Sunday, April 23, 2006

Hold the Back Page! Glen Team in Victory Shock!

Glenurquhart 4 Nairn Camanachd 3

A game of two halves ? I suppose it all depends on the angle you look at it from.
There’s not much you can say if you’re a Nairn player and you have just lost a game after having gone 3-0 up. And that’s by half time too. Just keep on believing in yourself and perhaps add the thought that some days things just aren’t going to work out for you. If you start thinking there is a reasonable explanation or start being upset about it, then you are going to make yourself crazy. I don’t think I have seen a game which was so odd and I feel sorry for the Nairn boys.
Lets face it, they have some good players : Ross Macpherson should playing in the top divisions. He has a lovely touch on the ball and his opening goal showed a touch of class. A long ball over the Glen defence , he got a little space from wing back Andrew Fraser and slapped the ball home low to the keepers right. Dave Emery had no chance.
Not so the next two Nairn strikes : Stevie Munro hit one from the right which took a bad break off the uneven turf and eluded Dave Emery in20 minutes and then just on the stoke of half time Alan Sumner did the same. This time from the wing centre position he hit a long slow ball which hung in the wind then wafted past the keeper on he wings of luck. Everyone who wasn’t a keeper said “What is he playing at?” The goalies in the crowd know that it can happen all too easily.
So half time-three down- and no way back against a Nairn side with a nice mixture of youth and age. Rod Munro playing well at the back, Scott Watson doing nicely at wing centre and Ally Urquhart solid at wing back with Ross Macpherson better on the ball than anyone else.
How do you win a game like this?
Well it helps, if this is the second home game in a day and there are some unnamed first teamers nearby. The Glen pressed into service Andrew Macdonald and Lewis Maclennan who had helped the top side to a hard fought draw against Kinlochshiel (Verdict the team played better than last week . They still cannot score and this time Kinlochshiel missed the obligatory penalty , so enough said about that)
The next trick is to create some strife in the D and pick up two penalties. That is what happened in 55 and 65 minutes. In both cases the Nairn keeper got himself tangled up and fell on the ball clearly in one situation, not so clearly in the other. Astie Cameron gave the penalties in good faith- keeper goes down in the box and attempts to play the ball you will get a penalty-and Neale Reid finished them off. First one low and the keeper a little unlucky : the second a beauty.
Nairn lost a little heart then and Glen began to play with more fluidity. Many plus marks to Lucas Chapman at wing centre-he ran and worked and his hitting was long and solid. Ross MacAulay was strong at wing back and given that we were without Ewen Fraser, Chris Black, Andrew Crichton and Gary Mackintosh , the tribe played well enough.. The third goal was a well taken strike in 67 minutes with Stewart Morrison running on to a ball across the D from Neil Mackintosh : an excellent goal of a quality to match that secured by Macpherson at the other end.The final goal and the one which sealed the game for the Glen was another neat finish from Neale reid. Quick thinking by Bradley Dixon on the wing made him move a free hit accurately to Reid who ended the game by bagging his hat-trick
Ben Hosie came on in the last quarter for Bradley and he ran well and sent some crosses into the danger zone where at one point the beleaguered Nairn keeper appeared to kick the ball away. Another penalty? Perhaps should have been but Astie took pity on him. Judged it to be not intentional and the match continued to its inevitable conclusion of a Nairn defeat. They had their chances to make something of it but it appeared that they had used up their share of luck with these two freaky goals in the first half.
Best for the Glen ? Davie Stewart? He certainly was very effective. Gary Smith ?
I would give him pluses too but my money would almost be on Alastair Mackintosh who had a sticky start after having had a few minutes on for the big team earlier in the day. There were times when I think he would have wished to do things better and more quickly but he persevered and worked at it. By the end of the match he was driving balls forward strongly and that made the difference. In the end how could I not name Neale Reid as top man. He scored three goals and in the last 20 minutes was superb.
Shinty is about more than scoring goals I hear you say. I don’t agree and neither would Ronald Ross. What is good enough for Rossie is good enough for me.

