Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Chirpings of a Glenurquhart Gutter Sparrow

Camanachd Cup First Round Replay.

Glenurquhart 3 Beauly 0

The Macdonalds have a thrush -the boys in Kingussie might even have an eagle -but for Glenurquhart the bird of choice has to be the sparrow. A wee bird, a brave bird and no matter what you do, you can never keep him down.
Last week the Sparrow was too busy at the nest to fly over Cul na Circ (the sparrow favours the Gaelic spelling of old Mackay rather than the more modern Cul na Kirk which Mrs Sparrow prefers) to see the match. When the result came back though , he was very pleased. 0-0 at Braeview and rave reports of a buckshee back called Mackay Murray who had a stormer. He was fouled , hit off the ball ,hit after he played the ball and still he came through and carried on with out going mental - no way are his people originally from Beauly. Unfair crack but when the Sparrow overhears old Glenners two hours after a match wondering who was that wee buckshee back especially when the second team are leading Inveraray (with “Chin” Watt at full forward) ,you know you’ve just seen someone special. The Sparrow regretted his absence.
In his heart the Sparrow was secretly pleased that the Beaulacs seem to have a buckshee back of some style. The Sparrow is of course of Beauly ancestry on Mrs Sparrow’s side and indeed back in the 1920s and 1930s ,in the pages of the Football Times and the Highland Times , the chirpings of a Beauly Gutter Sparrow was a regular column. The Glen sparrow, while he keeps a diary of events, has never hit such heights with the pen.
But for all his Beauly leanings, the Sparrow is a Glen sparrow down to the very mites in his down if he might be allowed to use a homonym- an expression that would see him punched in Beauly- and having heard about the week before he wasn’t very hopeful of a result.
So it was with a heavy heart and much foreboding that the Sparrow went down to Blairbeg to see the replay. He stopped at the chipper for a blether with Kenan and by the time he reached the pitch “Chips” had scored. The sparrow took that as a sign from God but sorry Dave he did not see your goal. It occurred in 8 minutes and according to Alan it was a good goal. He went on to tell the Sparrow more but by that time the Sparrow was involved in an altercation with the Beauly left back who verbally abused him for encouraging Girv to be harder and him just booked too.
Of course , our feathered friend hadn’t seen who Girv was against and when he looked again he realised that Girv had hit a very small person and because the Sparrow knew Niall Maclennan wasn’t on the field yet , he felt bad about it. Still it was unfair of the back to draw the ref’s attention to the fact that Sparrow was perched behind the goal when all he had done was to congratulate Lymburn on a good save. Mr Sloggie- an extraordinary force of nature -quite rightly told the Sparrow to move on. If Sparrow had been ref he too would have told himself that very thing. Was he humiliated? Only when Davie Calder told him he was on a yellow card and that were he to get anymore he would have to watch the game from John Cameron’s field. Not so keen on that was the Sparrow. That’s where the crows hang out and if you fly with the crows…?
The Sparrow recalled the many times Mrs Sparrow’s mother had told her that very thing while they lived in the nest in Roselea on Ferry Road years before she flew over the hill to make her own nest in the Glen. The Sparrow hopped on and listened in to Davie Mackay at the top goals.
“Hope Cottage is for sale, “ said one of the passers by. The Sparrow unfeathered his ears, for Hope Cottage was another house in Beauly in the gutter of which Mrs Sparrow’s family had nested before moving to the Glen after competition for places in the gutter in Beauly from humans had become too intense.
