Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Best in Badenoch-and is the best yet to come?

Whatever else you can say about the rarefied Badenoch air, it certainly helps to nurture top class sporting talent. That sparsely populated neck of the Highland woods is of course the home of Olympic skier Alain Baxter, snow boarder Lesley Mackenna and medal winning cyclist Craig Maclean : on a par with them for sheer sporting ability , is Kingussie shinty star Ronald Ross who is well on the way to helping his club win their 10th successive Premier League title. Indeed so complete has Kingussie’s League dominance been that no other side has won this title since the inception of National League shinty back in 1996.
With four games to go Kingussie have seven point lead over nearest rivals Fort William who threw away their chance to narrow the gap at the top by losing out 2-1 in last week’s controversial match at the Dell. As usual the winning Kingussie goal was provided by Ross . It’s a habit he cannot break ; this season in ten league games he has hit 18 goals - which is one more than the entire Fort William team.
But then “Ronaldo” has always been sensational. Always on the cusp of injury because of the treatment he receives from frustrated defenders- two seasons ago his ankle was fragile, last year his back was damaged -at 31 he is playing like a man who knows he has nothing left to prove to the shinty world. The all time scoring record is already his -he hit 94 goals in season 2002-3- and as Kingussie player- manager ,fellow striker Kevin Thain points out “This season goals are not as easy to come by as they were three or four years ago when Ronald was hitting big totals. Teams are closer than ever and any one of them is capable of taking points off others . This season we have dropped points to Kilmallie and Fort William . Inverary, last years Camanachd Cup winners, gave us tough matches but they are down near the foot of the League while bottom club Lochaber knocked us out of last season’s Camanachd Cup. There‘s a long way to go before the League is secure”
Last season was a disappointing one for Kingussie , in as much as although they won two National trophies and the Premier League championship they were absent for the first time in a decade from shinty’s gala occasion, the Camanachd Cup final.
“This year our attitude is different.” says Thain. We have finally embraced summer shinty. We didn’t vote for it as a club at the time the rest of the sport adopted it and we were luke-warm about it coming in. Some of the boys were juggling golf, shinty and summer football last season. This year our goal is clear- the Camanachd Cup must come home as well as the League. The commitment of the players is back and the bonus is that so far Ronald has been injury free.”
If he stays that way shinty’s player of his generation will also make his side shinty’s team of the year. The next trick for the Camanachd Association will be to persuade him to pull on an International jersey for the October’s match against the Irish hurlers-but that‘s another story.

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