Monday, September 18, 2006

Fly me to Dunoon-

for the Scottish Hydro Electric Camanachd Cup Final

Fort William 2 Kingussie 4

So shinty’s premier trophy ,as it is now being styled, has reverted to its default position in the Kingussie trophy room. Good image-except as I write it is more likely to be in the Silverfjord abandoned behind the bar after a lock-in of epic proportions. If the world was fair Ronald would have it all to himself sitting on his bedside cabinet beside his teddy bear and his Beano annuals . The world of course is not fair and Ronald , who is, probably still pretends that shinty is a team sport. If the evidence of his display on Saturday afternoon is anything to go by it will only become a team sport again when he retires : until then he is destined to be the only player worth watching anywhere on any shinty field.
What about that shinty field then? Fine in some ways-grass cut , the park fiery and dry. Also tight- and definitely not long. Adequate then but with seats and a big grassy bank from which to observe the action. The action? Plenty fouls-the tight park made that inevitable. No wing play to speak of. No mazy runs-an over supply of corners and shies and, of course, six goals.
No complaints then from the 3000 folk who turned up. Wing-Centre was one of them-driving from his but-and-ben down the winding West Highland roads via Inveraray and Strachur - too timid to try the wide Glasgow highways and go “Doon the Watter” by Western Ferries. He had no complaints either-not with the pitch, not with Dunoon and certainly not with the result. He did notice however that there are some things which are different in Dunoon, different that is from the real world that makes up the Northern Highlands. For one thing Dunoon has kept a variety of shops that even Beauly cannot match-there is one sweetie shop which still sells “Puff Candy” forty years after it has disappeared anywhere else : perhaps that is why it is on the Mod circuit. The other thing the Wing-Centre noticed was that quite a large number of Dunoon wifies of a certain age-just too old perhaps for the Hack to converse with in a knowing way if you catch my drift- had perfectly cut but definitely “big” hair. Prairie hair indeed- coiffures which he had witnessed in Calgary before the stampede except there the young cowgirls were wearing them as well as their grannies. A social comment perhaps but a point that merits making- apart from that, Dunoon was all seagulls, low morning mist and a pipe band with the tallest big drummer Wing-Centre had ever seen. Oh!-and at night a band of hoodied youths comes out to scamper around the little amphitheatre beside the Argyll Hotel just like the troop of frisky monkeys he once saw in a wild life documentary narrated by David Attenborough. Perfect venue for the Mod then, because at least the guys from Stornoway will feel at home in a town under siege from a mob of drunken youngsters on a Saturday night.
Perfect for Shinty? Enough already-but if you have Ronald Ross on the team you have the dream. You have to fit the horse for the course though and that is just what Manager Gow must have done.
The pre-match talk must have been like this.
“Yes boss”
“You’re up full forward the day. All Day. Old fashioned stuff but needs must”
“But Boss! Surely Boss”
“ Stop crying Ronald. Are you manager of Kingussie?”
“No Boss”
“Do you want us to win the Camanachd?”
“Yes, Boss”
“Then you’ll play where you’re told”
So he did. With his back to goals. Like Calum used to do for Lochcarron or Granty for Kinlochshiel. Time warp shinty but the only way to play in Dunoon against the Fort. Even the shade of Johnny Cattanach would have approved.
And so it came to pass that you can change the venue of the Camanachd Cup Final ; you can even bring in a new sponsor but on the evidence of a clinical display of finishing from Ronald , if you put Kingussie in a Camanachd Cup final, it’s not going to be easy to change the result. Never mind the fact that this was Kingussie’s first appearance in the big match since 2003, the 99th Camanachd Cup final- the first ever to be held in Dunoon- belonged to the side from Badenoch by virtue of the fact in Ronald Ross they have the best finisher that the indigenous sport has ever seen. Unsurprisingly the panel of wise men who allocate the coveted Albert Smith medal for man of the match agreed: Ross was their unanimous choice for player of the day.