“Where is it?” said another.
Davie told them. “It’s not hard to find,” he said “because there not a lot of hope in Beauly”
Just at that point Arran Macdonald hit a long ball up and it came back from the defence to Lewis Maclennan who finished it off well. This would seem to suggest Davie as well as being once a coalman is also a prophet- and so it proved because late in the game -in 83 minutes- to be precise John Barr scored a goal.
The Sparrow was intrigued by this goal because young Master Barr is a fine player but after watching him at home for most of this season Sparrow did not feel that young Master Barr intended to score before the end of June. Still the goal was gratefully received by the home support.
It caused the Sparrow some concern however because with that rash act by young Master Barr, the Glen were suddenly out of the Balliemore Cup and Beauly were through to the next round. How bizarre!
Could Beauly have thrown the game?
Unlikely the Sparrow thought because of an excellent piece of skill by the Beauly full back . John Barr is running through on goal and he is brought down just outside the box. “Toad “ acknowledges the foul-no malice intended. The retired Glen backs-including the Sparrow himself look on in admiration.
“We would have done that. Top Class”
The Sparrow agrees, Billy Maclean agrees, DP agrees , Jocky , John Alec and Calum all agree. Ron agrees -if only the present Glenners had done that to Ewan Ferguson of Lovat two weeks ago? One can but hope that they have learned from the lesson being taught by a master of the defending craft.
It behoves the Sparrow to comment on the game now seeing that its over and the team now are out of the Balliemore. Andrew Macdonald and Paul Mackintosh were excellent but the most consistent over the game and indeed the whole season has been Gregor McCormack. At full back he is superb.
Arran enjoys the full centre role-the forwards are beginning to move around the way Jimmac likes them to : it is a hard lesson to learn but nothing annoys backs more than being pulled out of position and not knowing who you have to mark. Dixon works hard and as for Mr Reid at wingback, he was on the money yesterday. One must not overlook the goalie-he had a wee bit to do which he did well. His presence gives confidence to the Sparrow and to the team.
Still a word of caution. The Sparrow notes that too often we wish to score the perfect goal. We are too elaborate up front :the Sparrow urges the fowards to hit the ball on target quicker and sooner especially in the early part of the game when players are fresh and the forwards can get in on the second ball coming back of the keeper more quickly.
However, any win will do for the Sparrow and let us face it yesterday's was our first home win. The Sparrow was inordinately pleased.
To round off a day of joy , the Sparrow learned that the second team had won 4-0 and that Gary Smith had scored two goals. It doesn’t get much better. Neil Porter and Neil Mackintosh scored the others- why are the most consistent goal scorers in the Glen called Neil ? The Sparrow is not sure of the answer.
Such is the homely nature of the Glen that nothing more could be done to round off the night but have a social shinty Quiz at the Blarmor The Sparrow perched in the rafters to enjoy the happy occasion. Who won the Strathdearn in 1977 ? The Sparrow knew the answer.
When the music round came, he recognised the opening bars of “Moving on Up “ by M People . Perhaps , he thought to himself, that’s what the Glen are doing too.
Anyway the next round against Newtonmore is a fortnight off ; perhaps they’ll all be called up into the army. Then again Sparrows might fly.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Glenners who cleared Lovat off the road

