Friday, April 11, 2014

'More are the merrier

If you think about it the biggest disappointment last weekend in Glen Shinty was not the defeat by Newtonmore; it was actually the fact that with the cancellation of the GMA visit to play the Sutherland Cup match, the Glen seconds will now have gone nearly a month without a game in which young players can be used. Why is that a big deal?  Simply because of the fact that the Glen youngsters are playing “out of their league” in the sense that at least six of their matches are against what would be have been seen as first team sides last season – Strathglass, Skye and Inverness- and manager Iain Macleod is concerned at risking 14 and 15 year olds against these teams filled with experienced players. The GMA match would have allowed him to play these young lads- certainly Lachie Smith, Liam Robertson and Jamie Maclennan would have featured-against at least some players in their own age group.
Last year when the League consisted of genuine second teams there is no doubt these young lads would have played every week-indeed some of them more or less did- : this year these same young lads and one or two just behind them must be getting frustrated with their lack of involvement and truthfully the situation is just not quite good enough and the Glen management must hope that these and other youngsters have the patience to stick with the sport until their chance can come.
GMA weren’t the only side to be unable to field a team in the Sutherland: Aberdour also found they were unable to get enough guys to go to Lochbroom while in the Balliemore, Strachur were unable to get a quorum big enough to justify a pile of money traveling to Skye.
All three games involved huge journeys for the visiting side– and the Wing Centre guesses that player availability was compromised not only by the prospect of a long day’s journey lasting into night but also by the fact that in some areas of the country schools had shut for the Easter break and youngsters were probably not available for the games due to being on holiday.
Can this be fixed? Maybe not perfectly but when you ask the kids they will tell you they want to play games and they want to do so every week- and if shinty can’t provide them with that then other sports perhaps will.

Perhaps it can be fixed if we can make the early rounds regional in nature which will ensure that teams do not have to spend the whole day away from home. It may also be that we need to look at being more flexible over when these games should be played, though with many youngsters due to be sitting exams in the next month or so that may be easier to think about than do.
The Glen being the Glen of course many of the second team lads actually did not miss out on a game at all. They got a call up for the first team to face Newtonmore. Glen started this game missing 8 players whom they would normally expect to participate in a first team squad. Gone through injury or other availability problems  were James Macpherson Andrew Corrigan, and David Smart . Added to that Arran Macdonald and Neale Reid were unavailable and to make matters worse Fraser Heath came down with flu on the morning of the match while Billy Urquhart suffered another flare up of his back injury To make matters worse Dave “Dixon” Maclennan was delayed and missed the start of the match.
As far as the game itself was concerned, it went pretty well as might be expected against the Champions given Glen’s understrength team.  Newtonmore had the bulk of the early pressure and struck a couple of decent chances wide; the Glen  then settled down and looked quite comfortable in defence until Fraser Mackintosh fired in from a corner after 20 minutes.The match continued in a similar vein until half time with ‘More having plenty of the ball but despite that they managed no further scoring. Newtonmore continued to dominate in the second half and the game was effectively lost in a ten minute spell when Fraser Mackintosh scored his 2nd after 50 minutes and then Danny MacRae added 2 more in 55 and 60 minutes.

There was a real danger that the red and blacks could have been heading for a very heavy defeat, however the managers took Ewan Brady back to full centre where he played very well and Glen actually came more into the game, culminating in an excellent strike from Lewis around the 80 minute mark to make the final score 4 -1.
In conclusion, if the Glen had to be extremely understrength, then this was probably not the worst game for it to have happened.  The 2nd team boys who came in all put in a very good shift against top players.
John Barr and Mike Brady were again solid at the back while Ewan Brady did well when brought back to the centre line.
The unexpected re-appearance of the excellent Danny MacRae from injury pretty well summed up the Glen’s day.
Some of the side’s more experienced players did not have their greatest day in the red and black, but as they spent most of the match under pressure and on the back foot, one could not be over critical.

To conclude on a more positive note there was nothing in the Newtonmore team to dissuade any Glenner from the point of view that given a full Glen team, they are beatable. The real trick for the Glen will be to get the squad that put 4 past ‘Shiel back fit and ready to face them though-not an easy ask.
As for Newtonmore they played as well as they needed to. They are side that do the simple things simply-all are good hitters and all are strong players who are very hard to shift off the ball once they are on it. Remember when you were wee and you used to get fruit cocktail with condensed milk for Sunday pudding; that’s what you get with this Newtonmore team. Good old fashioned hearty, even retro shinty-maybe that’s what all shinty should be- not patting the ball about as if the pitch was some new-fangled Astro turf.  On the other hand it might be good if the Glen could manage that more often too. It will be interesting to see how Lovat cope with them this weekend.