The day in Dunoon started off well enough for Fort William however. In the opening minutes they posted their intentions with a long ball forward from Drew MacNeil which found James Clark up front but his drive went wide. At the other end Ross quickly got into his stride with a reverse pass wide to Ricky Grant whose touch inside was driven over the bar by Ali Borthwick. It was the last wide ball the big man was to bother with for the rest of the afternoon : probably Jim Gow told him not to be silly.
It was quickly clear however that pre-match talk about the length of the pitch having an effect on the sequence of play was no idle speculation: in the opening exchanges hit outs from defenders regularly reached deep into the opposing half. Not that the spectators at the Dunoon stadium were in the mood to complain given that the focus of attack swung so rapidly from end to end. Hardly had Andrew Borthwick in the Kingussie goal pulled off an outstanding save from a fierce drive from Garry Innes when at the other end Ross slipped his marker and injured Fort William keeper Scott MacNeil about the head with the ferocity of his shot at goal.
MacNeil was quickly back in the action but had no answer to the power of the next Ross shot when in 18 minutes SuperRon slipped his marker Adam Robertson and drove the ball home from distance.
It was difficult to find a true pattern of play in the game at this stage but while Fort William had the energy and commitment, Kingussie appeared to play the more classical shinty when a marvellous overhead flick by Ross almost put Paul Gow in on goal. At the other end, the Fort William forwards did test the Kingussie keeper with strikes by John Macleod and Victor Smith but Andrew Borthwick-on any other day a contender for man of the match himself- was equal to the demands made of him.
Ross continued to cause problems to the extent that the Fort defence reshuffled to attempt to hold him in check with the more nimble Liam Macintyre taking over the thankless task from Robertson.
Not that it made a great deal of difference when in 38 minutes a seemingly innocuous corner from Kevin Thain was allowed by Liam Macintyre to run across the area for a simple tap in by Ross.
If that signalled to the spectators that the cup was on its way home to Kingussie , Fort William’s James Clark had other ideas. For all that he has serious size, Clark is mobile and can show a delicate touch. His goal was crafty- a long shy from Gary Innes sowed confusion in the Kingussie defence. Clark sold a dummy on the left before cracking the ball home on the right in 42 minutes.
At the start of the second half the team that looked most likely was Fort William. The problem was however that they lacked the ability to score: time and again they wasted chances and as time moved on there was always the danger Kingussie would finish them off. So it proved but not without some controversy to spice matters up ; a shy by Ricky Grant bobbled through the Fort defence to Ross who scooped it over the line for his hat-trick. It was the type of close range effort which Ross has made his trademark. Though the Fort defence convinced themselves Ross had run himself offside before finishing, referee Ted Macdonald of Bute disagreed and the goal stood.
Ross finished his tally for the day in 68 minutes after MacNeil had blocked a drive from Ali Borthwick. The ball span high in the air and Ross one handed dinked it in to make the game secure. It was a superb piece of skill certainly-but it was also a supreme act of courage : he went in between three Fort William defenders each of whom could have tried to take the ball in the air-any of whom could have smashed him. That negative thought simply never occurred to him and the speed of his reactions was the perfect preservative.
A late goal by Fort William substitute Bryan Simpson was some consolation for Fort William but by that time there was only going to be one winner. It would appear that tales of Kingussie’s demise in the world of shinty have been greatly exaggerated.
Untrue! They haven’t really: its just that in the language Ronald speaks, Ross cannot ever rhyme with Loss.
I wonder if Scottish Hydro intend to use him in their advertising. He is a natural. By the way, I can’t wait for his story to be made into a film. Pity it is about as unlikely as the Wing-Centre ever actually flying to Dunoon.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Goalie, The Goaljudge and the Bottle of Vodka

