Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Message from the “D”: Be thankful and keep building on what we’ve got.

At this time of the year the Wing Centre usually writes his annual letter to Santa. This year he won’t bother. Why? Because Santa certainly seems to pay no attention at all to requests from the Glen. He probably stops off in Badenoch to pick up his reindeer from their Cairngorm summer pastures and while he was there last year he picked up Ronald Ross’s Xmas letter and since Santa can’t give everyone the same present the Glen missed out. So “ma thogair” to Santa - the Glen will just give thanks for what we actually have –teams of all ages still playing the old sport of the Gael but in particular the youngsters coming through.
Have a wee look at this year’s Xmas Card; it contains photos of all the four main teams: the firsts, seconds, under-17s and the under-14s. Enough of the “D” has been devoted to the firsts and seconds already – and rightly so. This posting however will concentrate solely on the youngsters and their participation in a variety of competitions over the past 12 months.
The Shinty Year started in February with the Inverness Area CC Primary indoor six a side tournament in which the Glen p6/7 side were successful enough to proceed to the North National Schools tournament at Fort William.

The next event on the calendar was the local Glen Albyn (six a side) tournament in March. This is confined more or less to teams from the Great Glen and the Aird area and at this time in the under 14 category Glenurquhart were victorious. After the Easter holidays the p6/7 Glen Albyn tournament took place over two Saturdays. At this age group the Glen were able to put out two teams and at the end of the tournament the A side were the winners. This was quickly followed up with the P5 and under competition, again over two Saturdays and encouragingly the Club was able to field two teams once again. Most encouragingly, a third Glen side this time from Balnain Primary came out on top.

The Robertson Cup (under -14), run by Glenurquhart High School took place in April and this was won by one of  the High School’s own sides – and 4 of the players were attached to the Glen .
April too saw the start of the under 14 & under 17 Leagues. There were only three teams in the first section of the league that the Glen, under the management and guidance of Davie Stewart and Stuart Morrison, competed in and the matches were played on a home and away basis. Glen’s side was made up of players from nearer the start of the age group though there were one or two older players available to bolster the team. In the end Glen came second in their section losing out to a strong Fort William side but still progressing on to the Phase Two games after the summer break. In October a win against Strathglass in the last match of the season saw the Glen pick up the trophy for this B league and the players were presented with their medals by Russell Jones the Camanachd Associations Development Officer later in the month.

In the MacMaster Cup however, a first round win against Strathglass was unfortunately followed by defeat against Kingussie.
The under 17s as a squad were again a little on the young side with the exception of 4/5 players at the top end of the age range. Under the management of Davie Stewart and his helpers they took part in a large League with a total of eight teams competing. The early part of the season went well but after the summer term three players were lost either to work commitments or (as in the case of one of our strongest players, Jack Hosie) through leaving the area and this stretched the Club’s resources and the team ended up  5th in the League despite some good performances.

As can be seen from the Christmas Card at the top of the posting the Glen were fortunate in that they were able to kit out both under age teams in the same strips as the seniors thanks to the Loch Ness Inn, who sponsored the under-14s, and Home Farm Cottages who provided the under-17 strip.
Thanks also go at this juncture to HIS and in particular incoming Club Chairman, Garry Mackintosh who in the early part of the season initiated an interesting incentive scheme in which for a period of commitment every youngster received a free water bottle and a discount on new shinty sticks.

At representative level, Euan Lloyd was selected for the Scotland team that travelled to Ireland in July while Finlay Robertson was picked for the North v South under-14 match at Spean. Euan Carroll and Jamie Maclennan also represented the club at the annual summer shinty camp.
Perhaps one of the biggest aspects of shinty progress the Club made this year as has been hinted above was at Primary level. The youngsters were kept busy with the Kirkhill Gala, the Peter English Shinty Festival in June, and the Schools’ World Cup Day: P6/7 went through to the final of the development plate and actually won it,
while Balnain also performed well coming 5th in their group.
The teachers at Balnain and Coach Donjee Macleod are to be congratulated for all their efforts in that regard. Finally the young team also made an appearance at the Kingussie Tournament.
Glen were also invited to Strathglass for the George Phimister Trophy in September with a P6/7 team and an under-14 6 a side team- and in the end the Glenners won the trophy.

