Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Doing the Glen Proud at Castle Leod

Caberfeidh 2 Glenurquhart 3

The only way to arrive at Castle Leod in the Wing Centre’s opinion is just after the game has been going for about two minutes or so- that way it is possible to avoid being asked to do goal judge -though for a game to happen at all goal judges are required. The Wing Centre acknowledges this openly. It is just that doing the job of goal judge is a thankless task and one which the Wing Centre would like to avoid if possible , particularly at Castle Leod. Why so? Nothing against the Cabers crowd- a more pleasant less biased group of Highland Council tax payers you could never hope to meet : it is just that at the Dingwall end of Castle Leod, a burn runs behind the goal and while the Wing Centre remembers playing there over 43 years ago he also clearly recalls being stung by nettles as he went to retrieve a ball blasted past the post in of all things the Harrow Cup. So, as he pulled up at the Cabers ground, he could see that the players were getting a pre-match tongue lashing from Referee Macrae : the goal judges were not as yet in evidence. Nothing for it but to boorach about in the car pretending to look for stuff until the shrill peep of Referee Macrae’s whistle indicated that the contest was underway.
Out of the car then and along to the pitch. It’s rough and has not had a particularly good winter -but as the cliché goes it’s the same for both sides except that this early in the match Cabers look on top. They are strong and hit the ball first without asking questions. Most probably they are not interested in questions of any sort at all- and within 5 minutes they have had chance of an open goal and missed it. The Glen look a little uncertain - so much so that your correspondent cannot bear to look and goes off to engage Roddy Gordon in conversation. Roddy has a marvellous sense of humour and a Camanachd Winner’s medal with the Inverness side of the 1950s -neither of which fact in any way undermines the other.
“How are you doing Roddy?” says the Wing Centre.
“Best I can say boy-is that I’m still above the grass” which he was and still looking spry which was more than could be said for the Glen because in 11 minutes and then in 30 minutes, Ally Maclennan had made it 2-0 for the Strath. And to think that we’d spent most of the previous week at the blackboard in the pavilion discussing how to stop Kevin Bartlett, if only because we could not spell Kryzan… Kris… Kriss..-you know yourself. If only the Free Press had thought to name him as pickable, the Wing Centre would have put Ally straight into his fantasy shinty team on that performance alone.
Glen got back into the game just before the interval via a long shy from young Alistair Mackintosh. Certainly it was a bit lucky in that the keeper misjudged it but it made the difference. The team was playing well enough but the game was hard and the centreline took a little too long in the first half to realise they were going to have to play route 1 shinty. Long balls, powerful swings and no holding back the club to get in the perfect strike : Arran Macdonald had realised this and throughout the match he was superb: the other two wing centres came at it after about 20 minutes or so and both Ali Mackintosh and “Dixon” Maclennan-that boy does not know the meaning of fear- began to let the club go after the manner of the Glen of yore. It made the difference : all that was left was for the forwards to cotton on to the fact that they would have to add some Neanderthal shinty to their usual guile and the game could be won.
The second half proved the truth of this observation. Cabers continued to play determined shinty but with an injury to Billy Urquhart and Calum Millar having given his all, the introduction of Ruaridh Cameron and Neale Reid led to some serous difficulties for the Caberfeidh defence simply because they had exhausted themselves in earlier encounters.
The first goal came after a nice piece of work from Cameron found Lewis Maclennan in space and his drive smashed past the Cabers goalie into the net. It was 2-2 and the Glen centreline had to continue to man the pumps. There was no time for delicate balls short on this uneven pitch : if the Glen were fortunate enough to be awarded a free hit anywhere near the middle of the park, route 1 shinty was the only option. A long booming dropping ball from John Barr or Arran Macdonald right on to the full-forward put the Cabers defence under the sort of physical pressure they are expert at putting opponents under, especially at Castle Leod. The low sun was by this stage shining directly into the eyes of the Caberfeidh defence and it was clear that at times they were finding it hard to pick out the dropping ball in the bright light.
Cabers began to buckle under this intensity although they were equally capable of breaking out to threaten. In their back line , the clubs were flying so fiercely that there had to be a lengthy stoppage because one of their own back men had been injured by the goalie who swung carelessly at a through ball into the box.
The mobility of the Glen forwards began to become more evident as the clock ticked on and the breakthrough came in 65 minutes when Lewis Maclennan completed the scoring with a superb strike after the neatest of flicks from Neale Reid. The scorer , who was beginning to limp, was replaced by David Smart and more chances were created : with a little more fortune the margin could have been increased.
Then for the last ten minutes Cabers surged back and in the backs to the wall defending which had to be resorted to, full back Paul Mackintosh received a crack on the ankle- a late swing but to be expected in a competitive match. Referee Macrae allowed play to go on however and Paul that most wholehearted of players was going to carry on until the Wing Centre roared at him to go down. Which he did. The game was stopped ; the pattern of play broken up ;and the Glen had time to regroup. The Wing Centre was delighted to hear not only his late mother’s marital status called into question but also linked to his perceived age and his obvious lack of hair- this being done by one from among a group of young Cabers supporters who were idling their time away behind the Glen goal. Why was he delighted? The Wing Centre often thinks that he is being irritating : it is nice to have this confirmed, particularly by the young. If you can appeal to the young, your future is assured.
And there it was- there was nothing more to worry about. The Lads had come back from what they would not have come back from last season - and unless that defeat has broken Caberfeidh’s spirit (which with Robbie Taylor in charge is unlikely) not many teams will take anything away from Castle Leod.
And then to round off the day where this report begins, the Wing Centre grateful for the victory, went over to pay his respects at the memorial tree to the late great Kenny MacMaster. A Caberfeidh legend, a Camanachd Cup winner- and a generous enthusiast for the game of shinty. When the match is over, it is over but because of Kenny and the guys on the park the game goes on. Long may it do so. He would have enjoyed this match- and to be fair, he would not have grudged the result though he would have wished it was different.

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