Thanks to Sheena Lloyd for all the pictures. Good to see Cork up to take in the match.     

 
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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Skye-fall…….. Eventually.


Mostly everything is nice about a day out to Skye. The trip down Loch Ness and up over Cluanie to Glenshiel is stunning. Then you come into Kyle and beyond the bridge unfolds the whole majestic panorama of the Cuillins. Then you cross the bridge – though it isn’t quite so nice on the far side it’s good enough really- and drive up past Broadford and Sligachan en route to Portree.
On the outskirts of the town as a Glenner you usually stop at the big wooden building where there is a café that sells vegetarian lentil soup and toasties made of real cheddar before you venture into the Smoke.
However despite your fears when you eventually reach Pairc nan Glaoic, everyone is very pleasant and welcoming- and round the pitch are guys who back in the day really could play shinty. The Wing Centre noted many such worthies and while picking out individuals would be invidious it is impossible to pass up the fact that had he been a real journalist, he would have got together the only two Albert Smith medal winners within a 300 mile radius for a photo op. There standing within feet of each other were Glenurquhart’s Ally Mackintosh, the 1988 winner and Skye’s Willie Macrae, the 1990 winner of the prestigious bonn.
As always with the Wing Centre, when it came to actually doing it, he was coma co-dhiu- and so the moment passed unrecorded. The ambience though continued to be excellent and more importantly dry. In fact the only thing that wasn’t pleasant was the actual game of shinty itself.
His reporter’s notebook is filled with notes and jottings which reveal an increasing hysteria on the part of the writer as the game progressed – or rather as, from a Glen point of view, it failed to progress. Doubtless in the course of time a more balanced account of the match will appear – on the Skye Camanachd website and who knows- even in the pages of the WHFP - but this version needs to come out now even while the iron of doubt and despair is still hot.
The pitch was heavy in parts but in good condition despite the fact that it had endured a winter of rain. It is long however - if you haven’t been for a while you tend to forget that and there is a bit of a slope. The other factor on Saturday was that there was quite a strong breeze - which actually dropped towards the end of the day- and the Glen elected to play with it in the first half. The opening stages were quite even and perhaps in the early minutes Skye did seem to hold the advantage though John Barr and Mike Brady at the back for the Glen were solid and Stuart Mackintosh was never under direct threat at that stage. Most of the first half was pretty much a stalemate in that centrelines and defences were on top and the game was stopped on a couple of occasions for injuries to Skye players. Glen did have a three or four attempts on goal with Lewis Maclennan coming close with a shot which just flew past the post. Raymond Robertson, making his first team debut, also had another excellent attempt which just flew over the bar much to the relief of the Skye defence.
At half time the Glenners were uncertain. The second half meant that Skye would have the wind and surely they could not fail to make better use of it than the Glen had done.
“No,” said the Glen elder statesman DP Mackintosh. “It‘ll not work like that. Skye will definitely get more of the ball; they will push up their centreline and that will leave much more space for our forwards to play in.”
He was nearly right. Skye certainly pushed up as the wind encouraged them to do but that simply left more space for the Glen front men and as far as possession was concerned the Glen camped for the second part of the game in the Skye half. It was a frustrating afternoon indeed and the Skye defence were tenacious to a man while goalkeeper Jamie Gannon appeared inspired. He saved powerful shots from Eddie Tembo and Ally Mackintosh and smothered another drive from Raymond Robertson down at his right hand post. Neale Reid also fired a ball just over the top in what was an afternoon of continuous pressure in which the Glen had 18 corners and the Wing Centre lost count of the times a Glen player had just one final touch to make to claim a goal. Lewis Maclennan and Neale Reid were in the D man on man with Gannon time after time but that last ball would not fall right for the forwards. 