During the summer holidays the Club ran a programme in connection with Highlife Highland with coaches Gavin Heath and Stuart Mackintosh giving freely of their time. The youngsters also took part in the Schools Camanachd Primary tournaments under the guidance of coach Stuart Mackintosh.
Glenurquhart Primary invited the Club youth coaches to run shinty sessions through the Spring and Summer terms and these went well and this introduced up to half a dozen newer players to the regular club nights. Teachers Louise Macdonald and Kirsteen Mullin helped to set the programme up and it was delivered by Helen Maclennan, Laura Stoddart, Laura Quinn, Russell Fraser and George Stewart.
The big climax to the year came on October 6th with the inaugural youth awards ceremony which took place at the Craigmonie Centre. The idea behind this innovatory evening was to acknowledge the up and coming players at youth level and at the same time to engage all the new Mums and Dads with the Club. It was a successful evening and Sheena Lloyd’s photos- some of which are copied here-  give a grand flavour of the night.

Behind all this youthful activity stand the coaching squad all volunteers and all encouraged to take part in coaching courses: 4 volunteers came forward to complete the Foundation course which was run under the auspices of the Camanachd Association and already 10 volunteers have put their names down to take part in the Level 1 Course at the end of January 2015.
So there we have it: a comprehensive Youth report- and thanks to Helen Maclennan for providing the info and to all the coaches, volunteers and teachers who made it happen. Enjoy the pics and enjoy your shinty one and all.

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Glen man takes over Shinty's top job

The election of Glenurquhart’s Jim Barr to the Presidency of the Camanachd Association is as good a reason as can be given for any Glen blog let alone the “D” coming on line again after a two month stutter. That stutter has in no small measure been due to the manner of the Glen’s defeat in the Camanachd Cup final and the loss of the Shinty/Hurling series to the Irish after what can only be described as a disappointing second leg In Newry.

Still Jim Barr’s appointment on Friday 27th is rightly marked as an important occasion in the history of Glenurquhart Shinty Club. Not only is Jim the first Glen president of the Association but he is probably the most famous Glenner to come out of Balmacaan Road since Burton Morrison, Mike Cameron and Eddie Tembo. Certainly, he is not quite as famous as his son John however who when the Wing Centre last checked up on had his own Wiki page but undoubtedly Jim will probably be accorded one now.
On a more serious note Jim brings to the Camanachd post much experience, common sense and a deep knowledge of the game. He first made his name as a member of the very successful Aberdeen University side of the early 1970s. When he the left University side he resumed his links with the Glen and played with the red and blacks at all levels. He also managed the Glen firsts and served as Chairman. He has also served his time on the Board of the Camanachd Association in various roles and his years of management experience at a senior level in the oil industry will stand him in good stead as he guides the Association through the various stages of its next strategic plan.
The picture of Jim on the night could have been better if Neil Paterson had been present but the snap of Jim in the helmet from a year or two back is perhaps more appropriate both because he may need that helmet for protection in the years to come and because it also sends out a message to young players that wearing a helmet can be cool. On the other hand looking at the pic, perhaps not.  Whatever happens in the short term however, the long term future for shinty as it is for hurling must be helmeted. The Insurers in the long run will see to that.

The most pressing business of the AGM was the increase in the Premier League to 10 teams – and the maintenance of the National League as the tier below though it was not increased in numbers to the disappointment of some. Nor was it scrapped altogether to the equally felt disappointment of others. The only thing this writer would say, apart from the obvious that the whole scene needs to be monitored carefully, is the fact that the Board should perhaps look sympathetically at the cup entry regulations for the 1 team clubs. In the North that means for the moment Lochcarron, Boleskine, Glengarry et al. The MacTavish is beyond them and if experience last year is anything to go by teams will pull out depending on who they are drawn against. They do have the plate but that too will be the preserve of bigger teams. They perhaps need a chance in at least one of the other national trophies.
The increase in games at Premier level as Fraser Inglis sensibly pointed out in the post meeting session also calls into question the viability of having a two leg international series. The maintenance of a single fixture however is a must for the profile of the sport.

