Friday, April 08, 2016

Glen Shinty takes off for the Big Apple

A new shinty season-but a slow start for both the Glen and the D. However, now things are hotting up and not only because the girls beat Strathglass in the Development League . This morning, if the pictures are to be believed, the lads have only gone and emigrated to the States for the whole weekend though the second team  have had to stay behind to play Lochside in the Sutherland. The girls have had to stay behind since they have a game too.

So what on earth is this American expedition all about? Now this was not a question which the Wing Centre asked himself. It is in fact the very question that was put to the Wing Centre the other week by an old Glen historian.

 “Did the Yanks invite you over because of Bradley Martin’s connection with the Glen?” was the way it was put. Now Bradley Martin was a rich American industrialist who rented the Balmacaan Estate from the Earls of Seafield back before the first Word War. He is commemorated by an obelisk adorned with the American Eagle situated across the A82 opposite the shop. Indeed old Brad might even have been the guy who allowed the field at Blairbeg be used for sport in the first place.
The Wing Centre sort of knew right away that this was not the reason the boys were going over. After all the Phipps who were equally American used to rent the Lovat Estate and as far as he had heard there was never any question of either Beauly or Lovat getting the American gig-so what was the real narrative?
Well, part of the story comes about because EJ’s grandad was a Macleod – and Donald Trump’s Mam was a Macleod – and that gave the boys an in to cheap rates at the Trump International Hotel, near Central Park. Of course given the hassle that Dol Ban has got himself into with his controversial remarks as he attempts to run for the Presidential nomination, the Camanachd Association were very keen to play down the relationship with The Donald, and so Chairman G was forced to issue a press statement. 
Released under the banner “Shinty Jumps the Pond” it reads as follows; 

Glenurquhart’s MacTavish Cup winning side are gearing up for the trip of a lifetime to New York where on Saturday 9th April they take part in the 18th Annual Tartan Day Parade down 6th Avenue. For Glenurquhart Club President Garry Mackintosh the invitation to his club to strut their stuff on the streets of Big Apple came as a massive surprise – but a very welcome one at that.
“Just after our MacTavish Cup triumph over Newtonmore last June I was contacted by Alan L Bain, President of the National Tartan Day New York Committee who suggested we take the side across, march in the parade and also showcase Scotland’s indigenous sport with an exhibition match in Central Park. Clearly they had noted our historic victory in the media – our first success in the MacTavish in over a century of trying – and I suppose the idea of a team of shinty players from the shores of Loch Ness caught the American imagination. The Loch and its monster are after all a global brand.
We sat on the idea for a while but then having been joined in the venture by several strategic sponsors we realized we could seize the opportunity of a lifetime. We have brought on board tartan specialist Scotkilt Ltd who will supply us with our kilts for the trip, Alan Macpherson of Tanera Camans who will provide our shinty sticks, Tomatin Distillery , Ark Estates (Scotland) Ltd and of course our very own Highland Council , all of whom see our trip as a positive boost for the Highlands.”
The Aird and Loch Ness Councillors have contributed £4,000 for the trip from their Ward Discretionary Fund. Local Councillor and Leader of The Highland Council, Margaret Davidson met up with co-manager Billy Maclean and team captain Lewis Maclennan to wish them well. She said: “I know the Club will do Glen Urquhart and Highland proud. It is a fantastic opportunity and they have done well to make it and take it. Take the good wishes of all of us around Loch Ness with you.”
A party of 30 players and officials, accompanied by the current President of the Camanachd Association, Glenurquhart native Jim Barr, will leave Drumnadrochit for New York on Friday 8th April and are due to return to the Glen on Monday 11th.
Scott Armstrong, VisitScotland Regional Partnerships Director, said:
“I am delighted that members of Glenurquhart Shinty Club are demonstrating their ScotSpirit in New York this year. As well as being a fantastic experience, by taking part in the Tartan Day Parade the team will be flying the flag for not only Scotland, but also the Highlands and encouraging people to come and visit us in the future.
“Loch Ness is a globally-recognised brand and people from all around the world are fascinated by the myth. I hope the team will capture the imaginations of those they meet and spread the word.
“VisitScotland’s marketing and digital platforms already provide a shop window for Scotland and I hope this trip will complement that, with the team promoting the Highlands internationally by showcasing the region’s cultural background.”

