Saturday, March 31, 2007

Winning Ugly-But Still Winning

MacTavish Cup First Round

Glenurquhart 1 Inverness 0

Of all the shinty clubs in the whole world- and here the Wing Centre strives to see the bigger picture - the one that is most important to the image of the game in the Highlands is the City club itself. Not even Kingussie, not Newtonmore not indeed the Glen has the symbolic importance to the shinty community that the Inverness club has.
What he means is that if the fastest growing city in Europe so forgets its native roots that it makes no effort to nurture the indigenous sport, then the Wing Centre might as well pack up and go off and stay on the Costa Brava and leave the city to morph into Stevenage. The Camanachd Association has shifted its World HQ to Ballifeary Road but the Inverness Courier has made little of this sporting coup. If only some higher power could get it through thick civic skulls that in the game of shinty the town has some thing unique which binds the city to its hinterland and its Gaelic heritage. In contrast to this, much is made of Caley Thistle which to the Wing Centre is a professional business and which in its present form does nothing to bind Inverness’s diverse communities together.
Inverness have always had it over the Glen that they had once lifted the Camanchd Cup- 1952 it was - and the Wing Centre had let this slip from his mind until fairly recently when a young Inverness under 14 shinty player of his aquaintance told him that he had some of his granddad’s medals at home and perhaps the Wing Centre would like to see them.
He would - and the youngster brought in a Camanachd Winner’s medal, a Camanachd Runner’s Up medal, a MacGillivaray badge and a Torlundy medal - won by the grandad Willie Mackenzie and all won whilst playing shinty for the Bught Park Club. By comparison Mr Reid’s 1977 Strathdearn medal pales into insignificance. However, Inverness Shinty Club can only survive if it gets the chance to introduce the sport to the youngsters in the “town” (it will always be a “town” to the Wing Centre no matter what Simon Cole-Hamilton tries to tell him) and with public subsidies being handed out to Caley Thistle and Ross County not to mention the Highland Rugby Club and believe it or not the sport of cricket and -hold the back page-American football , shinty finds it harder than ever to keep hanging on. The failure to achieve adequate funding to permit Davie Glass continue his coaching in the city Primary schools is a monumental error on behalf of the Camanachd Association. Which is why when Peter Gow , George Campbell, Malcolm Fraser ,Clive Girvan and the rest of the guys come out to Glenurquhart to play with a team composed for the most part of home bred players - and youngsters at that-then the Wing Centre doffs his “currac ruadh” to them and then packs away his soapbox to focus on the game itself.
In fact Inverness played very well in this match and with a little more composure in front of goal - especially when taking penalties- then the result could have been very different. Perhaps the Glen were a little complacent after a victory at Caberfeidh the week before but the close result at Beauly should have rang alarm bells.Before the match got underway there was a minutes silence in memory of Donella Crawford , a lovely lady, who did sterling work over the years on behalf of Schools shinty in Argyll and nationally. It was ever true that without the involvement of women, shinty struggles greatly to survive. Donella was part of the shinty community and the silence observed by both sets of players was a fitting tribute to her.
The pitch was hard and fiery and very little happened in the first 20 minutes or so except that Lewis Maclennan joined that elite band of players who have hit the shop with a drive at goal. He goes into the record books along with Ali Mackintosh (sen) , Donald Paul Mackintosh and Peter Macdonald who have all managed to disturb the grocery buying public with a misplaced strike.
The all important goal came in 25 minutes. A shy from Alistair Mackintosh made it across to the centre of the field and from just beyond the penalty spot Andrew Corrigan connected perfectly and the ball flew past Inverness keeper Stuart Macrae to open the scoring. Hopes were high in the Glen camp that this would be the start and that a deluge of goals would quickly follow but when Stevie Munro almost equalised for Inverness a few moments later wiser counsels prevailed.
In 35 minutes David Smart hit a neat drive but it flew too high and then on the stroke of half time another fierce shot from Smart was deflected for a corner. From the resulting hit by Ali Mackintosh , Lewis Maclennan pulled the ball down neatly but dragged it too far to the right and his shot failed to find the net.
From this point on - from a biased Glen view - the game went downhill and the Wing Centre found himself wondering if his side was going to progress to the next round at all. The Inverness centreline of Davie Glass, Danny Palombo and Ally Urquhart were pretty solid and the back four marshalled by Fraser Stoddart held their own with some degree of comfort and in the latter part of the second half Inverness could deem themselves unlucky not to have taken at least a share of the spoils. They hit the bar and then they contrived to miss a penalty.
At the other end the Glen struggled to find openings and even the introduction of Neale Reid failed to change matters. A late surge saw Inverness keeper Macrae having to concede a series of corners but despite all this pressure the attacks came to nothing.
Along with the rest of the spectators the Wing Centre greeted the final whistle with undisguised relief.
And what does he take from the game?
Before he could come to a considered opinion he was distracted by John Hearach who was busy rounding up a tribe of wee Mohicans on the steps of the pavilion. The Mohicans from all appearances did not really want to be rounded up.
In all the excitement of the afternoon, the Wing Centre had forgotten to take a picture of the action and with the departure of Gary Mackintosh and his Ray-bans at the end of the match there was no further chance of a paparazzi celebrity snap. He had to be content with a pic of the match ball which kindly posed for him on the pavilion steps. This image he hereby places at the top of the article.
Next step Fort William- Oh well!!

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