Sunday, May 27, 2007

Glen Smiles Are As Wide As The Kyles

Camanachd Cup First Round

Kyles Athletic 3 Glenurquhart 4
If Tighnabruaich was not so far away from the Glen not only would the hassle of getting there through holiday traffic be avoided but proximity would have lent a relationship between the communities which the Wing Centre could use for a little gentle wind-up. As it is, although the Glen have met Kyles over the years the sides have never got close enough to develop a cordial dislike of each other. Kyles have come North to Blairbeg most notably when they played a game in 1985 to mark the centenary of the formation of the Glen Shinty team. The Glen won.
Earlier in 1979, the Glen were invited to Tighnabruaich for some sort of challenge match which ended in a draw : memories of that date are hazy thanks to the hospitality meted out by the Kyles folk and for Donald Paul in particular , vision was also hazy , since on that occasion by some mischance he dropped a contact lens on the Tighnabruaich park. The picture of both squads on their knees searching in the damp grass for the missing ocular aid is still etched in the collective memory of the Glen. The loss of Geordie’s specs in the sea on the way to Skye is probably on a par but then that’s another story and anyway a clam diver retrieved them by 5 pm on the day in question..
The Wing Centre had a little look for the lens yesterday- he was back in Kyles for the first time since the ‘79 match-but it was still missing at 4.30pm.By now, it is lost for good- and even supposing it was found , DP’s prescription would have probably changed.
Kyles have usually had the better of the Glen in shinty terms over the years especially when the match really mattered. The MacAulay Final in 1977, a Camanachd semi in 1994 and -how both of the mighty have fallen- a Balliemore semi at Ballachulish in 2005, all went the way of the men in blue. Saturday’s Camanachd Cup first round match did not look a good bet for a Glen win and, with Fraser Macdonald back in the Kyles squad after missing out on summer shinty for a season or two ,the omens were not good especially bearing in mind the Jeckyll and Hyde performances of the Glen this season.
This is why a 4-3 win away from home against a side that has won the Camanachd Cup 20 times is a real highlight for the Glen. It needs to be followed up. The last time the Wing Centre saw the team reach deep into their reserves of character and create a win like this was at Caberfeidh earlier this season. Before that it was against Newtonmore in the Camanachd Cup tie last season (OK so we did not win that one but we were morally superior) and before that a National League match at Drum against Glenorchy. These were tough, serious competitive games and the Glen rose to the challenge. They did the same at Kyles.
The game started with a bang. From the first centre, Arran Macdonald knocked the ball forward to Andrew Corrigan who drove into space in front of the Kyles half backs and fired a shot which Kenny Macdonald saved well. The early exchanges were fierce and Kyles in the centreline in particular were quick and hard with the stick. Nothing wrong with that though the Wing Centre observed that when the Glen responded by speeding up their laid back northern response with the stick ,there was a tendency for verbal complaints to be made to ref Ted Macdonald of Bute. Indeed one difference between the sides was the amount of pressure that Kyles put on Ref Ted Macdonald. Possibly they do that all the time because it is part of being competitive. Maybe it’s because they know him since he is from nearby Bute but on more than one occasion when there was an entanglement , lads in blue surrounded the man in black offering him a perspective on the nefarious crimes committed by the choir boys in red and black hoops. As if!
To his credit Big Ted was not influenced. He stood his ground ,consulted his officials and got on with reffing a close encounter of the shinty kind which was at times teetering on the brink of disharmony.
The first half began to turn in a northerly direction when it became clear that after some early Kyles pressure neither David Girvan , Stuart Reid nor Gregor McCormack were going to be pushed around. They began to blot out the Kyles forwards and John Barr began to dominate Dan Macrae : he was on to him quickly and hard and soon with his long hitting and that of the centreline - after they began to win the war of attrition with the Kyles shock troops in the middle-chances began to appear for the Glen.
Lewis Maclennan and Neale Reid got several excellent shots on goal but Kenny Macdonald was at his peak. A little slip from Paul Mackintosh sent Billy Urquhart through one on one with the keeper ,but he opted to square the ball and Kyles shovelled it away.