Glenurquhart Shinty Club wish to thank the generous sponsors without whom this event would not have been possible.

Apart from the fact that Gaz was bigged up to be President from his more humble situation as Club Chairman and that Margaret’s napper was rightly used to block out the Castle- let that be a lesson to Hysteric Scotland for not coming up with any spondulicks by way of sponsorship- it tells the story just how we would like it told.
The lads are certainly looking forward to a wee knock about Stateside provided Geordie declares Dyckman Fields playable on the day. Otherwise there is no way anything is going ahead. All the best to the lads in their new role as Ambassadors for the Scottish Tourist Industry –let’s hope they have a good time

The MacTavish? Even as the WC writes it’s heading overseas.
 Did the Club ask Torquil ? Maybe Jim Barr told him-then again , maybe not.

Why has the “D” been on hold since November ? Mainly because the Wing Centre got out of the habit of a regular encounter with the keyboard but also in part because the Glen have had a disappointing start to their new season.

Having won the Macdonald Cup at the end of Feb, the side has played well enough –with the exception of the Newtonmore game- but somehow failed to beat Oban Camanachd and Kinlochshiel at home.

On other Saturdays the results would have been different but on these particular Saturdays, it didn’t quite work out. The margins between victory and defeat in this sport are very fine. Apparently.

Thanks to Sheena Lloyd for the photos and to the Highland Council for the one of Margaret , Billy and Lewis.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Let's just keep on keeping on!!

Here’s the thing-the season has been over for some weeks and the “D” has been slow to acknowledge that. Partly that has been because  after the last home game v Fort William , for this scribe the season ground to a halt then though there were two other matches which the Glen had to chalk off their “job done” list.
The first of these was a trip to Kyles which to be truthful this Glenner did not hold out much hope of success in. 
As far as he could make out the side went down the road short of guys and although Kyles had taken a bash to their morale during their Camanachd Cup defeat to Lovat, there was no doubt that if they had kept their nerve picked up both points they could have put Newtonmore under pressure. As it was not only did they lose a point to the Glen but haven’t won since.
They were always going to have to depend on someone else taking a point off ‘More but at least Kyles could have put pressure on the Badenoch lads and make them feel that they actually had to work to win the Premiership.
Whatever! Not that the Glen did any better when ‘More came along to play at Blairbeg- but enough said.

As for the Kyles game , the Glen went behind early in the match but managed to get back into the points zone when the astute managerial duo pushed Lewis Maclennan up into attack and as a result Fraser Heath scored a late goal with a micro-second on the clock. Kyles were sad while the Glen were very pleased as the photos show.

That left the Wing Centre with some hope that the following week- with a more complete squad-the Glen would win their last match of the season down at Mossfield and save their friends in Kingussie a great deal of angst and hassle by making it even more difficult for Oban to get out of jail free. Did it work that way?

