Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Straghlais Gu Brath

Our oldest and dearest friends in the shinty world take on Inveraray in Ballachulish this Saturday. The prize is a place in the final of the Camanachd Cup and the Keeper of the D could not let the occasion go by without wishing the Strath boys all the luck in the parish of Urquhart. Unfortunately the Camanachd semi falls on the day of the Glenurquhart Games ,so many of the lads will miss out on the game.
With any luck, and provided they apply themselves, Strathglass could end up in the Camanachd final at the Bught and for a modest fee the Wing Centre commissioned a well known wildlife artist to picture the scene at the Bught on the 22nd of September .
He’s no Landseer : he’s not even Corrimony's own late lamented Frank Wallace but you have to admit he is good.
What is the scenario? A young lad who knows nothing of the Highlands asks a local where is the best place to sit at the Camanachd Final. He then wants to know how his helper actually knows which end is the Strathglass end-we do not hear the explanation. Double-click on the cartoon to see it in all its glory.
Indeed, such is the interest in the match on this side of the watershed that the Glen Committee decided to go in for a little spot of entrepreneurial activity and so if you want your own photocopy of this highly sought after cartoon then send a self addressed stamped A4 envelope to :
Keeping out of the D Special Cartoon Offer
c/o the Pavilion,
Blairbeg Park,

Hurry while stocks last
And remember if the Glasaich make it through to the final, then it will become a collector’s piece.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bonnie Oban Bay ?

What can you write about a game that never happened.? The Balliemore final was cancelled because the pitch was too damp. As the Kinlochshiel man said to the Wing Centre as they waded across Mossfield together “ Not only did it rain incessantly, but it never stopped all day.”
Mossfield was in magnificent condition - before the deluge. The turf was perfect and a half dry day would have meant an exciting final- but the lesson from the last half hour of the Kilmallie v Fort William Sutherland final was clear. You cannot play meaningful shinty in a pool-octopush would have been more appropriate- and the Camanachd acted appropriately in postponing the match. Naturally the guys were upset - but the two week gap will also help injured players on both sides recuperate, although if the papers are to be believed Kinlochshiel will benefit more than the Glen. It might be that the game will be an even better one but given the nice build up in the press before this match it could be hard to get the players up for the contest again.
What happens to those who paid a tenner to get in and never saw a game? The Wing Centre kept his ticket and dried it out in front of the peat fire at home and expects to exchange it for either hard cash or free entrance to the rescheduled game.
Players on both sides mingled peacefully on the field before the match as did the Kilmallie and Fort William sides, though given the venom voiced in the stand between the two sets of supporters you would have thought violence would have been done. But at the end everything was quiet. They don’t appear to actually hate each other that much.
The Wing Centre always looks to get a wee snap to remind him of the big occasion. What to record here, he did not know except the depth of the pools but then lo here were the Kinlochshiel lads all in a huddle. The Kinlochshiel huddle-just like the Celtic huddle? The Wing Centre took this pic (see above). How to interpret it soon became clear.
Surely it could only have been Uncle Bert gathering them together to explain the art of salmon netting. It was obvious: the Wing Centre knows what these Kintail lads are like. They needed a Lochalsh man to organise them to have a sweep of the Mossfield salmon pools. Once a Kintail man gets a salmon ashore, he can usually manage to sell it for himself. Not that he’ll ever eat it : for him, only the finest cut of stag will do. They are just a western seaboard version of the Glasaich. Only problem is-they can play shinty.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Never Mind Runrig-the Real Gig is in Oban

