Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Cup that Left MacTavish's Kitchen

MacTavish Cup Final, Bught Park , Inverness

Kingussie 6 Newtonmore 1

Six goals last week ; only three this Saturday. Has Ronald Ross Ronald Ross gone off the boil? That was the tongue in cheek assessment from Kingussie fans as their big front man scored yet another hat-trick helping his side to their 18th MacTavish Cup triumph in 25 years.
This time the fall guys were their traditional rivals-near neighbours Newtonmore- themselves no strangers to MacTavish Cup success. Indeed such is the stranglehold that these two sides have on North Shinty that yesterday for the 60th time out of the 93 finals played since the Cup was first put up for competition in 1898 ,the trophy returned to Badenoch.
It took Ross only 7 minutes to get off the mark . A weak clearance from the Newtonmore defence found him 20 yards from goal. A deft flick wide created the space, then a pull back outwitted his marker Binnie then he crashed the ball home . It was as typical a Ross goal as you’ll get- done with that economy of back-swing that marks him as shinty’s greatest contemporary striker.
Newtonmore attempted to turn things round immediately with a classy run from Danny Macrae but the danger was knocked away by veteran full back Rory Fraser.
Kingussie further added to their lead with a neatly worked move in the 11th minute. Man of the match Michael Clark slipped the ball wide to Gibson. His push to Ally Dallas was touched on to player-manager Kevin Thain who rocketed the ball home from distance.
Thain soon added a third when he latched on to a corner from Ally Borthwick on the right and smashed the ball past Newtonmore keeper Mike Ritchie. Newtonmore were under fierce pressure at this stage of the game with not only Ross and Thain making forward runs but the entire Kingussie centreline also edging forward.
Of the Newtonmore centres only Mackenzie seemed to make any impression but the wing men Gardiner and the diminutive Hall did not have the physical presence to overcome the Kingussie backline. The frustration in the Newtonmore attack began to build and referee John Macrae had to step in and book wing forward Gardener along with his marker Kingussie’s Ian Borthwick.
What shots Newtonmore did attempt tended to be from distance and when they did get their counter in the 42nd minute it was via route one. A long hit forward by Mackenzie was gathered by Fraser Mackintosh and his drive from distance eluded Kingussie keeper Andrew Borthwick.
If the half time score had suggested hopes of a Newtonmore revival these were to be cruelly dashed within two minutes of the re-start. An Ally Borthwick free-hit was drifting towards the Newtonmore goal when full-back Glen Tonkin suddenly steered it into his own net while trying to knock it past for a corner. From that point the game was effectively over and though Newtonmore refused to give up the cause they never really looked effective in front of goal. In a nutshell that was the story of the game: looking at the outfield play ,the inclination was to say there was little between the teams. Up front Newtommore didn’t quite have what it takes at this level, given that the level is always going to be Kingussie. To underline the point a frustrated Fraser Mackintosh was next to be booked for a late challenge on keeper Borthwick after the latter had saved well from Macrae.
While the introduction of Ferrier for Gardiner did add some guile to the Newtonmore attack but it was Ross who was to have the last word on the day. With Newtonmore tiring-it is disturbing when veterans like Dave Borthwick and Ally Dallas in their 40’s can outrun a defence-Ross pulled down a cross field ball from Hutchison and finished ruthlessly. To add to Newtonmore’s woes Glen Mackintosh contrived to miss a late penalty before Ross completed his hat trick with a final flourish by running the ball wide on the left ,drawing keeper Ritchie off his line before cutting the ball back into the empty net.
It’s hard to say where this result leaves shinty. Yesterday Kingussie fielded three men in their forties : the neutral would say fresh faces are needed . Whose fault is that? Certainly not Kingussie‘s. Yesterday proved yet again that their old heads are still the best the game has to offer.

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