It started out as if it should have – but let the boss tell the story in his own inimitable style. “Mossfield was in excellent condition and well suited to our style of shinty. We started strongly and were moving the ball well and after 14 minutes we scored our first with a good finish by Neale Reid from a corner. Just a couple of minutes later we scored our second when Ewan Brady beat his man and fired a cracking shot into the top corner. 
We should have gone on from this position and won the game comfortably but both Fraser Heath and Neale Reid missed chances and Oban came back into the game and scored a goal in 44minutes following confusion between in defence. Oban came out strongly in the 2nd half but with 5 minutes gone, a defender missed a high ball and Neale Reid cracked in a low shot to make it 3-1. We then suffered a blow when Mike Brady took a very nasty hit on the arm and had to be substituted. We brought Eddie Tembo on in the centre line and moved Ali Mackintosh to wing back.
 Oban scored a second goal in 71 minutes after poor defending had allowed a shot. Euan Lloyd was suffering from a cold and struggling for breath, so we took him off and moved Fraser Heath back to defence with Brad coming on up front. We had further chances to finish the game but after losing the ball in our forward line, Oban moved it the length of the pitch to equalise in the penultimate minute. The game then finished 3-3 and we had penalties for the Mod Cup. The less said about the pens the better. We missed all 4 and Oban scored 2 so that was that. Neale won the Man of the Match.
 In hindsight Oban needed the point more than us and that probably reflected the game, although I had hoped the prospect of some more silverware would spur us on. We didn’t play badly and at times played very well but a draw was probably a fair result.”
The Mod Cup would have been nice to add to the trophy cupboard of course but the Wing Centre does not feel too bad about that failure because it means that he remains one of the few Glenners to have played in a Glen team that actually won a Mod Cup.
Perhaps that was why he never bothered going down to Oban but instead went over the hill to watch Lovat play Kyles. The only thing worth picking out of that encounter was the picture which is included here courtesy of Neil Paterson and that might have an historical interest one day: two keepers both of whom won the Albert Smith medal in a Camanachd Cup final. There are only two other goalies who did likewise- Hughie Chisholm and Scott McNeill.
Then Newtonmore won the Premier the next week- and you have to say they deserved it big time because for all the slip ups they made in the course of the season- and how they must have felt these-they were the most consistent side for the whole season the irony being that the only side that could beat them was Inveraray, the side that was relegated. This can be interpreted two ways -Newtonmore were unlucky and/or the Premier League was a pretty tight competition. It’s fair to say that at times it was - though not every week.
The picture comes from Neil Paterson who kindly sent it on-and it’s good because this shows Newtonmore just after they won the trophy where the emotion and the feelings are at their most genuine.

Of course they got the cup the next week and they are pictured with the sponsors banner - and this must be the only Newtonmore team photo since the MacTavish pic of 1902 where they don’t actually have a cup to pose with but it’s a genuine picture and in years to come they can use it in their fund-raising quiz competitions.
What trophy has this Newtonmore side just won- and why is it not included in the snap?

Anyway four Glen lads were selected for the Scottish international squad-John Barr was chosen as captain, and for once the game on the Bught against the men in green did not go too badly as the guy in the National made clear.
A superb first half display helped Scotland post a memorable 24-14 victory in the Marine Harvest shinty/hurling international at Inverness’s Bught Park on Saturday. For manager Ronald Ross it was not so much the victory but the manner in which it was obtained that particularly pleased him. ” I have not seen a better display from a Scotland side, especially in the first half. There were no failures out there. Everyone played their part. The hard work and commitment paid off and apart from dead ball points we scored three good goals and might have had more. Certainly Ireland came back hard at us in the second half but we continued to compete and in the end fully deserved our win” Right from the start Scotland showed they were the hungrier side and might have been a goal up inside the opening minute when a drive by Kyles’ Roddy Macdonald came back off Irish keeper Eoin Reilly to be scrambled away by an Irish defence, which did not look comfortable playing into the sun. Scotland got their first score on the board inside 5 minutes however when dead-ball specialist Kevin Bartlett knocked the ball over from a narrow angle for a two pointer. Ireland fought hard to come back but determined Scottish defending and in particular clean hitting out of defence by Steven Macdonald set the tone for the afternoon though a two pointer from Laois’s Zane Keenan had the scores level by the ten minute mark. Bartlett then eased the Scots ahead with another two pointer only for a foul by Oban’s Daniel Cameron to allow Keenan to even the scores at 4-4. By this stage however Scotland had begun to dominate with Reilly in the Irish goals being first tested by a shot from distance by Steven Macdonald and then having to watch helplessly as the Newtonmore man converted another two pointer.
Next Scotland captain John Barr started a move which eventually saw Bartlett cut the ball across from the wing into the path of Premier League Shinty’s top scorer Glen Mackintosh and he hammered it home for Scotland’s first goal. Moments later Mackintosh returned the compliment by playing in substitute Liam Macdonald who scored Scotland’s second with his first touch of the game. With each goal adding three points to the score, Scotland were beginning to build up a substantial lead which was underlined when Bartlett added a further double after a free hit was awarded for a foul on Barr. Scotland got a third goal in this purple passage of play when Scotland’s newest cap Fraser Heath fired home from close range. 
Two further doubles from Bartlett and a single point from Liam Macdonald sent the Scots in at the break with a massive 18 point lead. The second half was very different. Whatever Irish bosses Jeffery Lynskey and Gregory O’Kane said at half time had its effect and their team upped their level of physicality. Scotland though dug in keeping enough pressure on the Irish forwards to make them miss chances which they really ought to have taken. Eventually however something had to give and Shane Nolan finally managed to improvise a goal for Ireland on the 60 minute mark. Though Bartlett added another two points for Scotland, four more for Zane Keenan and a second Irish goal from Nolan might have had alarm bells ringing in the Scotland camp, but there was no real cause for panic and Scotland held on to win the contest in relative comfort. Whether they will be able to repeat this feat in the return leg which takes place in Dublin’s Croke Park on 21st November will be another matter entirely”