Were these the greatest Glenners of them all?

Situation -the Bught Park and here we see a Glen team with two pieces of silverware. When will we see that again? They would appear to have the Sutherland Cup and the MacGillivray (Junior) League Cup in front of them.
Interestingly last week on the artificial turf at Drum three of that squad were down trying to get the present Glen squad to pick up some of the tips that made them great-hold the shape of the team , get to the ball first and other secrets too arcane to be given out here. Hats of to Geordie Stewart (fifth left back row) Peter English (fourth in from right in back row) and capo de tutti capos, Jimmac Mackintosh (last man in shorts right hand side front row)
The have one further reason to be remembered too. They must have been the last Glen side until the present one to each have had a full head of hair.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

“Huzun” or How soon are the Glen going to win a game?

That was the MacTavish Cup that was

Glenurquhart 1 Kinlochshiel 2

I could hardly believe this result . I watched the game and waited until Monday until I could read about it in the Herald. Then I decided to hold my peace until I read the WHFP on Thursday. Now it’s confirmed : after reading the West Highland I now know the game never happened-at least the game that they reported though I did like the snaps.
My impression- Glenurquhart have a little way to go. Scoring goal would be a start.
In fact it would be a lot more than a start. Kinlochshiel were more robust, quicker, fancier on the ball but to no real avail- truth to tell. Some nice running: two or three superb stick players but no real goal scorer. But then neither have we -though the youngsters up front need a little more self confidence.
I have spent the rest of the week rather like the dispossessed of the Ottoman Empire- a week of looking at old Glen pictures and remembering the glory days of old Glen teams . Even photos when old Glen teams had a cup in front of them. “Who won the Strathdearn in 1977 ?” shouted out Billy Reid in the “Blar” on Saturday night. I know exactly what he meant.
There is also a remembrance of a day when a game against Kinlochshiel was a game that was guaranteed to be won. The sense is as Orhan Pamuk says in his work on the history of Istanbul is of “huzun”- that word from the Koran suggestive of longing or loss for a day that is past. Indeed I shall post such a picture as will evoke that sense if the machine will upload it. I fear it will not.
So where does all that take us- a well taken opening goal from Lewis Maclennan in 10 minutes , a weak counter in the very next minute from Michael Morrison and then in 75 minutes a penalty. The ball was kicked : Gordon Macdonald scored it neatly and that was it. My observation was that the Glen came back strongly and attempted to snatch an equaliser at the end of the match but failed to do so : the WHFP was at a different match.
So tell me where did it all go wrong? Defence sound enough but perhaps under pressure failing to lump the ball long enough. Centreline perhaps not athletic enough to counter a very good ‘Shiel centreline but also being sucked back to help the defenders clear. Forwards out-muscled by a more aggressive defence. Perhaps the guys need to go to weight training but perhaps on the other hand young players need a little more protection though in my heart of hearts perhaps they simply need to move the ball quicker and take less time on it.
Shinty/hurling makes guys aware of how necessary it is to get to the ball first because if they don’t get it first they simply don’t get it. It’s more than a bit like that with pure shinty and the truth is that Kinlochshiel were often to the ball first. Result our guys couldn’t get it. Odd times the front boys were on the ball they got barged off but then perhaps they were holding on to it too much and on a poorish surface too. Sometimes I think that the perfection of the Astroturf where every bounce is true does not help the Glen. Then I tell myself to shut up.
So with Andrew Corrigan off with the flu and John Barr for some reason marooned up in the front row , we have a full range of excuses but now three games have been lost by the odd goal. This is a team which played well in National Division 1- and took points off Kyles, Ballachulish and Glenorchy. Is the shinty better or is the team less confident? The answers are no and yes : the shinty is also different. It appears more hit than carry. There is little time on the ball and the idea is to move the ball rather than work it forward in the way last year’s opponents attempted.
So where do we go from here? Forward I hope : the guys know what they have to do - and a little re-jigging of the positions might make a big difference.
Still it was nice to see Keith & Albert Loades, Johnston Gill, Ellie Maclean, Willie Macrae and all the ‘Shiel old timers. They have a strong community spirit and some excellent players who are that little bit more effective than ours. I wish them well except for the next game we play which is all too soon!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Lets go Clubbing