What else has been happening in the world of Glen Shinty?
The Annual get together at the Clansman Hotel was held on Friday 14th November. A good night enjoyed by all with fine dining and dancing , very appropriately to Caman.
The evening also saw the yearly awards to the players and the awards were as follows:
Young player of the year-Fraser Heath

Second Team Players' Player of the Year-Paul Mackintosh

First Team Players' Player of the year-Arran Macdonald.

The Wing Centre forgot to bring along a decent camera and had to rely on an inferior model to pick up a snap of Fraser Heath. The others come from somewhere else.
Earlier in the month the under 14 side were presented with their North Division 2 – Phase 2 League Trophy by Camanachd Association Development Officer Russell Jones.

Before that the inaugural GUSC Youth awards were held in the theatre at Glenurquhart High School and a series of excellent pics of the presentation were presented on the club website courtesy of Andrew and Sheena Lloyd. The names of the winners were also recorded and will of course appear for posterity in the next edition of the Glenurquhart Bulletin. A number of these pics appear here.
The youngsters did particularly well this season and a later Blog will detail their year.

Also worthy of mention was the fact that Fraser Heath represented Scotland under21s while John Barr was chosen for the senior match. Stuart Reid headed the management team for the Scotland womens side while Ewan Menzies was a member of the victorious Scottish University side which defeated the Irish in the mixed code game.
At the start of the month the Wing Centre got a bit of a surprise. He was down late to the Ballachulish v Skye playoff match and on the way there he was met by a man who said. “I see the Glen have had to step in at the last minute to make a game of it. Ballachulish probably could not get past the landslides they keep having at Onich.”

From the gate of the field that’s what it looked like: one team was wearing the familiar red and black –but the Wing Centre did not recognise the players until he got close enough to make out that it was John Macdonald, Lorne Brown, Donald Wilson, Clark the full back and the rest of the Balla boys who were in the Glen strip.

Unfortunately it did not bring them luck but at the very least it was good for the general exposure of the Glen sponsors because Neil Paterson who took the pics (and is here gratefully acknowledged) managed to get some into the P & J. As a game it was a good enough contest which drew a large crowd from both communities who were passionate in their support, so to speak.

In the end it did not matter because thanks to the AGM’s decision to restructure the Leagues both sides progressed to the next level of shinty.
What’s next on the agenda for Glen shinty?  Only these next two minor details

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Testing Times

Sport sometimes lifts you up; other times it drags you down. This particular author, after having sat through the crushing disappointment of a Camanachd Cup performance, did not particularly want to blog about the end of season Glen games despite the fact that the boys played well enough when they were asked to pull on the red and black - and there were one or two other things too that merited a mention - and perhaps still might get one given there is now little else to write about but shinty politics.

Then after a spell in the doldrums a game comes along which lifts the spirit and that surely was the first leg of the mixed code international. The night before the match the Marine Harvest awards ceremony was held in the Kingsmills Hotel and while the Wing Centre was certainly intending to report on the success of Glen’s Fraser Heath who received the under 21 trophy, the two guys who picked up the major awards Stuart Macdonald of Lovat and Steven Macdonald of Newtonmore are worth a blog all on their own.

Why? Simply because along with all the other guys they put in superb performances at the Bught the next afternoon and for a week at least let you believe that shinty was every bit as good as hurling. This writer still believes it is, but after last weekend in Newry he lacks the evidence to prove it.

