Sunday, September 03, 2006

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

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