A Glen Team which actually beat Lovat. Game - Drum October 1978.
Glen 3 Lovat 1.
How good was this Glen Team? Second in MacGillivary League Division 1.
And Lovat?
They were relegated that year to Division 2. Point made.We cleared Lovat off the road.
Now Beauly-they were a different matter.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Clear The Road For Lovat

Glenurquhart 2 Lovat 3

The late Alistair Mackenzie told me a story once about the way the old Fraser retainers of the Aird would shout out as Lord Lovat and /or any of the scions of the Fraser nobility made their way by car to Beauly in the early years of the 20th Cent.
“Clear the road for Lovat” was the cry that went up.
The Glen certainly did that on Saturday. Two up in the first half , in charge of a game that they should have sealed up before the turn around, they ended up losing by one goal for the fourth time at home this season. Frustrating !
Well the guys certainly have to keep on fighting-more aggression would certainly help-more leadership on the field too ,and perhaps a little more luck.
It all started so promisingly despite the absence of Lewis Maclennan, John Barr and Ruaraidh Cameron. In 18 minutes Dave Smart got the ball across to Neale Reid who drove it home low. Then in 35 minutes Andrew Corrigan picked up the second goal after some neat combination between Neale Reid and Alistair Mackintosh. So here we have the perfect situation 2-0 up - and it certainly could have been 3 with Corrigan having also missed a reasonable chance in 25 mins .
What was happening at this point was that the Glen were running through the Lovat defence : Jimmy Mackenzie at full back for Lovat was unwilling to leave the D and Dave Smart and Neale Reid had the edge on the young Lovat backs. If this pattern had continued then the Glen could have certainly been confident of a clear victory. Lovat were frustrated and did little to create- then just before half time a long shot is saved by Stewart Mackintosh ; the ball bounces back into play and aided by a piece of defensive misplacement Ewan Ferguson scores.
The second half is very similar ,though Lovat begin to creep back into the match as time goes by. They are helped by the physical competitiveness of their players. The young wing backs are hard ,physical and skilful players but just too strong for Neale Reid ,Dave Smart and Alistair Mackintosh. Even Corrigan gets jostled off the ball too often to be true : no ref is ever going to give these-the only answer is to swing back, always a little late ,always a little high and if it gets done back to you, you don’t complain. The goals when they arrive come late in the day. By that time Paul Mackintosh has come off from the midfield and Stewart Morrison has come on up front.
A defensive slip made the difference- firstly a poor clearance allowed a ball to go across to Jamie Matheson who finished things off in 83 minutes ; another piece of slackness allowed Ewan Ferguson to run with the ball across field for what seemed an eternity before he fired a marvellous shot into the net. 3-2 not enough time to come back into the game..
Bottom line-Ferguson was allowed to run too far. He is a powerful athlete as befits a rugby player but he ought to have been physically challenged before he made it to where he hit the ball. Bluntly he should have been taken down- and I advocate that every time: it is simple realism.
It did not happen and Lovat picked up the points.
So- good points: the opening phase of play. Arran Macdonald was sound at centre especially in the second half . Dave Maclennan played well but tired towards the end .Like wise Andrew Donald- some superb patches of play but then exhaustion at the end. David Girvan had a fine game and was solid in his hitting until that unfortunate slip at the end but though that caused the goal ,the game wasn’t lost there. We lost because we were not quite fit enough in the last ten minutes ; perhaps we should have juggled around with positions-pulled Corrigan back, kept Paul Mackintosh on - but more importantly apart from being fitter we have to shout more, believe more and be more aggressive-verbally and physically. There is great promise in the team : of the four sides which have beaten the Glen the only one which was clearly superior was Kinlochshiel. This side has been to two Balliemore semis back to back: they have done well in National Division 1 . Now is the time to wake up and realise if they don’t lift it they have a clear opportunity of being one of the very good Glen teams that never actually won anything. Outlasted for fitness by a Lovat team. Unbelievable but true - and all credit to Johnny MacRitchie and Jimmy Gallagher for the turn around they have effected there.
I enjoyed the Lovat crowd and the banter. Its years since we had them here and Ronnie Millican, Jimmy Johansen and Jimmy Gallagher are shinty men through and through . Its good to have them back. Ronnie Millican was in the shorts and doing the goal judging. He came down the field for a blether at the end of the match.
“If I had legs like that Ronnie I would ask the council to take them away” , said Ally Mac.
“You’re just jealous”, said Ronnie back-then he paused “of the result ” He was grinning from ear to ear.
So that’s two wins to Lovat then. First the game -then the banter.

Monday, May 01, 2006

And your point is? No but! Yeah but!