All the time this was going on the fear was lurking at the back of the mind that Skye would break away up field and nab a goal. They had done that two years ago to the Glen in the Camanachd but fortunately Jordan Murchison was absent this time. Indeed last year they took Kingussie to penalties in the MacTavish before going out so there is no doubt they are a side who should be playing at a higher level.
Extra time came and extra concerns. The Glen have not been penalty friendly for several years and so the real urgency was to grab a goal and hold on until full time without Skye getting back in. Fortunately that is what happened. Just after the start of extra time Lewis Maclennan managed to play a ball through to James “Frosty” Macpherson and he prodded it over the line and into the net for the only goal of the game. That action was Frosty’s last action of the game. He had been nursing a hamstring problem since the Kingussie match and had only come up to Skye because an injury/availability crisis left the Glen in extremis. He was popped on at the end of the second half of the game but restricted mobility meant he could do little to help the cause. However when the chance came of a goal he forced himself after the ball struck it home but compounded the damage to his hamstring and he will now undoubtedly miss several weeks until he recovers. Without his effort though Glen could still have been playing yet without scoring.
Glen second team boss Iain Macleod who had come west to help out, replaced Macpherson up front and Billy Urquhart , who had taken over from Raymond Robertson earlier, then did their best to make the game save but Gannon was still in form.
Skye mounted a strong challenge in the second half of extra time but the Glen defence which has only let in one goal all season were able to hold on. The final whistle when it came was most welcome and half an hour later the Glenners were kidding themselves on that they had known they would win all along. It was ever thus.
Best for the Glen were Ally Mackintosh who was excellent, Mike Brady, John Barr and Eddie Tembo who is half a Macleod anyway and always feels at home on the Island. Best for Skye were Jamie Gannon and defender Stevie Morrison.
Photos? Just Alasdair the Bruce is his open air lair. How he commentates in the rain and wind is a mystery to one and all. The others–the guys on the field pre-match and old Cork on the bottle. If any others turn up they will be  acknowledged and posted.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Hutchie keeps the Glen at bay.

Kingussie 1 Glenurquhart 0 (Orion Group Premiership)
Last Saturday morning it was very hard to believe that any game was going to go ahead let alone one up on Kingussie moor. After all down by Loch Ness, complete with its micro-climate which means that Drum is 2 degrees warmer than anywhere else in the North, there was a blanket of snow covering Blairbeg. Surely matters would be much worse up in the land of the ptarmigan and reindeer. Indeed, would the team even get over the Slochd?
The Wing Centre thought not and decided he would head over Culnakirk to watch the Crofters on their home park: Lord Lovat’s men against the foot-soldiers of the Duke of Argyll. In the end Lovat won but they had to rely on the boy from the Cromartie estate to get both the goals. Kevin Bartlett got the first early on and got the second late in the second half courtesy of a slip up by Andrew MacMurdo. Otherwise Lovat did not play either badly or well: they played competently and if they can do that every week and still win, then the only match worth watching this year will be when they face up to Newtonmore in some competition or other. Newtonmore, it appears managed the same trick against ‘Shiel.
The Glen? It would be good if they could have a full team of fit players for once in the season. The first half against ‘Shiel was the last time end and then Andy Corrigan was injured. This week it was Lewis Maclennan who went over an ankle at work on the Friday – and goodness knows his hitting and finishing was certainly missed up at the Dell.

The start of the game was relatively even but gradually the Glen started to get the better of the pressure and an excellent opportunity was created for Neale Reid which he struck very well and produced an outstanding save from Dawson in the Kingussie goal. Was it a save? Mr D will undoubtedly think so but every Glenner present on the day has told the Wing Centre that the ball hit the keeper’s club with the keeper not knowing anything about it, and since that fits the narrative better then that is the way it was. That is not to take away from the Kingussie keeper’s afternoon because he produced a number of other fine saves which he undoubtedly did mean.
Glen continued to have the bulk of the play without creating any clear cut chances and then mid-way through the 1st half David Smart had to go off injured.  On came Stuart Reid at wing back and Euan Lloyd moved to wing forward. 5 minutes before half time Stuart Reid also got injured and so the management reversed position with Euan until we could ascertain the seriousness of Stuart’s injury.  The first half concluded with plenty of energy from both sides but little flair or obvious chances.
The second half started much as the first had finished with the Glen having the better of the game but truthfully little creativity was displayed in front of goals. Then 10 minutes into the half Kingussie won a controversial free hit out on the right, hit a diagonal forward ball and Savio Genini scored low into the corner for the first goal the Glen have conceded this season. It was a blow, certainly, but there was plenty time to do something about it but though Glen dominated possession and chances they were simply unable to score.
Indeed Glen’s Steve “Statto” Henderson noted down the figures which give the story of the game. Glen had 7 shots on target, 6 off target and 10 corners.  Kingussie had 3 shots on target, 3 off target and 1 corner- and of course among the shots on target 1 goal. Glen keeper Stuart “Smack” Mackintosh only had one hit out in the 2nd half. To make things even worse both James Macpherson and Stuart Reid had to come off injured in the second half to be replaced by Ally Mackintosh and James Hurwood. In fact the first appearance of Ally Mackintosh for this season was one of the few positives to take from the day.

