathering on Saturday (or the Drum Games as it is more popularly known in Balmacaan Road and Druimlon) and that’s a thought only marginally more disturbing than the picture carried in Tuesday’s Inverness Courier of Strathglass’s Bruce “Pie” Douglas urging the Drum tug o’war team to tear up the Glen’s hallowed Blairbeg turf. He seemed to be smiling too. To make matters worse the main judge overseeing this was Newtonmore’s own Rab Ritchie. However, the grass will regrow – eventually but presumably not under Pie’s feet.
Anyway there’s been a whole week which has gone past now with the Glen in the Camanachd final- but what could you write about it? Glen simply had to beat Skye given the difference in divisions and where the teams are this season. If not then the whole of Blairbeg shinty pitch might as well be turned into a village camp site - the Italian camper vans are in the car park most of the time anyway-and the proceeds used to help the community buy more flower baskets. In the end the Glen came through relatively clearly, though it has to be said that the first twenty minutes, albeit affected by a strong wind, made for nervous spectating. Skye took an early lead but when Fraser Heath got on to the end of Dixie McLennan’s super shy and first timed a rocket past Jamie Gannon, the Glen’s fortunes began to turn. David Smart made it 2-1 when he fired a shot home through a ruck of players.
A nasty injury to Dixie Maclennan broke up the Glen rhythm for a time - and certainly caused a deterioration in their shy-taking abilities until Eddie Tembo moved across to take responsibility for all hit-ins.
In the second half with the wind now against them, Skye seemed to lose a bit of invention or perhaps it was that the Glen defenders began to dominate more. The Islanders did have attempts at goal but they seemed to be snatching at chances or shooting from too far out to trouble a top class keeper like Stuart Mackintosh. Glen  continued to try to play the passes and create the cleaner chances - John Barr kept forcing forward from buckshee - but the Skye defence played well though Neale Reid should have done better when he was presented with a clean strike just out from goal. Fraser Heath too seemed to fade somewhat in this portion of the game and failed to convert what seemed from the sidelines to be a straightforward chance. However Glen eventually worked a fine final strike when Neale Reid fired a rocket shot in on Gannon: the keeper got his stick to the ball and deflected it wide where it was intercepted by the ever energetic David Smart who worked it back into the path of James Macpherson and he fired it home to make the final score 3-1.

In the end, the Glen were comfortable enough winners though they played well enough as the selection of Mike Brady as man of the match proved. Defensively however, Glen will have to start at a higher tempo than they did since Kingussie are likely to be more sophisticated up front than Skye were on the day - and with Ronald back in the squad they are bound to be dangerous. Fort William handled Ronald well because they had a dominant midfield but the big ace still scored in normal play - and of course you cannot give away a penalty if you want to win against Kings.
There is no point in second guessing what the Glen will do - and there will probably have to be some big calls for the management to make before the game and on the day. The bottom line is however that the players will have to perform - but then again so will Kingussie who were probably fortunate to squeak through on penalties against Fort William in the other semi.

There was however another Glen game on the day - and that was a home tie for the seconds against Inverness. This was a game in which the under-17s had to play a big part given that a full squad was required for the semi at the Fort. However the side was boosted by the return of Calum Scott-Woodhouse to the side after a gap of around a decade.

 Under 14 Finlay Robertson also had to turn out along with youngster Ryan Porter. In the end a 0-0 against Inverness was a reasonable result though much reliance had to be placed on the defensive qualities of Dave MacFadyen and Paul Mackintosh.

What was more disappointing was the fact that so few supporters of the club were able to see the game because they were inclined to head early to Fort William to see the semi and thereby get through the stressful journey down the busy A82 in relative comfort. Given the fact that the first team has no League games left it is arguable that this fixture could have been held over to a later date, just as Kingussie’s might well have been last week.
Sadly the game was Jack Hosie’s last match. He now moves to England as his family have relocated. If he is lost to shinty it will be a great pity; he was an exceptional talent. The guys gave him a strip as a farewell gift. He wore it with distinction. Let’s hope he gets back North as soon as he can.

This Saturday the Glen seconds have to play Skye - the same Skye team which the Glen firsts beat in the big game - so it’s going to be a big ask for Iain Macleod’s side especially given the fact that they are going to have to face up to the Islanders without any senior help since the seniors are having a “friendly” with Kinlochshiel.
Anyway the thing which pleased the Wing Centre almost as much as the Camanachd semi result was the fact that the Shinty tribes in the Glen came together on the night before the Games to take part in the annual Zandra Mackintosh Memorial 6s on the Astroturf. Six teams competed with the usual mix of veterans, ladies and real players taking part in what was a very enjoyable pre games jamboree.

The eventual winners were the Town- and the player of the tournament was Ruth Forbes who played a strong part in that winning combo which is pictured. Also pictured is Donald Paul as he welcomes everyone to the tournament and of course winning captain Liam Girvan receives the trophy from Anna Macdonald
The main pics from both games are from Sheena Lloyd but the one that lifts the heart is from Drew MacNeil and it’s of wee Isla and the rainbow. The rainbow appeared when we beat Inveraray and there it was again at Fort William. Let’s hope it comes back at the Bught.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Kicking our heels , waiting for the day……

Glenurquhart 7 Kingussie 0 (Marine Harvest North Division 1)
It’s now getting near to the business end of the season for the Glen. No need to dwell on what that might entail but it is certainly appropriate to deal with the most recent match-the North Division 1 home game against Kingussie. The main problem confronting Manager Iain Macleod’s selection plans was Belladrum and quite frankly it looks like that is going to be an on-going problem for shinty in the Inverness area. The majority of the young lads in the second time opted to go to Belladrum, so Iain Macleod’s team had to pull in a number of players from the first team which fortunately enough had no fixture.