Amongst the pics is a family one of course - again one for the Quiz Night of the future: The President of the Camanachd Association, Jim Barr and the Captain of Scotland’s international team John Barr (wearing the strip!!) Surely they must just about be Abriachan’s most famous residents -after Katherine Stewart and Jessie Kesson of course.

The night before the game of course saw the Marine Harvest awards and both Fraser Heath and Helen Maclennan picked up well merited plaudits- Fraser for being the named the National Under-21 player of the year and Helen received the William Paterson Salver for being the Volunteer of the Year. Well done to both. 

And beyond that?
In the Glen the under-14s have won a trophy while the youth coaching continues apace-

 and now there is to be a Women’s team.

Let’s keep on keeping on!!

Thanks for the pictures go to Neil Paterson, Sheena Lloyd, Russell Fraser and Hazel Stewart and Hazel Hunter

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Thursday, October 01, 2015

One last performance on shinty’s big stage from Old Vic

By rights it should have been Gordie Mackinnon that the “D” was congratulating .
Gordie was retiring-not a word you would normally associate with him- but at 40 he decided that enough shinty was enough shinty and indeed at the end of this game he was warmly applauded off the park by team-mates opponents and spectators alike. He had a fine game, worked hard and certainly did not look either off the pace or out of place. That said Fort William had come to Drum more than a little short of players in certain departments- and this was not helped when youngster Dean Williamson took a nasty knock on the foot and had to depart for Raigmore. Fortunately later reports indicated that Dean- who had scored the golden goal for Lochaber High School in the Great Glen Sixes (Schools Under 17 Competition only a few days earlier – had not suffered a break to his foot though it was clear that the knock will leave him with some heavy bruising.
Anyway here is a pic-with permission from the Fort William Club- that shows Gordie leaving Blairbeg for the final time. Thanks to them for that.
But what of the headline at the top of the column? Well with the Glen 3-0 up and the game more or less dead, Victor Smith-once upon a time described in the press as portly-obviously got fed up watching and decided to participate.
So he subbed his daughter Zoe-you could not make this up- and the Wing Centre hopes that Mrs Smith gave Vic an earful when he confessed to what he had done when he came home after the match.
Vic then came on at wing-forward or full forward- the nimble vet was buzzing about so much it was hard to tell where he was actually positioned -and before you knew it he back flicked a ball that took Glen keeper Stuart Mackintosh all of his years and quick reflexes to keep out of the net.
After that attempt the portly one was a little puffed and came to the side of the post, where goal judge Billy let him have a drink out of the Glen water bottle, something no Newtonmore player would ever be allowed to do. That is except Norman Campbell who once worked in the Glen putting a road in for wind turbines(not such an acceptable occupation in the Glen now) and as far as the Wing Centre knows no-one in the Glen apart from Andrew Iain or DP would be brave enough to stop Norman taking said drink and it has to be said they were not there at the time.
Anyway back to our hero.
“There’s goals in me yet,” said Vic. The thing with Vic is you never know if he is joking or being deadly serious. Sometimes he is both.
“Well keep them for another day, when people will appreciate them and they will do your team some good.” said the Wing Centre who had finished doing the collection by that time and had nothing left to do but annoy both sides by giving as he would see it valuable advice which might affect the course of the game.
Mistake. He should have said nothing. Certainly, Vic said nothing but you could see he took the comment as a challenge and before you know it he had chased a ball out the wing towards the A82 and fired it into the net from an outrageous angle. Not for the first time did the old entertainer steal the show but if he had listened to his own coaching advice he should have squared the ball to young Astie or one of the other lads up front.
Anyway for the next six or so minutes Vic kept circling the edge of the “D” like----what?  A lion hunting down its prey? Perhaps not- maybe like an old Balmacaan farm cat looking for an arthritic mouse in a bale of hay. Whatever he was like, you were only glad that his centreline were not able to get the ball up to him often enough for him to do himself a mischief…
And the Glen, the ostensible winners of this contest?
Well they opened as if they were going to rack up a record score. The first goal was a thing of beauty- a pass down the wing from Iain Macleod, James “Frostie” Macpherson pushes it to Neale Reid who sends it back out to Conor Golabek and his finish zipped in at the post for the opener inside 6 minutes.

