Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Game of Two Halves? Yeah Right!

Glenurquhart 1 Kingussie 7

Given that snow has closed down the shinty world on the opening day of the new season this game which I was hoping to forget remains at the forefront of my mind. What a score line for the Glenophile to reflect on. Unexpected? Definitely not. Should we have played them? Perhaps not. What did we get from the game. Confirmation that Ronald Ross and Kevin Thain are a brilliant strike force with far too much skill for our defence even though we did not necessarily lay the defence out properly. Confirmation too that Ally Dallas has plenty to give to a Kingussie forward line.- and a sense of wonder as to how good this lot will get when Ally Borthwick comes back. They were missing James Hutchison and Gary Munro as well as Borthwick and Rory Fraser . Not only that but Dave Borthwick came off quite early in the game with a damaged back which may well cause him problems for the rest of the season.
The opening ten minutes were fairly even -indeed the Glen made progress up field on several occasions with nice centrefield hits up to the front men-but the ball did not stick up there. David Smart , Lewis Maclennan and Ruaraidh Cameron did not have enough guile to trouble Borthwick and the Kingussie defenders, some of whom did not look especially old but when you have international backs like Ally Macleod blocking your path you will stay blocked.
The seven breakaways before half-time : Ronald Ross at the near post glancing in, the second a Thain drive ,then Ally Dallas weaving his way in from the side and scoring in the corner pocket while holding off Stuart Reid . It goes on- and I don’t bother paying attention- I see Thain get another then a massive strike from Ross and Dallas and Ross - and all the time Stewart Mackintosh is making saves as well. A different class of striking from what we habitually face - but our defenders make the wrong choices too often.
We have John Barr up front half forward- I left him unmentioned when commenting on the forwards because I did not see him participating. Why not? Simply because he did not get on to the ball- he was about two positions too far forward. Centreline should probably be the max. for John in a forward direction: anywhere else and his good aggressive qualities have to be subsumed too much - but then if you don’t experiment you don’t find out.
It is half time and I am wondering if Kingussie will be feeling a little embarrassed but to be fair to them they don’t appear to be in the business of patronising opponents by easing up on them. It may be that psychologically they put in less effort- and in particular RR does not push himself in the second half. In the first he was the most complete shinty athlete you will see. He went back for the ball, collected and ran with it, looked to play it across to a man and then ran selflessly for the space where the ball should go. Often enough it did not come but when it did he was there. He was quite simply never still. One shot which he got away and which Stewart Mackintosh saved illustrates his ability : the ball came over from the left at speed but bouncing. The D was swarming with defenders and RR infiltrated the zone at pace between two of them and as the ball pitched back of a defenders stick ,he made a split second adjustment of his own club .With no back swing he stabbed a sharp shot on target: Stewart being an international class keeper read the move just in time and scrambled it past the post with the heel of his club.
It is the second half- I am actively wondering if we should perhaps have played Strathglass in the Macdonald Cup this week rather than have agreed to this challenge. Of course this match was fixed up weeks ago and the sad death of George Phimister caused the Macdonald Cup to be put off. When will we play it? Have to be a midweek match if we can get the guys home but just now looking at the Kingussie line up I would settle for taking on Strath.
And all of a sudden the second half is OK- we win it 1-0.
The teams stay more or less the same : the centreline continues to hit the ball forward and chances are there but no converted. Kingussie play likewise : Ross & Co look as if they intend to score , playing the same complicated touch shinty as in the first half but they don’t add any goals to their tally. Perhaps their centreline is not quite so assiduous in providing the forwards with ball as they were in the first period.
With rolling subs ,the pattern of both sides is hard to pick out- then Neale Reid comes on for the last quarter of an hour for the Glen. He is 14 and with the backs standing off him just a bit because he looks so innocuous he shows real direct ball skill : he pulls down one through ball and lashes an excellent shot which smashes in to the bar. A few minutes later he gets a well taken goal. Well deserved and a little puzzling. If a 14 year old can do this why did the 16 year olds find it so difficult to do? A point to ponder but not one to dwell on.
Next week we should be playing teams at our own level : we will certainly have to do better. And avoiding a nasty trip up to Kinlochshiel because of the snow can’t be bad can it?

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