In conclusion, it is hard to fault the Glen defence who put in a very solid performance with John Barr excellent.
The centre line won much more than they lost so a reasonable performance from them.
So what happened? Well Mr Dawson in very fine form happened. Then Barry Dallas likewise and then shutting up shop completely by bringing Lee Bain back for the last 20 minutes made a defence good enough to do the business against a Glen forward line to which injuries both before and during the game caused considerable disruption.
The key man for Kingussie was of course full back, James Hutchison. He is a player who at times appears to be a force of nature - he pushes; he pulls; he obstructs at the level of an art form which could be appreciated, indeed savoured, if it was not happening against the Glen.
“I was cursing him even as I was admiring him,“said one veteran Glenner to the Wing Centre last Sunday afternoon.  Referees? They were all born yesterday and Hutchie wasn’t: it’s that simple. He is good at what he does and he stands between Kingussie and the abyss-for now.
On Saturday, the Glen go to Skye for the first round of the MacTavish Cup and from a rough head count of those who returned to the forward trench after last week’s over the top attack, a fresh draft of reserves from the second squad is required.
The first two pictures are provided by Neil Paterson  (http://www.neilgpaterson.com/ ) : the rest are courtesy of Sheena Lloyd .

 

 

 
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Friday, March 21, 2014

Playing for the Jersey

Saturday was sponsors day at Drum. Both sides picked up their new kit with sponsors’ names emblazoned thereon. The senior squad and Captain Eddie Tembo received their new jerseys from Mr Donnie Macphee of Nodram who has moved his sponsorship this year from the second side to the top team.
The second team jersey sponsor is Cobb's, the bakery company based in the Glen - and second team Captain Bradley Dickson is pictured here picking up the jersey from Mr Gary Clark of Cobbs.

 Glenurquhart 0 Kyles Athletic 0 (Orion Group Premier League)
If you want to have the honest truth-on the basis of the Glen’s second half performance this was a point lost which did not need to be. To be fair though if you turned up at the match, switched to Drum because of the fact Tighnabruaich was unplayable, and you realised that Glen were three short of their recognised first team defence - the injured Andy Corrigan and Ally Mackintosh with John Barr a last minute absentee because of work requirements - then you might have settled at the outset for a solitary point.  Indeed in the early exchanges Kyles looked more competent: they seemed to stop and move the ball more competently. Glen though had a clear early chance when Ewan Brady moved the ball up to James Macpherson but he was blocked from a clear chance. In 25 minutes from a foul Ewan Brady  set up Lewis Maclennan and his long shot was palmed out by veteran Kyles keeper Kenny Macdonald.
Kyles then had a clear chance to go ahead with Roddie Macdonald apparently clean through in front of goal. Glen keeper Stuart Mackintosh had other ideas though and he came swiftly off his line to avert the danger and clear the ball to safety.
The half closed with a Lewis Maclennan attempt which flew harmlessly across the face of the Kyles goal. It was an end to what had been in fact a pretty even first half though what did surprise the Glen regulars above all was the fact that the Kyles forwards did not in any way look sharp against the Glen defence in which youngster Euan Lloyd and Michael Brady were able to deal with everything that was thrown at them. The non stop running of buckshee Fraser Heath certainly did help because he did not permit the Tighnabruaich men any spare time to dwell on the ball. Two years ago Heath was man of the match in the MacAulay final: his contribution so far this season has been invaluable.
 
The problem with second halves is that the Wing Centre is out of the picture as far as taking notes is concerned since he goes round trying to get the public to part with a collection.  That inevitably means he hardly gets a chance to view the game at all. For what it’s worth his view was that for the first 35 minutes of the half Glen had the upper hand in play and territory and all they actually needed was a goal. A glorious chance to grab one was created when Neale Reid managed to put Lewis Maclennan in the clear but his shot, excellently struck though it was missed the target by a whisper and saved Kyles’ blushes.
As always Kyles came back strongly – and they shaded the last 15 minutes though they too were unable to penetrate though keeper Stuart Mackintosh made the fans’ hearts skip a beat when he knocked a ball by for a corner rather closer to the post than this spectator would like to have seen.
A word in parting about the refereeing: Billy Wotherspoon can be annoying in his insistence on perfect shies and booking players for swearing. However if these are offences as far as the rules are concerned, it’s up to guys not to do them.
However, as far as back pushes and fouls were concerned he got the vast majority right and by putting guys in the book -  Iain Macdonald for hand ball and Lewis Maclennan for an intimidatory swing - he kept a tight grip on the game and allowed the stick players to flourish. The only hope is that other referees are as tough on spoiling tactics throughout the rest of the fixtures in this, the tightest of leagues.