A few more flurries round the goal brought some excellent stops out of Fort keeper Paul Mackay while other attempts ended high over the bar and bouncing among the cars in the shop car park.

 It was while retrieving one of these misplaced efforts that the Wing Centre missed out on the second goal which came about from a strike by James Macpherson. It was at this point-15 minutes- that the match was halted to allow treatment to the already mentioned Dean Williamson who took a knock trying to block the shot.
After that the game went to sleep. The Glen overplayed the ball at times, generally lost their shape in the centre of the field and were unable to add to their total until late in the game when a nice shy from Eddie Tembo was pulled down by Neale Reid and volleyed home in fine style.

Then as we know-it was all about the old stager himself.

No not these old stagers-or old stags perhaps - who've been locked together in perpetual combat since at least the millennium. Notice how they push and pull jerseys without a care in the world. Good on them.
The real old stager is of course Vic!!
What happened before then?  There has been –not to put too fine a point upon it- a bit of a gap since the previous piece. Newtonmore came to Blairbeg and left with four goals and both points after a week’s delay caused by the fact the pitch had been rendered unplayable by the tug of war at the Games. A screamer from Glen Mackintosh, another from Fraser Mackintosh and two from Norman Campbell. Glen struggled to cause Mike Ritchie problems but then Newtonmore did pay the Glen the compliment of playing their youngest fittest defenders against our forward line and they probably had to.
Then the Crofters only went and won the Camanachd Cup. There is nothing else for a Glenner to say at this point but…..well done. No pics for you guys though unless you send one with Mary Ann, Ron Millican, Jimmy Gallagher and Big Finlay with the cup. Don’t worry  Glenners –it will never happen!
Even the Beauly guys couldn't believe it when they were told about it.

Thanks to Donald Cameron for his pictures.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Footnotes to the Season

For a while now in the Glen it seems that the shinty season has been over though the team has seemed not to realise this and carried on winning anyhow. Half the time the full squad hasn’t been available. You wonder how focused the side might have been had they anything to actually play for, like Newtonmore who are coming here this week. Why they are coming here when the pitch is still in a state of recovery from the Games and we have no matches scheduled for most of September this scribe does not know. It’s unusual too in that it does not fit the usual back to back pattern of fixtures which has become so familiar of late.  Oh well never mind.

What has actually happened since a certain date in June is that the Glen have  won a pile of matches  and  drawn one - and of the ones the Wing Centre has seen the only one he can be bothered to recall with any real clarity is the one that happened this past Friday at Balgate, though the earlier encounter which took place the week before also sticks in the mind.
The two games were chalk and cheese: on the first Saturday Lovat were dominant in the middle and had the bulk of the possession yet for some reason - you realise just how reliant they are on Greg - they could not score or even test Smack1 (Yep-somehow he got his place back after Fadgies2 Inveraray display - though maybe Fadgie was working). Glen had in fact more and better chances but James Macpherson, Ally Mackintosh and Fraser Heath all contrived not to score them. Meanwhile Lovat’s Ryan Ferguson came running through on several occasions and just when he should have shot for goal contrived to pass it wide out of the danger zone to the consternation of the Lovat fans and the bemusement of the Glenners young and old.

“He must have less confidence in his shooting than we have in John Barr’s,” said the old Glenner.
“But John Barr’s3 not playing,” said the young Glenner.
“That’s what I mean,” said the Old Glenner somewhat cryptically. Anyway in the second part of the game Lovat scored a scrappy goal through Lewis Tawse 4  but not long afterwards Macpherson had a shot that was saved by Lovat keeper Stuart Macdonald 5 only for the ball to fall to Glen’s Iain Macleod and he dropped his hands down the club and first timed the ball into the net. It was the best goal to come from that side of the Glen since Dunc Fraser6 first timed a corner home against Beauly earlier in some other season.

