Sunday, August 20, 2006

A win away from home? Now we’ll want Chips with everything

Beauly 2 Glenurquhart 4

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a shinty team in possession of a desire to win a match must be in need of an early goal. Well not really. All that is required is that you score more goals than the opposition and if you have to score them in the last five minutes then so be it. Indeed there is also a school of thought that declares a late victory to be the sweetest of all. I don’t know about that but given the way that the Glen forwards have struggled to score this season it was a surprise to arrive at Braeview eight minutes after the match had started to find the scores level at 1-1. Barry Macdonald had opened for Beauly in four minutes and the Glen had got that precious early goal back in seven minutes. A neat finish by David “Chips” Smart. A word or two on Chips- he had a good game, worked hard and has an excellent touch on the ball. Late in the second half he came deep to help out at buckshee when Dave Maclennan was injured and he looked the part back there as well.
With the Glen scoring so early you just never know, but if the truth has to be told, parts of the first half looked a little dodgy for the Glen and only smart work from the goalie actually kept Beauly out at our end. On more than one occasion he kept the nerve and juggled the ball past post and bar- and to be fair to Beauly with Sean Stewart back up front with Superbarry they had the greater percentage of ball . Martin Davidson, Innes Simpson and Sandy Tulloch continued hit up long balls into the Glen back line and while the defenders did smother them and block attempted shots and determinedly contrived to harass the Beauly forwards , the clearances did not always give the centreline enough ball to push it up to the other end of the park with conviction. Arran Macdonald and Paul Mackintosh had to track back to pick up the clearances and hit the ball forward on the turn. Never an easy task- and one made more difficult because of the wet grass.
But the secret of success is to score more goals than the opposition and that is just what the Glen contrived to do.. In 13 minutes Beauly conceded a penalty- the ball bounced up and Innes Simpson appeared to head it. Perhaps he touched it -perhaps not. He was also judged to be inside the box-he probably was. It’s one of those things that happen in any sport and with the size of the shinty field being such as it is there is no way a ref can be up close and personal all the time. If I remember correctly in the first game of the season Beauly went home with both points on the strength of a dubious penalty award. Perhaps these things even themselves out over the course of a season?
Whatever the rights and wrongs, Lewis Maclennan still had to keep his nerve and score it. He did. An excellent power drive past the keeper-about shoulder height straight and true.
So it was 2-1 against the run, against the rub of the park and the Beauly forwards were not finding either net or space at the other end. The centres began to get frustrated; someone swore; he went in the ref’s book and the frustration began to double. I could picture myself in their shoes but I was happy I was not wearing them.
To rub in the salt, in 42 minutes, Paul Mackintosh, always impressive in shinty’s most thankless position, fired up a long ball which eluded the Beauly backs and landed in front of John Barr who tapped it over the line. Half time was 3-1 and while we were all cheerfully smug in the rain, we were also very much aware that the score line could easily have been the other way round.
Why should this report be reasoned and fair minded? Why don’t I just write like the West Highland Free Press reporting a Skye game : the opposition don’t get a mention. I suppose it is because this season we have seen so many matches being lost by the odd goal when they should have been won and also the fact that when we raise our game we can be superb like we were against Newtonmore.
Here we are winning at half time and I am finding it difficult to work out how we have done it.
Sean Stewart pulls one back just after the restart for Beauly and then for another fifteen minutes perhaps the pattern of the first half repeats itself. Beauly edge the percentages but this time the goalie does not have so much to do : the Beauly forwards are firing the ball past. Never over-they are real forwards and keep the ball down -but they are hitting wide of the mark and also as the game continues they are being kept out at distance by the Glen backs. Though Gregor McCormack’s neat stick work is a miss, David Girvan is having a solid game. He gets in the block, has tremendous strength and is the type of player we need when backs are to the wall.
Suddenly Dave Maclennan at wing centre gets a nasty crack below the knee and when he recovers goes out the right wing. He cannot move and the excellent Mackay Murray is beginning to hit long balls up that side.
Neale Reid puts on his helmet, comes on and helps make the game safe. . He is quick and sure on the ball. Arran Macdonald hits the ball wide. Neale Reid plays it across the face of goal and this time, with the run of play ,Lewis Maclennan scores and we are suddenly back with a two goal advantage. It is all over. Ruaraidh Cameron comes on and plays some nice stuff up front with Neale and Chips. A bit more luck-not asking much are we? -and we might have ended up with more goals.
The rain gets heavier: Beauly get more depressed. This result hasn’t done their league chances any good. If fact I would say that they are now as dead as one of their emblematic gutter sparrows which has just flown into a conservatory window. Still, at least they’ve got the Balliemore and for the good of North shinty I’ll be backing them against Bute.
On the way home I divert to look in Campbell’s window. There they are- the Lovat Cup and that magnificent old MacGillivary Trophy which Beauly received when they won the North Championship last year. There’s every chance of the Balliemore joining them before the end of next month.
Back in Drum the only thing we’re likely to have in the shop windows is a display of cuddly Nessies. Makes you think!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

