Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Staggies at Bay-Not Likely

Caberfeidh 1 Glenurquhart 1

I mused about the opening for a while. The book of “Good Starts” was no real help. I almost resorted to the following-”There may have been a flower festival taking place in Strathpeffer Church on Saturday but there were no pansies on the field at Castle Leod.” Not quite right , I thought ,in this modern politically correct world. PC must touch shinty too or shinty will not touch the world.
Then my mind went back to the front cover of my original edition of “Camanachd” by Roger Raasay. Here we see a swirl of the early 19th century Cromartie tenantry swiping at a ball which the artist has omitted to paint clearly but must be in the ruck below the kilted behemoth in the middle. His club is at a murderous angle and he must be bringing it down on a ball, though given that Castle Leod is in the background then that assumption ain’t necessarily true. What is intriguing however is that two players are running off the ball out to the wing and always assuming that they simply haven’t just lost their bottle and are running back to the safety of the Heights .Here we have a painter who actually saw a real game and that game was always more subtle than critics give it credit for.
So instead of faffing about looking for a perfect opening-unlike the team itself- I simply start with the thought that against Cabers the Glen chucked away an opportunity to pocket both points and that after an excellent outing against Newtonmore the week before.
By the time I had negotiated the busy streets of the Spa town and had driven into the pitch Lewis Maclennan had scored a penalty. At that stage and indeed throughout the match the team played tidily and well. The forwards were doing their interchanging very competently but the final ball was never quite on target , a pity because the lead up play was highly competent. A shorter swing and a little more accuracy would not hinder and more strikes on goal would help.
The President was counting shots. I cannot remember how many he computed but I do remember thinking that the figure was not high enough. If you have four shots at goal perhaps you should score one but only if the four tries make the goalie work. Still the President is sympathetic too because it is his opinion that our spectators put too much pressure on the young players to move the ball blindly forward and are perhaps not appreciative enough of what they are trying to build. I know what he is saying and the players are young and things can only get better. They are actually all personally playing a high standard of shinty in respect of ball control and hitting. Indeed the defence is of a very high quality especially given the level at which we are playing and the youthfulness of the squad.
While we murdered Cabers 1-1 in the first half , a veil must be drawn over the uncharacteristic state of defensive confusion and error which allowed Ruaraidh Maclennan to steal an equaliser in 25 minutes.
The second half saw the Staggies up their game and I do admire the fact that they player a simpler form of the “indigenous”than we do. They are hard in the tackle , they hit the ball well and while they are able to work the angles if they get the ball to buckshee forward they let fly. To that effect the goalie had to look lively once or twice and he made some excellent stops but that is why he wears the jersey and not anyone else. We continued to move forward -not helped by the fact that Paul Mackintosh had to come off at half-time as a result of going over his ankle in a dip in the ground- but while we had one shot on target and a clutch of corners ,too often we made life tough only for the biorans in the stream behind the bottom goal.
The Acme Thunderer was blown vigorously ; the players shook hands: the President remarked that perhaps we are only happy to put pressure on the shop.
Yes the shop. That’s right-the Baker’s shop, The VG, the Costcutter-whatever you call that piece of late 1960s utilitarian architecture . It is not only a shinty target but the true soul of the modern Glen. Whenever we shoot towards the shop we do better.
Indeed, it might be an idea to get a huge cardboard cut-out of the shop and place it directly behind our opponents’ goals. That way the boys will feel at home even when they are away. Just a thought……

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