I do hope they change the trainer's bottle for the big day at Dunoon

Despair in the Square-Would Gerry have put up with it?

Beauly 1 Bute 2

Don’t Beauly do Gala days well. Balliemore Cup Day was no exception- superbly sunny weather, a well organised operation for relieving punters of their money, hospitality tents, an excellent new pavilion and the grass at Braeview like the turf at Wimbledon. If the Camanachd Cup final is to go anywhere else it could do worse that go to Beauly where at least the populace play the game and ,if the noise coming from the crowd as Donnie MacDermott of Bute was taking his shies is anything to go by, are actually passionate about the result. Credit to the Buteman- he took the barracking and the shies stayed immaculate.
By that time, sadly for the home side Bute had taken a 2-1 lead and were strong enough- and the word “strong” is the key word - to hold on to it long enough to win the match.
It is difficult to know how to say it kindly but Beauly ought to have done better. Certainly Bute have played in National League Division 1 for a number of years and over the last two have made the Celtic Cup final. That has made them just more than a little hard. They are also more than a little competitive and they are expert at these annoying aspects of gamesmanship which seem to win games- they challenge the ref, they question the goal judge, they use the little pushes swings and nudges and the verbal aggression that gives them the psychological advantage over opponents. They are also good shinty players -not least in the forward line. One would also judge Hector Whitelaw to be a class act. He is probably even a nice guy.
So as the guy in the Herald said “Bute kept the flag flying for south shinty with a fine 2-1 victory in the Balliemore Cup over a disappointing Beauly side . Playing in their first national final since 1957 , Beauly enjoyed home advantage but never quite got to grips with a Bute team which over the piece, played the more creative shinty. Bute took the lead in the 7th minute with a blistering strike from the right by winger Stuart Strathie. Beauly levelled the score within two minutes. Danny Marshall picked up a cut back from veteran front man Stephen Maclean to lash the ball past keeper Kevin Queen.
The game remained evenly poised until just before halftime when slack work in the home midfield allowed Bute centre man James Craig space to hit the ball at the Beauly goal where a mistake by Beauly keeper Stephen Lymburn presented Bute with the lead.
The second period was equally tight and at times the competition in the midfield became over physical and referee David Mitchell had to work hard to keep the lid on the game. The home team lifted the effort level in the last quarter after switching former under 21 internationalist Jamie Maclennan to full forward but despite the urgings of the partisan home crowd Beauly did not have enough to get back in the game.”
So that is it in a nutshell. Beauly do Gala days well: now they need to do the Shinty that wee bit better. Not that Glenurquhart are anything to go by. Last time The Glen played Bute in a game that really mattered was back in 2004 at Kingussie in the semi-final of said Balliemore ; they beat us as well.
We also came off the field feeling we should have played better. We counted up in the dressing room afterwards the number of times we felt we ought to have scored. In real life of course we didn’t actually do it. Bute did. They have the medals to prove it. You cannot hold anything against a side , however, that makes the journey up the A9 in a rusty minibus with a broken window covered with cardboard. The thing they came to Kingussie in would not have been given an MOT in Raasay. Rothesay seems beyond the rule of law in many ways. The hope is they will never get a bridge.
The gentleman from “The Buteman” was there on Saturday too. In true Victorian holidaymaker style as befits a denizen of “Doon the Watter” he travelled up to Priory Central by train and was going back by choo-choo as well. I call that cool.
I like Beauly- hard to believe but I do. It has a touch of class about it. The perfect Saturday would have been a wee browse in Marr’s antique shop, some Stornoway black pudding purchased at Cameron’s butchers shop, coffee at “ Made in Scotland”, over to Campbell’s to buy new kilt socks and then up to Braeview for the shinty. You could not find a more satisfying, more ethnic Saturday in the whole of ....well Canada.. Drum doesn’t come near it-except we have a shinty team.
There was of course another game at Beauly. Another Cup Final too.
The Herald guy encapsulated the Sutherland Cup final thus :”Earlier in the afternoon Glenorchy’s father and daughter combination of Lucy and Des McNulty tasted cup disappointment when Fort William ran out easy 6-0 winners in the Aberdein Considine Sutherland Cup. Though the match was a personal triumph for Fort William forward John Wood who scored 4 goals, the early plaudits went to Glenorchy keeper Iain Gibson who pulled off a series of superb saves in the first half to keep the score to a single goal . The roof fell in on Glenorchy in the second half however especially with the introduction to the Fort William front line of Willie Macdonald who scored in 52 minutes. Woods (4) and James Denholme completed the scoring.”
I felt sorry for Glenorchy but I think the Fort guys were more fortified than they should have been if the snap at the top of the Fort goalmouth refreshment is to be believed. For the good name of the noble sport of Camanachd, I am still hoping it was water. Then you wouldn’t expect anything different from a guy called Wells.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Good Golly , Miss Molly.