 Glenurquhart 0 Skye 3 (Marine Harvest North Division 1)
The usual nice crowd of islanders came ashore at Drum to view this fixture which, if truth be told, the Glen supporters were a little concerned about.
Why? The demands of Premier shinty meant that 3 of the better bairns –James Hurwood, Euan Lloyd and Jack Hosie were down to be included against Kyles. In the end however Hosie turned out against Skye though the pattern of the game was such he got little chance to shine.
Skye have some fine athletes in their team but how demeaning it must be for them not to be playing at the top level. Will Cowie, Jordan Murchison, Neil MacVicar, Shockie Maclennan , Stevie Morrison and Gilleasbuig Macdonald are all quality performers but they are going to need to hit the net more regularly if they are to move up to the next league - always, that is, supposing that they actually want to.
The game was really all about Skye pressure and Glen defending. Danny Morrison opened the scoring in 5 minutes with a powerful shot from distance and then for most of the half full back Donald Fraser and defenders Paul Mackintosh , Ross MacAulay and Brad Dickson worked like fury to keep the Skye men at bay. To be fair keeper David MacFadyen was also called into action especially when he had to face up to and subsequently save a Jordan Murchison penalty.
At the other end Glen did occasionally pose a threat goal threat but on the few occasions that Dan Mackintosh , Cairn Urquhart, Jack Hosie and Raymond Robertson had possession, they were outmuscled by the Skye defence and were unable to make the ball stick up field long enough to do any damage.
Eventually the pressure had to tell and so it was that after some neat lead up play from Danny Morrison who fed the ball to Shockie MacLennan the Skyemen doubled their advantage in the 77th minute. Finally Skye substitute Kenny MacLeod rounded off the scoring with a fine effort from 20 yards on 85 minutes.
In sum then, a good effort from the Glen defence with top marks for Donald Fraser in particular: the inequalities inherent in this league are becoming clearer by the week.
This week a trip to Kingussie is on the cards for the top side while the reserves are due to face Strathglass at Drum. The weather though may decide otherwise.
As was the case last week, the photos come courtesy of Sheena Lloyd. Sorry about that pic, Lewis tumblr hit counter
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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jack’s a hat-trick lad…

Glenurquhart 5 Beauly 0  (Marine Harvest North Division 1)
Only one game for the Glen this week-a second team clash with Beauly which was switched from Braeview because Kilmallie were switched north as a result of their home pitch being unplayable.
There had been a debate amongst the Wing Centre and two or three of his wee pals about what sort of team the Glen should put out since they had at least 7 players available from the first team squad if they were to go by the letter of the law. In the end the choice was to take youngster Euan Lloyd and Stuart Reid who in fact only played second team games last season- and that was fair enough. When the Beauly lads were knocking around before the match it was clear that apart from Mackay Murray and big Kenneth Mackenzie, their manager Iain Morrison had nothing but a bunch of bairns in his side - 16 year olds with maybe one or two older-and why Mackay was not with their first team baffles this spectator for one thing.
The Glen’s team list was boosted by the return for this first time this season of offshore worker Calum Smith who lined up at full centre. Otherwise with the exception of the two other lads listed earlier it was very much the same side that faced up to Kingussie the week before. The most notable exception was of course manager Iain Macleod who confined himself to the sidelines in order to give a game to as many of his large squad as he sensibly could.
The pitch which had certainly been subjected to some heavy rain during the week was playable but squishy in one or two parts and in the absence of a Beauly goal judge ref Bobo Morrison, whose own fixture had been put off helped out ref Ron Kennedy and home line judge Billy Macleod.
Glen were quickly on top of this inexperienced Beauly side and when Jack Hosie cut a ball back across the face of goal Raymond Robertson was able to whip in a sharp shot which found the roof of the net for the opener in 4 minutes.
The green and whites were very much on the back foot for the next period and Robertson got his second after neat play between Hosie and Euan Lloyd left him with clear chance in the 10th minute. Eight minutes later it was 3-0 and Beauly were looking distinctly ragged when Robertson knocked the ball across the goal and Hosie was able to rap the ball home from close range.
Beauly settled down somewhat after this whirlwind baptism of fire and they gradually began to find the pace of the game. Daniel Mackintosh came on up front for Glen and Rory Maclean came on in the middle but with a back line which included big Donald Fraser, Paul Mackintosh and Stuart Reid the Beauly youngsters were always going to find it difficult to get on the score sheet.
The Glen however seemed to run out of ideas in front of goals for most of the second half and whenever they did manage to get a shot on target young Beauly keeper Josh Grant was pretty efficient at stopping the attacks.
Glen finally grabbed a second half goal in the 76th minute when a corner was knocked over and Mackay Murray for once missed his first time swing to clear. The ball dropped to Jack Hosie who kept a cool head and ran the ball in to grab his second of the afternoon.
Jack Hosie was soon on a hat-trick - the first Glen player to get one this season -when he finished off a move in the 85th minute though the Beauly keeper did managed to block two attempts to put it past him. That strike made it 5-0 and while Glen can be pleased with the outcome not too much should be read into the result given that at least three of the sides in the frame to challenge the young Glenners are first teams. Jack did not even get the match ball.
For Beauly who seem to have lost a pile of players in the close season, either via defection to other clubs or from sheer lack of commitment to the cause, it looks as if it will be a difficult season. They should take heart over the fact that one day their youngsters will no longer be youngsters but it would help if there were some older heads aboard to help steady the ship.

