No buts-it's got to be Bute
Glenurquhart 4 Bute 1
It’s the end of the shinty season although it feels that business has only been half sorted. The Glen , my abiding obsession, have won a match which I did not think they would win-truth is they would appear to have won it easily and yet I have held off for a week from posting a report because I was uneasy with the manner of their victory.
Bute are the team that pipped them last year in the semi finals of the Balliemore and then the Butachs went on to beat Lochaber in the final and win the cup. This session the record book will show that the Glen them at home 4-1 and I’m not happy. Why the long face?
Let me try to tease it out.
It’s a 1 o’clock start and the Bute guys are there on the field knocking about at 12.30. They have driven for miles up the west coast and the early start will permit them to return to their island paradise because it would appear that ferry times have changed and a later start for the game would put them at risk of being marooned on the mainland till morning . Horrible thought- probably for the mainlanders who would have to put up with them every bit as much as for the Butemen themselves.
In their warm up they look good : the Glen run about in their usual style -kings of the laid back pre-game session: there is no ref. When he does arrive -no fault of his-he wasn’t told the right time for the throw-up- it is getting on to 1.30pm and the Butachs are a little anxious. Perhaps they won’t get back in time to get wasted in Rothesay before the pubs close.
The game starts and in 5 mins the Glen are ahead. Superb shy from Arran Macdonald , Eddie Tembo drags the ball though and drives it into the net. Where was Hector Whitelaw. Well he was there but not quite on his toes.
The game continues-its clear to me that though the Glen are creating chances Bute are somehow-harder and yet the Glen get a penalty in 27 minutes. Deservedly so-but Lewis Maclennan hits the goalie with it and then in 40 mins David Smart who always plays the ball neatly gets an angle and raps his shot off the post. As he hit’s the ball he takes a blow himself from Mackellar who is playing in a rugby helmet and is the sort of player who would stick his head in the way of a Calmac ferry propeller to win a tackle . I wish he was in Glen colours.
Bute haven’t been lazy either and if the Glen didn’t possess a wunderkind in the shape of Stewart Mackintosh the National under-21 keeper then the score would be different. Twice in succession he conjures the ball over the bar: the Bute boys hit the ball too cleanly to beat him- a mistimed shot would have a greater chance.
Then Stewart Strathie gets on to a bouncing ball and finishes beautifully high into the net. It was worked through from wing-centre and in my head this is the precursor of a Glen collapse because somehow or other we are not getting a grip in the centre despite a great deal of effort. John Barr is playing but not dominating.
The second half confirms the whole thing but it does not change the result. Hector Whitelaw is playing well enough- he is strong and when Eddie Tembo is going for the ball Hector back-charges him firmly but not too much : he is quieter too. Alan Mackechnie would have been caught more often because he - a superb competitor-would have been to fired up to hide it.
What is also clear is that Bute have a special talent in the figure of team captain Whitelaw. A former under-21 international he is versatile enough to play up front but his upper body strength should make him a standout as the last man in defence. Always a fixture in representative matches, he is a natural leader on the shinty field so what is happening? Eddie Tembo is hard, powerful, fast, competitive, brave but naïve at the highest shinty level: he complains to the referee when he is back charged but he is giving Hector a game of it .
I wonder why.
In 54 minutes I realise why.
Eddie gets the ball some way out, muscles it round Hector , forces some space, gets in his strike-unstoppable- and takes a hit on his calf as he does so-it is a brave goal. Eddie has been prepared to take the hit and Hector has given it to him , but then again he hasn’t. I know the scene now. I should have known it from the start. The game is meaningless- the league is won ; there is no cup glory. Hector is a decent guy- he is not riled by Eddie and is playing him hard but not seriously hard. If he had been Eddie may well have got the last goal but the hit would have been substantial : Hector has held back the club-and fair enough too. Four minutes later Eddie gets his hat-trick and Lewis Maclennan picks up the Glen’s fourth in 63 minutes.
All that is left is for Bute to say “no more than four” which Mackellar does by lashing at David Smart when he tries to push past him. Smart has to leave the field limping. The Glen know the script and ease off the pressure. MacDiarmid in the Bute defence winks at Fisher in the goals. Hector does not acknowledge them but continues to play long hits out of determined defence. There is no sign of him going up front to retrieve the situation. It's too late for that.
The Glen have won and Bute don’t really care just so long as nobody thinks they are better or harder than them. That must be what young guys are like on Rothesay. I wish that was what
young guys were like here.