There was no other alternative though certainly included in the side were three younger lads who have not really featured much in the side so far this season- and they were probably too young to head to Belladrum without adult supervision. Whatever - the team which turned out was an extremely strong side and it faced up to a Kingussie side which with the exceptions of Russell Menzies, Scott Macintyre, Rory Mackeachan and Chris Hollysong was their current under-17 squad. The old guys whom we have faced in the past were absent for various reasons and none was missed more than Kevin Thain, though Ronald Ross could probably have just squeaked into the team if he had not been needed elsewhere.

Given Glen’s experienced side - the main top teamers were Arran Macdonald and Lewis Maclennan - there was only ever going to be one result so the interest lay in how the game was played. It was, despite the final score, very interesting not to say entertaining at least as far as the first half went. Indeed Kingussie started strongly because they have some lovely young shinty players in their side and the experienced Glen defenders - lack of personnel meant that Drew MacNeil had to fill in at full back and with Stuart Reid and Paul Mackintosh also in the defence - had to look lively to keep up with the willing running of Jack and Ruaraidh Anderson as well as that of James Falconer who has already played at Drum this season in the Kings’ first team despite his tender years. It is always tricky for an experienced senior player to play against a much smaller player because physical challenges are so unequal they are bound to look unfair and so the only thing that can be done is to use one’s experience to read the game better and move the ball quickly.
 Glen took a little while to adapt to this and for the first ten minutes they were all over the place - and in that period Kingussie had a chance to go ahead but hit the bar with a drive.
After this period Glen’s strong centre line took control of the game and from this point on it became one way traffic. In 15 minutes Glen pressure forced a penalty which Lewis Maclennan struck home superbly.

The Glen’s second goal came in 24 minutes when a corner out on the right evaded the Kingussie defence and Maclennan glanced the ball past Kingussie keeper Russell Menzies from a narrow angle. Two minutes later Bradley Dickson, whose pace was proving a problem for the visiting defence, picked up a through ball from the Glen centreline and turned it out to Raymond Robertson and his low shot found its way into the corner of the Kingussie net for Glen’s third goal of the afternoon. Then the game from a Glen perspective went flat – though Kingussie continued to perform well in attack whenever the ball came through while their defence especially Macintyre and the increasingly acrobatic Menzies stood firm and kept the score at half-time down to 3-0.

The second half was a big improvement in that the side showed a more positive approach to their shinty. The introduction of James Macpherson and the fact that the side went 2-2 up front helped spread the Kingussie defence a little more effectively which in the end created chances which eventually were taken. Lewis Maclennan completed his hat trick in 60 minutes with a well taken strike and then the Glen’s fifth came when Kingussie keeper Menzies stopped a high ball from Maclennan with his chest but failed to clear it decisively and James Macpherson fired it home from a narrow angle. Youngster Ryan Porter got the next goal for Glen when he followed up a strike to poke the ball home from close range in 69 minutes and Macpherson smashed home the seventh goal of the afternoon two minutes later.
By this stage Glen had introduced their two remaining youngsters Jon Bremner and Jamie Maclennan and the latter was denied a goal by a fine save from Russell Menzies who, despite a slip or two, played well all afternoon.
He seemed very keen on entertaining the crowd on one occasion by firing a loose ball out of the field, across the A82, over Alistair the Baker’s house and into the wood. This probably puts him up on that small list of the Glen all-time greats because it’s hard to think of many apart from Donald Paul Mackintosh and Arran Macdonald who can comfortably hit the ball right over that house. Lewis Maclennan once put the ball down a chimney in St Drostan’s but that is another story.
In the end Glen won 7-0 convincingly and it is always hard to pat yourself on the back after a match like this because Kingussie had a much less experienced team on the field. However the performance of the Glen’s youngest players - Ryan Porter, Jamie Maclennan and Jon Bremner - gives cause for optimism for the future. Drew Maclennan at full centre was however the best Glenner on the day : he is always an intense and committed player and the only disappointment is that he took a nasty blow on the foot in the last two minutes of the match which means he must now must be a doubt for next Saturday.
Elsewhere Ronald Ross won the other Camanachd semi for Kingussie with a goal in real time and two penalties in the shootout at the end. He kept his technique and his nerve and got both balls on target out of what was basically a mini-bunker. Credit too must also go to Kings goalie Craig Dawson who made the saves that mattered - the Wing Centre should have been more generous to the big fellow when describing goalies last week. He kept the Glen out in the Premier League game in Kingussie and he did the same with the Fort penalties on Saturday. We have no snaps of Mr Dawson but we do of the King’s keeper who came to Drum this past week. That is why the focus this week in the pictures will be on visiting keeper Russell Menzies. He did struggle a bit, for obvious reasons, when the rain started to get heavier. There is also a snap of the Kingussie old guys on the sidelines.
Apparently the Glen face up to Skye in the other Camanachd Semi this weekend. The Wing Centre will not go to the game because seeing it will obviously prejudice his opinion when he comes to write about it next week -or not- as the case may be. Instead he will watch it on TV- Gilleasbuig should be required to commentate rather than play- but he will switch off the sound and listen to Ally Bruce on Cuillin FM.    Why? Just because.
Thanks to Sheena Lloyd for most of the pictures and to Donald Cameron for his help too, His picture is number 7.

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