There was little else worthy of note on the day except to remark on the figure of Ross County’s Premier League keeper Michael Fraser who was present in the St Drostan’s Stand. “Ikey” has been in hospital having suffered a sudden burst appendix which has probably put the kybosh on the rest of his Premier season. It could not have come at a worse time given that he was first choice keeper at the time of his illness. Mike has certainly lost a bit of weight but he’s on the mend now and everyone at the Club wishes him all the best for a speedy and complete recovery.
Elsewhere the news broke that Ronald Ross is to take on the mantle of Scotland manager. It was not an appointment that the Wing Centre had seen coming since he had assumed that there were other guys who had served with the National squad who might have been interested. Perhaps not. He was aware though that the job has become in present days a bit of a poisoned chalice for serving Premier Managers given the obvious disparity in resources between the GAA and the Camanachd Association. Given recent results Ronaldo has a bit of a job on his hands though the presence alongside him of Kingussie’s Jim Gow will be a comfort.
This weekend Kyles will be up in Drum - the game was apparently switched on Wednesday afternoon - and that means that the seconds will face Skye earlier in the day, provided the weather actually permits.

The pictures are courtesy of Sheena Lloyd. Enjoy.
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Thursday, March 06, 2014

Glen make encouraging start in the Orion Group Premiership


Glenurquhart 4 Kinlochshiel 0
 
A better start than was in evidence this time last year- and that has to be a good thing for all Glenners especially in what is bound to be the tightest of shinty leagues.
On the other hand what does that result do apart from postponing the pressure for another 7 days?
Well it gives Glenners far and near some comfort in that the forwards are able to hit the target accurately though it is a dead on certainty that the Glen defenders will encounter more testing forward lines than the one they faced up to on Saturday. Not a surprise that, what with ‘Shiel’s Keith Macrae confined to the sidelines after a hernia operation and the other two Macraes in the centreline for a time.
Even having said that- and admitting that the Glen were without  Ali Mackintosh – the final result was more than a little harsh on Kinlochshiel because, especially in the first half there was little between the teams and it certainly took Glen a long time to get on the score sheet.
Glen certainly had some good early pressure- an early drive over the bar from David Smart and a neat piece of work by Ewan Brady to set up Eddie Tembo whose shot whistled past are testament to that. However it took until the 15th minute to test ‘Shiel keeper Scottie Kennedy when he just managed to stop a low drive from Lewis Maclennan with his foot.
At the other end Glen keeper Stuart Mackintosh also had to earn his keep with a fine save but ‘Shiel’s other chances like those of Glenurquhart  were squandered without bringing the keeper into play. However just as everyone was becoming resigned to accept a goalless first half, Glen broke the deadlock with an excellently executed finish. Neale Reid picked up the ball beyond the penalty area flicked it in to David Smart who knocked it on in the air and James Macpherson on the left, under tight pressure from the Shiel full back managed to get just enough room take the ball on the bounce and fire what was in essence a half-chance into the bottom corner of the net.
The half time whistle came with the Glen having the psychological edge which with about 60% of the pressure was just about deserved: the big disappointment was an injury to key defender Andy Corrigan just before the half time whistle. He took a blow from a ‘Shiel defender on the thumb and had to leave immediately for Raigmore where the injury was confirmed as a break. He will miss the next very important 6 weeks of the Premier campaign which given the tightness of the league and the small number of fixtures is a severe blow. As to the cause of the injury, the least said soonest mended though credit should go to ref Deke Cameron for defusing the situation in a sensible manner.
Shiel too suffered an unfortunate injury in another tackle as defender David Falconer had to leave the field with an injury which turned out to be a broken collar-bone.
Despite the absence of Corrigan the second half was more securely with the Glen and Shiel tired as the match went on something probably not unrelated to the fact that because of weather related call offs, they had been unable to have pre-season fixtures to sharpen then up.
Lewis Maclennan doubled the Glen lead in the 53rd minute after a Neale Reid shot came back off Shiel keeper Kennedy and James Macpherson added a third when he too pounced on a rebound. The final goal came when Ewan Brady who had a solid match set up Neale Reid with a clear sight of goal and he hammered the ball home from close range. Neil’s victory somersault was less elastic than it used to be but at least he always celebrates with style.