Glenurquhart 11 Ardnamurchan 0

With a score line like this there is only so much one can say. However to be fair to everyone
concerned ,a reorganisation of the Glen team at half time led to the second half score being
Glen 2 Ardnamurchan 0. That being the case -and heartening too-I feel a rant coming on.
A beautiful sunny day and some confidence building goal scoring for the Glen youngsters-5 for Ben Hosie. What about the rest? Two for Neil Mackintosh, two for Gary Smith, one for Andrew Macdonald and one for Ross MacAulay. Ben carried the ball a great deal , ran it in on goal and the Ardnamurchan lads who in the defence, apart from the keeper ,seemed a bunch of youngsters themselves very fairly tried to chase him down , take the ball off him on the run and otherwise attempt to stop him within the rules. My worry for Ben is that shinty is a hitting game and backs who have come up through the shinty ranks in a more traditional way will have a swing across him. That way broken fingers lie. Shinty is not hockey -and thank goodness for that too. Just long as he is aware that this will happen. Perhaps in his “Boys Own Shinty Player’s Diary” he will note the following “Memo to self“ - must move the ball on more quickly. Unfair -perhaps , a little harsh- perhaps. Good advice-definitely.
As I walked around the field I spoke with the Ardnamurchan head honcho. He was aware that they have to keep at it .“The best thing will be when we get all the youngsters coming through”. He is absolutely right. There was a lad -in Primary 6 hitting a shinty ball against the front of the pavilion.
“Do you play shinty in school”, I asked him.
“We used to with Mr Munro- we can’t now but I go to the training twice a week.” he said
He was a good hitter of the ball for his age. I could not see any Drum Primary 6s hitting about with a ball. I saw two or three kicking a football and another couple of Drum’s glorious youth messing about with a basket ball and yet another two in full “homey gear” of baseball cap and hoodie sitting at the side of the pavilion. They were smoking something: I can only guess at what and when I tidied up the side of the pavilion I found an empty bottle of vodka lying there. They were obviously not classy enough for Buckfast. So much for the youth of a village with a shinty team
And the moral of the story is?
It’s good for kids to get involved in sport. But merely providing the opportunity for sport will not always convince them to take part: the adults in the community have to set the agenda and engage the kids in the sport and support them from Primary school onwards. Problem with Drum is that too many people don’t see that. The population has changed so much they don’t see how much playing shinty can help their kids in personal development and also be part of a wider Highland community joined by an indigenous sport with a heritage and history behind it.
American Football in Inverness? I want to spew. Hockey? Introduced by Royal Academy toffs in Inverness at the start of the 20th century because they thought it was the “proper” sport to play. .Basketball -I want to be sick again. Rugby- I could go on. All sports are not equal and if we have to give one a leg up it should be shinty. As for the individual sports-let individuals play them but what do they contribute to the wider community good.? Andy Murray and tennis-David Carry and swimming? Good luck to them but like who cares apart from their parents?
Shinty is not an easy game to get skilled at. Chuck a football at a crowd of kids and you get the illusion of a football match right away. Shinty demands a higher level of basic skill before you can make anything of it. Ardnamurchan found this out on Saturday but what lessons should they take out of that experience?
Well keep on going. Rome was not built in a day. The Glen only got going in the late 1940s after being in abeyance for at least four decades and that first Glen team was not up to much. The youngsters that came through were though. Tell the kids to take their clubs to school and knock around. Doubtless the wusses in charge of Primary and Secondary schools are wanting kids to wear helmets when they are having a wee “knock about” Nonsense - kids are not doing much more than hitting the ball about , shooting at goal or whatever. Ardnamurchan Shinty Club should make a fuss so the kids can take the clubs in to school and hit about at break time. Stopping a kid taking his club to school is just like belting them when they spoke Gaelic in the old days. Indeed all over the shinty playing areas teams should be doing that : I would say that only in Tomnacross do the kids play in that natural manner and I would guess that the day Graham Bell packs in some wifie of a new Primary teacher will ban it in case the kids get a knock. Will HC do anything to help? Doubt it.
So Ardnamurchan -Cumaibh a dol e-and the kids will get better. Already there were a fair number who could hit neatly and with time and fitness you will get there. Take control of your schools: get the secondary school PE teach earn the cash and put it in the core curriculum. Don’t let the fearties win and you will find the sport will help you build bridges with other Highland communities and pull your own folks together.
Would football do this? No way. The way Ross County and Inverness Caley approach things-their idea of community involvement is a sham. Stuffed out with public money they only want to cherry pick a few and you will find that having taken away your top two or three players ,they will leave you without enough to form any sort of team in any sort of sport. Last Friday Glen under 14s lost three players who were at professional football training ; when they are 16 these guys will be booted out -you read it here first. Never forget and hard though it is to believe given how much we all love the game ,but in the way it is funded and feather bedded in the Highlands football is the enemy. Don’t even think about accommodating it.
Second moral of the story-get on to the Camanachd to put in place some professional coaches to go round the Primary schools in your area. They should be doing it in our area too.
Now then , I do feel much better after that.

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