There’s only one Alan Bell - well, apparently not.

Hold the back page -or at least an inside page of the Press and Journal. It's official. “Alan Bell 71, is retiring from his post as chairman of Glen Urquhart Shinty Club after 35 years in the position.” The P & J said it , so it must be true.
Now what struck me about this piece of information was not that Alan was giving up or even the fact that he has served two life sentences as chairman without time off for good behaviour but rather that there would appear to be at least 70 other Alan Bells in existence. At least this is what one assumes to be the case having been made aware of e-mail addresses which carry both name and number to identify an individual.
The P& J of course is always first with the news , except on this occasion because it was made known in the Glen that Alan Bell 71 was stepping down in February at the AGM but remaining as Chieftain. However it is nice to see recognition in the Press for what has been a marvellous contribution to the “indigenous sport”.
There is no aspect of life in the Club which Alan has not touched. If he were not to make the effort then the weekly Lottery would struggle to break even : with his wife Jan , Helen Maclennan and occasionally some others ,he takes the Primary squad on a Wednesday evening and liaises with the school for Primary matches.
Alan has presided over shinty meetings for -well -35 years : he alone knows the chemical formula for mixing white liner. Until he packed in in February he was also most likely to have put up the nets and taken them down. He was equally likely to have tidied up around the pavilion , clearing away the glasses and condoms from the Friday night shenanigans on the steps, before visiting teams can arrive to have their visions of the green Glen of tranquillity shattered.
The P & J also made great play of the fact that one of Alan’s proudest moments in his tenure at the top had been when the team reached the Camanachd Cup final in 1988. This is not the whole truth. Alan would never be proud of being beaten by Kingussie in front of an audience. Nor was it the opening of the new Pavilion in 1997 nor even the Centenary of the Club in 1985 which one must acknowledge to have been milestones in the life of club ,ball and man.
Could that proudest moment have come when Alan stood with his team-mates to receive the Strathdearn in 1977? Seemingly not because Alan had the distinction of having been a member of an earlier squad to have lifted the cup. 1972 was the key year for the historically minded and so he does not treat the ‘77 result as the iconic occasion it seems to be in the minds of more recent Glenners.
There have been many other occasions when under Alan’s leadership the club has pushed matters shinty to the limits- except of course on the actual field of dreams. There was the publication of the Club history by Prof Peter English in 1985. There were duck races down the Enrick River including one time when a whole flock of the plastic creatures escaped down river into Loch Ness some of which were returned by the coastguard weeks later. One was later found to be floating in the harbour at Puerto del Carmen in the Canaries : others were never seen again.
There was also of course the occasion when a gaggle of Glenners played on every shinty pitch in the North of Scotland against every team in the North of Scotland in the space of a single day. Alan is proud of that but not inordinately so.
Yes he has served as Chairman of the North Association and commentated on MacTavish finals and while rightly proud of these achievements he also remembers the many shinty quizzes in which he has come second . There is also the fact that he accompanied the Club on Irish jaunts to compete with Kilkenny Club Dicksboro- a side which incidentally appears to have won their championship and will soon line up against Kingussie in the World Series.
However, back in 1991 ,accompanied by a pod of aquatically gifted amphibians of a shinty persuasion Alan swam a million lengths of the old Glebe Street baths in a memorable sponsored event. Unforgettable, unequalled ,indeed truly iconic. It can never be recreated not least because the old Glebe Street baths have been demolished .The picture exists yet- a truly unique shinty snap.

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