Where does this leave the Glen? Bizarrely, at the top of the league for the next day or so but on looking back at the game the score was more than a little harsh on Shiel- and for both sides the game was hard fought with the attrition rate on players quite high for Shiel’s Mark Macdonald appeared to struggle at the end and both Fraser Heath and Euan Lloyd took knocks. Hopefully, neither will be hurt badly enough to keep them out of competition in the next game. Saturday’s match against Lochaber at Spean has been put on hold because of the funeral of Scotland darts player Brian Whyte who had a shinty club connection.

 Kingussie 4 Glenurquhart 1
Should have done better! There can be no other verdict on what was a disappointing result. The match was first supposed to have been at The Dell, then with the reversal of the first team fixture it was moved to Dunbarry and then finally shifted back to the Dell. Not that that made any difference because Kingussie , to be fair to them ,played their normal second string in a match where had they so wished they could have strengthened it with players from the top squad. They did not do so and that can only be to the good of the game at this level.
The first half was a very even contest with one good goal from Chris Hollysong separating the two teams. However despite the fact that Glen defended well enough, too many players were under par and performed disappointingly.
Kingussie positioned their older experienced players, Camanachd Cup winning veterans Ally Macleod, Kevin Thain and Michael Clark down the middle and placed their quicker players in the wing forward positions. Glen matched this with James Hurwood and Bradley Sneddon dropping into wing back positions with Paul Mackintosh and Donald Fraser down the centre. James Hurwood had an excellent half, putting in excellent tackles as required: Bradley Sneddon played well in parts too though there were occasions when he was caught out by intelligent Kingussie forward play. Both Donald Fraser and Paul Mackintosh played Kevin Thain and Michael Clark well in this half but the Glen’s centreline and forward play was a disappointment and it was clear that only a massive improvement would get Glen back in the game.
Sadly things went downhill right at the start of the second half when keeper David MacFadyen gave away a penalty by kicking the ball. Kingussie’s Kevin Thain then scored from the spot and as a result Glen found it doubly hard to get back into the game from that point. To attempt to rectify the situation the Glen management made some positional changes, with Duncan Fraser doing extremely well when he came on first at full forward, then at half back. Liam Robertson too injected energy into the Glen forward line. Sadly however Glen lost another poor goal through slack defending half way through the second half before a spell of nice shinty resulted in a well taken goal from Jack Hosie. Thain scored another goal four minutes from the end which put a flattering gloss on the result from the Kingussie perspective but by this point the game was well beyond retrieval.
As always there are lessons to be learned but given other results in this division genuine second teams are going to find it a difficult season against recognised first teams. What makes it trickier is that they can come up against second teams that can call on senior players with experience at the very highest level. It is to be hoped that sides do not beef up their squads unreasonably in such circumstances.
Glen now find themselves in that situation on Saturday when they are due to face Beauly and they have options to use at least seven senior players because the Lochaber game is off.  No doubt we’ll find out the line-up on the Saturday but lets hope that common sense prevails.
In the absence of Neil Paterson the “D” can offer only a few poor home-made pics. The WHFP has a double page spread of pics about which a word of caution. While the report on the match is balanced and fair the pics are selected and captioned to reflect a parallel West Highland shinty universe. Almost without exception they illustrate a Shiel player besting his Glen opponent: if the Wing Centre hadn’t been at the game himself, he would have worried about the outcome!!

 
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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ancient Rivals meet again

 
 
The papers called it a double celebration for the Glen. Maybe it was but these were two games which, given the clear application of common sense, should not both have gone ahead on the same pitch. The Wing Centre for one is happy that Blairbeg was not the venue of choice for the two games though it could have coped with one. Still as the Chairman would say, it was what it was.