Skye 1 Glenurquhart 1
North Division 1

Where were you when Kingussie lost the Premier League for the first time in living memory? Molly Campbell was in Lahore .Your Correspondent was in Skye. He did not enjoy the weather.
It was a damp day on Skye- but not so damp as it has been on other occasions that the Glen have seen fit to tread on a park where only heroes are wont to tread . Skye have been playing well recently and have badly dented the ambitions of Lochaber : earlier in the season the Islanders travelled successfully to Drum and went home with both points courtesy of a single goal. So despite the win against Beauly, it was with some trepidation that the Foreign Correspondent of the Glen Bulletin made it up the slippery steps to the pitch side to watch the action.
Inside four minutes it was possible to paste in the phrase that had languished unused all season in the laptop’s memory- Barr hits the Bar-but the ring that it had in use was not so good as it had been in anticipation , especially in the knowledge that given our usual front of goal performance we were not going to make too many other opportunities.
However your man at the big match must confess to being pleasantly surprised because the Glen pinned Skye back for the first ten minutes but while the play was neat it did not result in a serious strike on goal. The pleasure in early pressure was undermined by the certain knowledge that the West Highland Free Press reporter , while he might give the red and blacks some credit for early dominance, would almost certainly refer to the team as “Glens”. What is that all about? Where did that extra s come from? Is there another Glen nearby that we don’t really know about? Some Fairy Glen , perhaps, which appears , like Brigadoon, every hundred years. So far as the Bulletin is concerned Glenurquhart has neither amalgamated with Glen Convinth nor Glen Moriston though perhaps we might be said to incorporate Glen Coiltie- but then no-one lives there.
These musings were interrupted by a goal from Peter Gordon in 22 minutes. The truth? A mishit clearance fell to him some distance out and he hit a shot which ,on a dry day and without a row of players to obscure his view, would have been meat and drink to The Goalie. It wasn’t - he got his hand to it but it skidded off his palm and up into the net. Skye had a lead they did not deserve.
Having said that ,Gordon is a superb player- fit, well balanced and with an experienced head. He has a Camanachd Cup Winners Medal to prove his stature-one of only 15 on the Island since the beginning of time -so when he pulled his hamstring and the only true hero left the field your correspondent put on a sad face. Inwardly he was cheering.
The rest of the first half was really end to end without much danger to anyone except when the Goalie had to save a nasty shot from Nouie Macdonald .. The Glen had the midfield which was a surprise given that Nouie Macdonald was in there. Arran Macdonald was excellent and continued his contribution for the whole match as did his side kicks Paul Mackintosh and David Maclennan. This is beginning to look like a top class midfield. Then, Graham Cameron blew for half time. As he did so the midgies came out and the rain worsened a little.
“Horrible weather,” said the Correspondent.
“No wonder that wee lassie left Stornoway to go and live in Pakistan” replied the Skye man.
He might have had a point-though it perhaps depends on how you like your fundamentalism-Calvinist or Islamic. When a blink of sun came out from behind the mist and created an intense rainbow over the Cuillins, the Bulletin’s man decided he preferred Kyleakin to Karachi- not of course that he’d ever been to Karachi.
A team pep talk was given, then news came through that Fort William were winning against Kilmallie and that Newtonmore were looking good. It was looking like an historic moment in the world of shinty. Then, suddenly the rain lifted and in the course of the next 45 minutes the Glen scored one goal and missed five. Skye too had their moments but the Goalie refused to permit them a victory.
The Glen goal is worth noting because it was a very pretty piece of play. Lewis Maclennan hit the ball over wide to the right and after it had been driven at the keeper , David Smart played it back across in the air where Andrew Corrigan smashed it in from close range. Passes, first time hitting,- all combined to result in the perfect goal. As good as anyway.
Then the Glen proceeded to dominate the last 15 minutes- Neale Reid came on for David Smart and Ally Mackintosh for Dave Maclennan- but the ball just would not go in the net. Graham Cameron blew the whistle again- the rain started once more. The Correspondent felt frustrated. Then Kingussie were confirmed to have lost. It didn’t seem too important anymore. Strange day indeed. Probably stranger in Lahore for little Molly. It’s a pity her Dad didn’t get on with her Mum. Still, at least she doesn't have to put up with the rain

Extra! Extra! Read All About It.

