Monday, March 20, 2006

It’s not the winning that counts - at least that’s what it looks like from the stand

Glenurquhart 2 Kinlochshiel 2

If you are in any way interested in the future of shinty you should watch the reserve teams? I pose that question because I have just come up the road from having watched the Glen seconds play some excellent shinty, observed one young lad notching up two real goal scorer’s goals and then watched the defence chuck away a comfortable two goal lead.
My answer to the question is no you shouldn’t, though undoubtedly I will. Why? Second team shinty puts too much strain on the watcher. I viewed part of this game in the company of Lochaber’s one time full back Tommy Macgregor. He knows his shinty as much as the next ex-player- indeed apart from the few wives and girl friends looking on- the crowd consisted entirely of ex-players. Tommy was on the way back to Lochaber from Inverness when he stopped off to watch a crowd of old guys and kids with sticks. running after a ball. Except the quality of the balls we seem to be playing with now if inferior to the black “Tighnabruaich” we liked to use. I counted 4 new balls being used in the course of the match.
We could both see it was a different game from the one we used to play-much running including some excellent shinty from lads in their early teens : some heavyweight support from chaps in their early 40s and a sprinkling of players in their 20s and 30s who that particular Saturday just were not either good enough or fit enough to secure a berth up with the big boys.
So what about the game? Good hitting from ‘Shiel- one always gets that from west Coast teams. A good solid full back but some lovely shinty up front from the Glen but too many missed chances. If I take any positives out of the afternoon it is this: the front line of forwards Gary Mackintosh, Andrew Crichton and Neil Mackintosh linked up extremely well. They worked the ball out wide and cut it back across . Wing centre Duncan Fraser tried a drive from the angle which just went over the bar, then Crichton had another accurate angled drive which Kinlochshiel keeper Cameron smothered at the near post. Next up was a run wide by Gary Mackintosh saw him cut the ball back to Neil Mackintosh who just mistimed his strike and popped it over the bar.
As well as those attempts there were numerous other strikes which were either miss hit or wasted. Meanwhile behind the action at right wing forward was the jewel in the crown- Neal Reid a schoolboy with the talent of an adult. Numerous times he ran back deep to catch the ball, control it, hit it long to the forwards or try it on goal. In every one of these cases he made the keeper save it but Cameron was either too neat with the club himself or too well protected by fullback Colin Fraser for the incoming forwards to make a difference. Yet we scored two goals from balls which came off the keeper and the player who scored them both was Reid.
The first one came in 23 minutes when a high ball was popped over at a corner by Lucas Chapman and Gary Mackintosh having missed with his first high swing managed to bat the ball at the goal at the second attempt. It bounced up on to the keepers body and back out to Neal Reid who finished off the move very precisely from close range ,bravely risking the wild swing of both wing back and the goalie. Fortunately- and its always fortune we are told which favours the brave -the speed of his finish carried him though safely.
We had to wait until the second half for his next goal. This time Malcolm Munro hit a sharp ball on to the goalkeeper and Reid following up swiftly, finished it off . Again bravery and speed were the keys to his success.
He played excellently for the rest of the match making Cameron save every attempt he had with the exception of one drive which shaved the top of the bar. As a result to took some heavy treatment from the backs but that is the staple fair of young players who play above their station : he should take it as a compliment .
There are opportunities in plenty to finish off the game and then we go to sleep at the back. In 73 minutes Iain Campbell steals a goal then Alastair Macrae gets a second in 78 : we snatch defeat from the jaws of victory- a cliché but still an accurate description of the afternoons activities.
I watch the nets being taken down. I check the pavilion over then I go home . I cannot bear a post-match inquest. I hear that the 1st Team have won by 3 goals to 0. It does not help much.

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