Glen were showing grit and determination at this stage and the effort paid off- a rasping shot from Lewis Maclennan was saved by Kenny Macdonald and the rebounding ball was kicked by a Kyles back.
Uproar out on the road, referee surrounded by Kyles men, goal judge Billy Macleod abused- but even the Wing Centre could see the ball being kicked by the back. Of course the guy didn’t mean it but his foot was off the ground and he played the ball . A penalty-stonewall what ever that means. Lewis Maclennan placed the ball on the spot and fired it home.
Kyles still narked on at the ref as the ball was returned to the centre and in so doing possibly lost a little concentration. In a clash on the side line their wing centre missed a block and took a nasty crack. Kyles did not appear to be pleased and things were said about the Glen which would have been better left unsaid. But the answer came swiftly enough when Lewis Maclennan burst back to buckshee to pick up the ball before the full back could catch him and lashed an unstoppable drive past Macdonald.
With the score 2-0 at half time and Kyles unhappy with life , El Presidente permitted himself a wry smile. The prospect of going back on the bus up the A82 with this crowd of young soldiers was beginning to look distinctly risky.
Kyles switched Dan Macrae at the start of the second half to full centre and pushed Fraser Macdonald up to full forward. The ploy worked immediately largely due to some carelessness in the Glen back line. The ball that led to the goal was sloppily dealt with and with Kyles high on humiliation and throwing themselves into every tackle the ball finally broke to Fraser Macdonald who finished well past the unsighted Stuart Mackintosh.
A tactical switch by the Glen found Dan Macrae man marked by Paul Mackintosh and this left Arran Macdonald clear on the right to feed the forwards with long powerful hitting. Gradually as in the first half, the Glen began to reassert dominance and Kenny Macdonald had to do the business with an excellent save from a Lewis Maclennan drive while Neale Reid’s physical speed and strength began to get more change out of the back who had tried to muscle him out in the first half.
At the other end Stuart Mackintosh dealt well with everything that was thrown at him including a number of tricky ground shots which is every goalies nightmare.
Glen pressure then paid off with another through ball to Billy Urquhart who continued his run one on one in on Macdonald and this time stabbed the ball past him for the third Glen goal.
Kyles did not give up however and within 5 minutes Grant Irvine had slipped the ball over the line from an acute angle . At times however it did seem that the only way Kyles could launch an attack was from a massive Kenny Macdonald hit out. Time and again Macdonald’s hit outs cleared the centre and landed like bouncing bombs at the half forward mark. The second goal came as a consequence of a Glen defender missing one of these in the air - some neat play from Macdonald sent the ball across and Irvine was on hand to finish.
The game flowed on from end to end with the crowd on the brae attempting to remind Kyles of their proud heritage though why they don’t encourage their team from the side of the pitch from where their proximity would gee up the players ,the Wing Centre does not know ,though he is grateful for the fact.
Neale Reid who was beginning to run riot as his opponent tired, broke across field some five minutes from the end and rasped home a fourth goal for the Glen which should have killed off the game except that Kyles don’t know the meaning of Camanachd defeat . They rallied once more and pulled yet another one back via Roddy Macdonald two minutes from time. The match ended with Kyles pressing for an equaliser but the Glen defence were in no mood to concede another and were happy to dig in for victory. It duly came in its own and ref Ted Macdonald’s time.
The Wing Centre was pleased : it was a hard game and the Glen lads raised their competitive attitude to a level where they should be justly proud of their victory.
Next week of course, the opponents are Lovat and since the Glen know they can beat the Crofters , they might just feel that they cannot be bothered actually doing it. Just as well the game is away from home. Perhaps a four hour journey on the bus via Glen Moriston , Cluanie and Achnasheen with a stop for a bacon roll at Tarvie would put the guys in the right frame of mind.
As for Tighnabruaich, it is a nice place where the people in the street all acknowledged the passer by- even a poodle called Angus was polite on the pavement when spoken to - but when you want to take their Camanachd Cup away from them, then they release their inner Rottweiler. Maybe we should do the same.
Heel boys. There’s Lovat - now go fetch!!

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