Strathglass 1 Glenurquhart 4 (The Ali Ban Cup)
The first game was the for Ali Ban and the result was a comfortable 4-1 win which came about through first half goals at the top end of the field, the surface of which was at the start of the match in much better  condition. Once again, the key to Glen success in this period was the fast and mobile forward line comprising Cairn Urquhart, Jack Hosie, Daniel Mackintosh and holding the complete  unit  together  Raymond Robertson. The Strathglass defence were older and stronger and, to be fair to them, they obviously had to call some lads out of retirement to get a team together at all. However, in that first period the Glen front men supplied well by a centreline in which James Hurwood was outstanding, created a series of chances and within half an hour  Glen were three up courtesy of two fine strikes from Raymond Robertson and a single from Daniel Mackintosh. While all the forwards played well in this period Robertson was the pick of the bunch ; he works hard, hits the ball well and most importantly keeps the tempo of the game turned up which is always required if a team is going to overcome its opponents.
Strathglass worked hard in the second half to get themselves back in the game and were immediately rewarded when youngster Lawrence Jones scored a nice goal. For the next period of the game, the Glen defence had to weather some heavy pressure  and although they stood up to it manfully there were times when they  found it difficult to clear their lines quickly Glen were fortunate to have Paul Mackintosh at the back as the last line of defence along with keeper David Macfadyen. Eventually matters turned round and when the manager Iain Macleod brought on youngsters Lachie Smith and Liam Robertson things took a turn for the better and a late goal from Liam Robertson put the icing on the cake. Credit has to go to the Strathglass defenders though both Raymond Fraser and keeper Ivor Macleod because they both held back the swing at times when a Glen youngster was caught on the wrong side. Well done to them both and to the other Strath players who kept the contest sporting when the underfoot conditions could have easily caused possible injuries with youngsters slipping and sliding in front of swinging camans.
Certainly there were many positives to come out of the game but replicating this result against the standard of side the Glen seconds will face this season will not be easy. However that’s for time to tell-in the meantime James Hurwood was awarded the Russell Cameron Memorial trophy for man of the match.

Strathglass 0 Glenurquhart 6 (The Macdonald Cup)
Winning a Macdonald Cup is always an achievement but this result will not tell the Glen a great deal about how fitted they are for Premier competition for the simple fact is that Strath are two divisions below the Glenners in shinty’s pecking order. However it was important that Glen won well and although the condition of the pitch could have been a leveller in the end it did nothing except prevent both sides from playing fluent shinty.
From the outset Glen were on top and with Strathglass full back Donald Fraser clearly short of full fitness due to the recurrence of a long term groin injury, it was only a matter of time before the visitors made the breakthrough. That came in the 16th minute when James “Frosty” Macpherson fired home at the second attempt after David Smart had set him up from a free hit.
Next a neat interchange of passes between Macpherson and Lewis Maclennan left Neale Reid with a clean strike from distance to double the Glen’s advantage. Just before half time team captain Eddie Tembo was taken off with a cut above the eye, which although producing a lot of blood turned out to be quite minor. He was replaced in the centre line by Ewan Brady and Glen continued to press hard but resolute Strathglass defending from Scott Douglas and George Phimister in particular, kept Glenurquhart at bay until the break.
Shortly after the restart however Lewis Maclennan made it 3-0 when he outrageously first-timed the ball home from an acute angle. Glen then had a further period of pressure but it was another 20 minutes before the 4th goal via an excellent finish by Neale Reid.
Lewis Maclennan was then pulled back to defence with Fraser Heath moving up front and he grabbed the 5th in 76 minutes. Glen managers Billy Maclean and Davie Menzies then used the last 15 minutes to try out a few other positional changes and the final goal came from Ewan Brady in 89 minutes meaning that Glass hearts were well and truly broken on the day.
The Glen management were pleased enough with the result and the performance on a difficult surface.  In general the forwards played well. David Smart  had an excellent first half and both Neale Reid and Lewis Maclennan  looked very sharp.  The centreline was strong throughout and the defence though rarely really threatened, did what they had to do.  Particularly pleasing was another solid performance from Mike Brady, and Euan Lloyd also did well though he needs to execute his tackles with more precision. What this result means in wider terms though is unclear though the return of John Barr at full back gave a solidity to the side that was not apparent last week.
Glen full centre Arran Macdonald was awarded the Shewglie trophy for man of the match: his quick hands and clean hitting on a tricky pitch caught the eye of former Lochcarron full back Alan Mackenzie who was charged with picking the man of the match. That no easy task on a day when there was a number of contenders for the prize. Still Arran was well worth the trophy which he last won back in 2007.
Strathglass? They will come back. Josh Fraser is an excellent young talent and if only he had been one of the Glen Frasers he would have been in the Glen top team. Michael Stokes played well as did his brother Robbie until he took an unfortunate knock in the mouth. Darren Reid is a player too as is Donald Fraser even though he was at half pace. George Phimister is always hard to beat and Robert Geddes is still defying old father time. Good on him.
Most of the pictures are from Neil Paterson (www.neilgpaterson.com/ ) to whom the D is always grateful. The rest-Brad and Dunc, James and both team pics -are from the Treasurer who has his Canon digital Ixus in his pocket.
 
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