The week before at the Bught was very different. A bright dry afternoon right after the National Mod with the Bught dry, short and in fine condition for an open game despite the stiffening breeze - and the Shinty fans turned out in goodly numbers despite the fact that universal wisdom in the bit of the stand where yours truly sat was that the boys would be “up against it”. But then shinty folk always say that simply because the Irish guys are professional in all but name, training 3 to 4 times a week and playing in a sport which is backed firmly at national level. Shinty by contrast is patronised in most places and even in Inverness, the Highland Capital, is at best, regarded as a rural eccentricity. This much we all know.

Still on that first Saturday the guys won: this is how the Herald guy more or less saw it.
Marine Harvest Shinty/Hurling International Series
1st Test, Bught Park Inverness
Scotland (3-14) 23 Ireland (2-8) 14
Ronald Ross’s side restored some pride to Scottish shinty when they pulled off a memorable victory against Ireland’s hurlers and put themselves ahead in the series for the first time since 2010. The last few clashes in the mixed code game have seen the Scots struggle with the pace of the Irish forwards but this time it was the home side which dominated.
After taking an early two point lead thanks to a Kevin Bartlett strike and with the assistance of a strong breeze, the Scots looked likely to overwhelm their visitors but first Gary Innes and then Kyles front man Roddy Macdonald missed simple chances while at the other end, Scotland keeper Stuart Macdonald made a tremendous reflex save to keep out a point blank strike from Tipperary’s Patrick Maher.
Both sides appeared to cancel each other early in the match but it was Scotland’s Bartlett  who put his side a further two points ahead in 14 minutes from a free hit won by the persistent play of Newtonmore’s Fraser Mackintosh.  Mackintosh then turned provider when he dispossessed an Irish defender and Kyles’ Roddy Macdonald scored from close range to add a further three points to his side’s tally.
A further two pointer from Bartlett gave the Scots a 9-0 lead before the visitors finally got on the score sheet in 25 minutes first through a single point from Patrick Horgan and then with a  goal from Cork’s Connor Lehane who fired an unstoppable shot past Macdonald from an acute angle.
Horgan clawed another Irish point back before the Scots re-asserted their dominance when a neat interchange between John Macdonald and Mackay let Newtonmore’s Paul MacArthur clear but his effort flew just over and only counted for a single. Bartlett however was once again on hand with another two pointer and although Horgan notched another point for the visitors Scotland went in at the break with a 13-6 lead.
If the Scots supporters were in any way concerned about their side playing into the wind in the second half, their minds were quickly set at rest. Though Paul Dermody picked up an early single, Roddy Macdonald who has been in the international wilderness for a year or two repaid the manager’s faith in him when he nipped in front of his marker to glance home a Bartlett through ball for his second goal of the afternoon.

Two more points from Bartlett helped Scotland further ahead before Patrick Maher ran through to score a fine solo goal with the pace beginning to take its toll on the Scottish defence. Bartlett once again helped out with a further double. The Irish fought back with points from Lehane and Paul Divilly but Bartlett however who had the last word when he plucked a high cross out of the air and fired the ball home for Scotland’s third goal to confirm his status as man of the match.
Stuart Macdonald then had to make two fine late saves as the Irish, mindful of next weekend’s return leg in Newry, fought to reduce the margin of defeat.

The Wing Centre went on to the field at the end of the match to enjoy the celebration and to have a word with Ronald. While everyone was rejoicing at the win he articulated what most knew already. The Irish would be smarting and out for revenge. With their fitness and the fact that they had a week to analyse a televised recording of the match they would be much better prepared. The other telling factor was bound to be the refereeing. In the first match Ref Innes Wood kept on top of the physical Irish challenges and when they pushed in the back or smashed through from behind with their sticks then he perfectly correctly pulled them up. That was most unlikely to happen at Newry’s Pairc an Esler the following Saturday when the GAA would provide the officials.
For a week the feeling was positive and despite the frustrations of having to follow the match on Facebook and Twitter the build up to the big game was quite uplifting. First Scotland’s women’s side, coached by Glen’s Stuart Reid won over a County Down select 14-9. Then the  under 21 match was an even  more successful affair with the Scots running out comfortable winners 21-7 thanks to excellent individual performances from Lovat’s Greg Matheson and Zac Coley of Kyles Athletic who was man of the match. Glen’s Fraser Heath made his own invaluable contribution to the victory
Then came the big game – under floodlights and more or less impossible to follow in real time because TV4 did not stream it live in Scotland and while it could be accessed via arcane technical means for this writer that was a non-starter. Thanks therefore to phone contact with Calum Duff, Jim Barr, Richard Gall and Eoghan Stewart plus Facebook and Twitter the following account was pieced together. A few words from Gary Innes at the end of the match also helped paint the picture. Is it accurate? After the disappointment of the result that matters little.
Here it is.