Every year since the beginning of the world, the Glenurquhart Bulletin provides the inhabitants of the Glen with an annual report on the progress of the shinty team. The singular tone of the Bulletin-traditional, mildly old fashioned, no pictures allowed –has made it an institution in the Glen with copies being eagerly read around the civilised and indeed, if reports are correct that one has actually been seen in Strathglass, the uncivilised world also. We print this year’s piece with the full permission of the editors of the Bulletin

Glen Urquhart Shinty Club
After a promising finish to last years National Division 1 Championship- the Glen finished the season in a respectable 3rd spot- there was every hope that this season, when the indigenous sport reverted to a regional formula with the abandonment of the National League structure, that the team would actually put some silverware on the table. Sadly at this stage of the season and with a number of League fixtures still left to be fulfilled, that is not going to be the case. However, there is a chance for the second team to finish at a respectably high level in their League if they continue to play as effectively as they have done up until the point of writing.
The new summer Shinty season, while more congenial to the players and kinder to the playing surface, does bring with it some problems however. Quite early on it was realised that the grass-cutting regime of the local authority was in no way appropriate to the demands of top class shinty and so at some considerable expense the club have had to purchase a set of mowers. The timing of the season, while it makes writing an "end of term report" like this more difficult coming as it does halfway through the allotted fixture list, also poses some other difficulties. Young players in our second team are usually a strong part of the local labour force in hotels and restaurants and we are most grateful to those employers who have been flexible enough permit their young employees to have time off on a Saturday to compete in fixtures. The point is however is that the sport of shinty is one of the things which makes the area culturally unique and feeds into the overall tourist package which the Highlands is marketing.
As with last year our AGM was held in January- and this session our President Alan Bell stepped down after 35 years in the hot seat. Over these 35 years Alan has done a power of work-indeed he continues to do so- and we are fortunate that he has agreed to continue as our Chieftain. Jim Barr has stepped in to take over as Chairman. Other officials remain unchanged although Kate Macrae who helped look after the weekly Lotto and took over the management of the Pavilion had to step down in mid-season because of her re-location to the Isle of Mull. We wish her all the best for the future.
On the playing side, our season could have said to have opened with the annual Zandra Mackintosh Memorial Six a side Tournament held on 29th December on the astro-turf which drew a large crowd of players and spectators. Winners were Balnain after a tough tussle with Lewiston.
Manager Ron Fraser would be the first to admit that the Ist team fixtures in North Division 1 which have been played so far have been a disappointment though it is fair to say that with the exception of a recent 3-0 defeat away to Kinlochshiel the majority of our matches have seen us lose by the odd goal.
To date we have won 2 , drawn 2 and lost 5 but with 7 fixtures to go there is always hope for improvement.**
In cup terms though we sadly made a quick departure from the MacTavish Cup at the hands of Kinlochshiel, the two rounds we played in the Camanachd Cup were the highlight of the season. After drawing with Beauly away from home we comprehensively defeated them at Blairbeg 3-0 which took us on to a 2nd round tie with Premier Division side Newtonmore. After an epic struggle Newtonmore nosed into the next round 2-1 and we were left to contemplate what might have been. Ironically due to a Camanachd Association rule change this victory meant that we were no longer eligible to play in the Balliemore Cup, a competition in which we have been semi-finalists for the past two seasons. It is with some bemusement that we now observe that Beauly, our defeated rivals in the Camanachd Cup, have progressed to the final of the Balliemore.
The second teams have fared better in their League campaign and are still in with a chance of a high placement in the League. To date the have drawn 2 lost 2 and won 7: presently standing second in the League they have seven games to complete and with the right results they could even pick up a trophy.