In the end the teams shared the points and although Lovat were without Lorne Mackay and Greg Matheson, the Glen were missing John Barr, Andy Corrigan Neale Reid and Ewan Brady, the latter two because they had been speaking to refs when they should have been listening or something like that.
The most exciting thing about the game was the fact that the collection was very good and thanks must be offered not only to our own people but also the Lovat folk because they were generous.
Anyway six days passed and the Glen went over to play Lovat at Balgate on the Friday night. Naturally Fadgie was back in goal and what an excellent closely contested game it was. Indeed it was only spoiled for the Wing Centre by the fact that he got a tick in his calf when he crossed the long grass from the road where he had parked his car.
Like the usual Lovat defence the tick was tenacious and took some time to be dislodged with a tweezers – but, surprisingly,  the Lovat defence was more easily penetrated this time because Neale Reid, back from suspension, opened the scoring in the second half after a really fine passage of play: then Ewan Brady, also back in the side, fired in a second and although Ryan Ferguson managed to pull one back as the fading light confused Fadgie, Neale Reid was still able to notch another before the end.

This game tells Lovat quite a lot about what they have to do in order to beat Kyles in the upcoming Camanachd Cup. In a sentence they need to get Greg Matheson back fit for the fray. Lorne Mackay would also be useful but Fraser Gallagher would be even more valuable. Otherwise the look of their subs bench is long on experience but probably ,as the picture shows, short of pace.
However,it was a pleasant evening and the game drew an excellent crowd which has got to be a good thing.

Nothing has been said about the Lochaber games or the Kingussie games except that for this pundit at least back to back fixtures are not really appropriate. Let’s leave it at that and hope the Camanachd are able to look at such things a little more carefully in the season to come.

What else has happened? Not really very much of note for the second team except that Michael Fraser fired in a hat-trick against Lovat seconds and now appears to be the top scorer for this season in the second string.

A series of poor results before that against Strathglass and against Kingussie mean that there is now no hope of winning North Division 1 – not that that was ever realistic. The thing that does disappoint however is that manager Chris Surtees has had to patch together teams in order to compete at all just as we have arrived at the business end of the season. Still the youngsters who have turned out have put in plenty effort on the field and the Lovat result was a boost.
Then came the Glen Games and a tractor push which took the lads from Corriemony down to Blairbeg and once round the track all for the sake of cash to keep the side solvent. A pic or two is included as a record of the event. Iain Macleod organised the event while Mr Chairman drove the tractor and provided a manic edge to the whole afternoon.

The Club also ran a bar in the Hall on games day with Louisa Urquhart in charge of business while Helen Maclennan, Laura Stoddart and Laura Quinn were kept on their toes dealing with the orders.

The actual bar itself - put together by the four Bs (Bobo Morrison, Billy Macleod, Billy Reid - also known as Mr - and Bill Urquhart) also looked fantastic and thanks are due to them for their efforts.

 For the first time ever, the “D” while it doesn’t aspire to the style of Samuel Pepys’ diary, has included some footnotes if only because yours truly has managed to learn how to do superscript!!

The first two pics are from Neil Paterson while the rest are from Sheena Lloyd. Thanks to both. 

1 Smack – Stuart Mackintosh former Glenurquhart goalie, now third in line behind Fadgie and the Ralston boy. He does not appear to smoke.

2 Fadgie- David MacFadyen – would be Glen’s first choice goalie if he did not have to work on the occasional Saturday. Is a physio so he can sort his own injuries. He does not smoke either.

3 John Barr- shinty player who was brought up in Abriachan. The only other Glen player who does not smoke.

4 Lewis Tawse- a Lovat shinty player. One of the 11 Lovat players who do not smoke. Has a remarkable geometric hairstyle. If he really wants to be cool, perhaps he should smoke.

5 Stuart Macdonald- another Lovat shinty player. He is the only one who does smoke.
6Dunc Fraser- a Glen shinty player who scored a great goal. We don’t know if he smokes or not because we have not seen him for the month of August

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