Shinty/ Hurling International Series
Second Test, Pairc Esler, Newry Co.Down 
Ireland  (2-18) 24  Scotland (0-8)  8
(Ireland win the series 4-3)
Ronald Ross fielded an unchanged side as Scotland attempted to secure their first victory in the mixed code series since the event became a double header in 2010.
With a comfortable lead from the first leg – a 3-1 advantage based on two points for a win and a bonus point for scoring twice ,the side should have been in the driving seat but playing under floodlights into a tricky wind they found their opponents much more up for the return encounter.
The speed and the quick interplay of the Irish side hassled the visitors into conceding early fouls but Ireland were initially unable to cut the ball over the bar for a score and it was Scotland’s hero of last week Kevin Bartlett who put his side ahead with a two pointer when Irish keeper Eoin Reilly handled outside the box.

Clare’s David Mcinerney quickly levelled with a free off the ground and then just after a nice combination between Bartlett and Roddy Macdonald resulted in a tremendous save from Reilly , West Meath’s Eoin Price broke away to put the Irish ahead by a single point.
The pace of the Irish continued to worry Scotland and if the Hurlers had not been so wasteful in front of goal then Scotland would have been in deeper trouble. Bartlett though picked up another two points from a free hit to give Scotland a brief lead after front man Fraser Mackintosh had been fouled.
Ireland then began to turn the screw. First Paul Divilly powered past stick-less Scotland defender Steven Macdonald to nick a single point then Eoin Price and Patrick Maher worked fine singles before some fine ground hurling from Price culminated in a fine goal. Scotland had a late chance from distance but Steven Macdonald’s free hit flew wide and the visitors went in at half time still ahead on aggregate scores but on the day trailing 9-6.
Ireland started the second half in the same high tempo manner with Connor McCann immediately striking a single. Despite Bartlett once again popping over another two pointer Lehane immediately restored the differential.
Ireland then had the ball in the net for a second time in 58 minutes but the game was pulled back for an offence which was immediately converted by Lehane for two points to bring the tally to 13-6.
Price and Leland picked up two more singles and matters might have been worse if Scotland keeper Stuart Macdonald had not pulled off a fantastic stop from Maher. Bartlett picked up two more points to keep Scotland ahead but further singles from Larkin McLaughlin and local boy John McCusker once again evened things out.
It was only a matter of time however before the Irish onslaught succeeded and a second goal 3 minutes from time from man of the match Eoin Price brought Ireland the extra point which decisively ensured a home victory in the series for the 5th year in a row.
Further singles from McCusker and Lehane were then racked up to further widen the aggregate scores but it was the two goals from Price which definitively decided the fate of the trophy.

A disappointment for Scotland then - and certainly not the first for the country this year. Still, the side was in with a chance right up till the half way mark but the faster, fitter men in green were just too good overall, though to be fair it was not until the last quarter that they finally pulled ahead.
As for the Glen? John Barr played his part on both Saturdays. Glenners can’t ask for more. The Bught at least provided the crowd.
The pictures- cheery ones most of them from that happy day at the Bught and most from the Camanachd Association via Neil Paterson. One or two from the Wing Centre himself- and one of Kevin Bartlett in Newry from Kim Ferguson.Why ? Kevin at least hit the target. There certainly was not much of a crowd in Newry but at least the Bught stand was pretty full up- and you never thought you would ever see two pics of Jimmy Gow in the "D"?

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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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