Cup-wise however the side has not done so well having been knocked out of the Strathdearn Cup by Kingussie but Manager Stephen Henderson has many more regrets over our exit away from home to Newtonmore in the third round of the Sutherland Cup. A 3-2 defeat at the Eilean is nothing to be ashamed of but in the circumstances it is clear that the lads threw away an excellent chance of progressing to the next round or of forcing a home replay. The achievement is all the more noteworthy in that both Kingussie and Newtonmore play in a Higher division.
This year however, our under 14 team however surpassed the big teams by winning the annual Inverness six a side competition.
Several members of the Club have gained recognition with selection for representative games. Last October, Stuart Mackintosh and Stuart Reid played for and our trainer George Stewart managed the National under 21 squad. At Easter, Rhuaridh Cameron and Lewis Maclennan travelled to Ireland as members of the National under-17 development group. This season Stewart Mackintosh has again made it into the North Under 21 squad while at under-14 level Nealel Reid (Captain) and Bradley Dickson have been selected for the North. Alasdair Mackintosh makes an appearance for the under-17 North squad where he is joined by our own Andrew Young who represents Boleskine, having gone to live across the Loch for employment.
Congratulations also to the High School pupils and staff for the organisation of the Schools under 16 and under 14 Robertson Cup 6-a-side Tournaments which are a such highlight of the competitive season for younger players. The young players which these competitions produce are proving themselves excellent material for the Club’s future.
In order to meet the cost of travel and equipment for these senior teams as well as the under-14s and under-17s, the Club runs a weekly Lotto. This is our main means of support and we are most grateful to those who regularly purchase our tickets as well as those local businesses which help to sell them. A special word of thanks here is due to Ann Fraser and Christine Reid for organising the draw and once again to our chieftain Alan Bell who would appear to find buyers for the bulk of the tickets actually sold.
The annual Sale of Work continues to be successful and last October raised over £2000. Sponsorship from the Blarmor Bar, Mr Firman, Kilmartin, Wm. Gray Ltd and Alastair Menzies at the Lewiston Garage assists the Club in meeting its expenses- and with some unwelcome vandalism at the pavilion at the start of the year, equipment and travel are not the only drain on our finances.
On that note, it is a particular bone of contention for the Club that the Highland Council continue to charge a ground rent for our pavilion –recently raised from £300 to £330 per annum. It is an expense which the Club could well do without given that we have financed the building and continue to pay for the upkeep of the building entirely on our own responsibility, providing as we do so a valuable resource which is available to the whole community. We look forward to our councillor continuing to work on our behalf to end this irksome anomaly.
Finally thanks are due to both team Managers Ron Fraser and Steven Henderson, George Stewart our trainer, who manages youth development, Mike Cameron who looks after the under 14s, Chieftain Alan Bell who oversees the Primary squad (along with his wife Jan and Helen Maclennan). Donald Paul Mackintosh is also to be thanked for stepping in to the managerial breach when Ron’s work makes it difficult for him to oversee the Senior Team
Also present on training nights are Peter English and Jimmac Mackintosh and we are grateful for their time and advice.
Thanks also go to Helen Maclennan for looking after the strips as well as to Janet Emery for keeping the pavilion spick and span. Not to be forgotten are all the ladies who help on the tea rota. They are too numerous to mention individually
Finally, a word of appreciation is certainly due to the tireless members of the shinty Committee in particular our new Chairman Jim Barr, Secretary Mary Macdonald, Fixtures Secretary Billy Reid and Treasurer Fraser Mackenzie.
Putting shinty teams on to the field regularly is truly a community effort and it is one of the few activities, along with the Highland Games, which links us with our Highland past and makes our area distinct. If you would like you –or your children to be in any way involved with the activities of the Club make yourself known to our Committee at any of our regular Wednesday night practice sessions at Blairbeg Park.

** Update- since this was published in the 2006 Glenurquhart Bulletin which hits the crofts on Games Day the Glen have beaten Beauly away 4-2 and have drawn away with Skye 1-1

Scottish Blogs