“No shinty -no pain” as Bob Marley would have sung if he had been a fan of the indigenous sport but he wasn’t and he didn’t. What is more to the point is that the Glen have not lost a goal -or for that matter a point for a whole two weeks but then again we didn’t have shinty for two whole weeks due to weather of a type that Old Bob would have struggled to recognise. Perhaps the two are in some way linked.
So what do you do when your home team have no shinty for two weeks. Read the Courier to see how well the other sides are getting on I suppose and truth be told Nairn are doing well as are Beauly. Hard to bear. The cat would appear to be among the Fort William pigeons too and I don’t know if I am happy or sad. I do want to see new teams winning Leagues but I don’t know if I want to see the trophies just rolling a mile up the A9 though to be fair if the guys are good players they deserve them.
All of which is another way of saying there wasn’t much to do in the Glen the past fortnight except to look at old snaps of great Glen teams of the past and indulge my collection of ancient and drying up shinty sticks to some long overdue in a drink of linseed oil. It may be of interest to note that these include an early schoolboy chestnut, a Macpherson hickory one-piece circa 1966 worn to nothing, a Rivdal, a Prolam, one from Dornoch Treecraft with a colourful sticky label on it depicting I do believe, a tree. Also to hand is an early Munro Caman-maybe even made by Munro- but definitely repaired by the late Willie Mackenzie, Inverness and marked with his stamp. A “Sloggie” Munro as well as a Kyles Caman complete the collection along with a couple of Irish Hurleys-one picked up in Sligo and the other in Dicksboro near Kilkenny.
It is a matter of regret I was never able to get a hold of a traditional Ballachulish Club-the one with snub nosed head and the broad heel. At the time when I could have done with one, I used to admire them from afar : no doubt you had to know the maker of the club personally and possibly even marry a girl from Ballachulish to obtain one. Calvin Oliver that excellent Glen goalkeeper of the 70s and 80s used to have two of them , both at the one time: he would use one for saving shots and the other for placing in the net at the start of a game no doubt as some grim guardian of the goals after the fashion of the devil gods of the South Sea Islands . I notice that many goalies still do that to this very day. Perhaps it is something they learn to do at goalie college.
I don’t actually carry a “Borthwick” or a “Heron“(should that be an Heron) in the collection. I don’t have one. It is hard to get a stick in the Glen because Alan usually locks them in his shed and only gives them out to real players, provided they hand over the title deeds to their property to him for safe keeping. From a young lad with no actual property to put up as collateral he will accept car keys, designer jackets and mobile phones which will only be returned when the stick (or appropriate parts of it provided they add up to a whole) is finally handed in.
The one major omission is however a “Tanera” -though now that Colin gets the clubs made elsewhere I suppose to be strictly a representative collection an “old Tanera” as well as the “newer version“ Tanera should be included . It is doubtful whether anyone other than an accountant could tell the difference between the two sorts.
You will notice that not included anywhere in this collection are presentation sticks of the sort handed out to winning captains in National competitions. These always look good on the walls of houses in Kingussie and Fort William but for myself I do believe they bring down the tone of a thatched cottage in the Glen making it look ostentatious and showy and taking away from it that Presbyterian simplicity which should mark the décor of the place of habitation occupied by a true shinty-loving Glenner. Doubtless they do exist though- I’m sure Geordie has a couple and perhaps big Tom. Billy Maclean is certain to have one somewhere and Burton must have several but I should imagine they will be hidden out of sight or kept behind the back door and only used to round up the cattle or deter burglars. Like mine.
So that’s it for the stick collection then. There only remains the question to answer.
Why do you keep so many?
You have to - they are an extension of the limbs and take root in the psyche. You can’t throw them away -if you have played with one it becomes a true soul-stick. Why -the ancient warriors even had them engraved on their coffin-lids
As for balls? On second thoughts , I think I should stop right there.

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