Skye 0 Glenurquhart 3

Goals from Neale Reid, Lewis Maclennan and Calum Miller on the park of heroes has set the Glen up for the Balliemore final but despite a flock of Bertie’s Boys spying on the hombres in black and red , the Glen are sure they did not give away any secrets. The Wing Centre has to be careful in how he words this piece because he does not wish to give anything away either and so ,not trusting himself to keep his counsel at the keyboard ,he did not go to the match but concentrated on eating a venison burger in Drum as he watched Fort William defeat Inverness in the Strathdearn.
At times he had to pinch himself because on display in the Fort William colours were guys like Deke Cameron and Willie Macdonald who had won Camanachd medals before half the Inverness side were born.
Naturally, he was on the mobile phone texting and getting reports from Portree throughout the afternoon- and when taken in concert with the verbal report of the managers at the committee meeting on Tuesday night , the Wing Centre can report that Neale Reid scored a nice goal, Lewis Maclennan scored a nice goal and Calum Miller scored a goal though perhaps it could have been Billy Urquhart Then there was a goal ruled offside ,which it probably was. Beyond that no body got sent off , nobody got booked and nobody got hurt which means that we go to Oban with a full squad.
To be fair the West Highland Free Press had a detailed balanced and sensible report on the match-occasionally they provide superb blow for blow shinty reports and this was one of their best : the Wing Centre almost felt he was there and could even anticipate the thrill of the midgie bites as he walked in words along side the pitch below the misty Coolins. What is more-the Free Press- rightly cast the Glen in the role of underdogs . As a result, anything we get on the day will be a bonus.
All is set up for the big game in Oban though the weather forecast is foul. The thought of two elite teams of North Division 1 plowtering through the gutters left by the hand to hand combat that is sure to take place in the earlier match between Fort William and Kilmallie appals . It would be a serious shame if the game were wrecked because the Camanachd Association insisted on playing two finals back to back on a West Highland bog. Mossfield is not Braeview set in the dry farming belt of the Eastern Highlands where farmers can grow grain on good dry alluvium. In fact sometimes Mossfield struggles to take one game at a time in a moderate downpour. “West coast rain won’t wet you” was a saying of the Wing Centre’s mother in law but then she had Beauly blood and could barely remember rain. Anyway. Lets hope it's raining Glen goals in Oban.
The training has been observed with a very critical eye this week-it has gone well. Trainer Laura McConnachie (pictured above at Wednesday night training with Big Bill Manager and equally Big Dave Manager) reports that the work has been done just as it has all season and the players are as good as they will get. All that remains is that they remember this final piece of wisdom. Finals don’t come along very often : the last one was in 1991. When they do come along you have to play as if this final will be the only one you will ever get to in your career. That just might be hard for a young guy in his twenties to appreciate but it is as true as the fact that Craigmonie stands above Blairbeg.
Yes we are going to miss out on seeing Runrig in Borlum. Now that’s a real shame because the Wing Centre doubts if there has been any Runrig at Borlum since the Grant Lairds threw the original crofting tenants off the good lands and forced them to fend for themselves on the heights at Bunloit. So what if we’ll not be about when there are 10,000 people walking past Blairbeg - and it’s a shame that so many of the supporters and committee guys have to work . The truth is though that they will miss the real gig.
Imagine living in Drum and missing out on the fact that you were not in Oban when the guys were in the final of the Balliemore.
Laura? You’ve guessed it. Going to Runrig. Whatever next? Before you know it she’ll be going out with a Strathglass player.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Finally There

Glenurquhart 4 Ballachulish 0

At the third time of Balliemore asking- and after some nervous moments in the opening phase of the game-the Glen have finally made it onto the national stage on a big cup occasion. At last, players like John Barr, Stuart Mackintosh, Andrew Corrigan, Arran Macdonald, Andrew Macdonald, Stuart Reid, Calum Miller, Dave Maclennan ,Calum Fraser, Gregor McCormack, Paul Mackintosh, David Girvan , Billy Urquhart , and Lewis Maclennan get to prove that they really are as good a generation of shinty players as have ever pulled on the Glen colours. The Wing Centre has not mentioned the youngsters-Ally Mackintosh and Neale Reid- because he wishes to keep them secret from Bert’s Kinlochshiel spies but when you add them into the picture with Charlie Duncan and EJ Tembo then it is the Camanachd we should be winning. And then there is that good friend of all chiropractors-Garry Mackintosh-if only he could come back to the future . And if Iain Macdonald … and if Mike Fraser had decided to stop wasting his time at the Premier League football and had only stuck to the shinty he was so good at then…..Stop…….that way madness lies.
Anyway, twice before the Glen have blown the chance to get into National finals- Bute beat us in 2004 and Kyles triumphed in 2005 : Why? Perhaps because the side did not believe enough in their own ability -certainly Kyles outplayed us but the number of chances we refused to score against Bute at the Dell was horrendous. The Butemen came up the road for that encounter in a minibus that they had a nerve taking off the Island-rusty and with a broken back window but there was nothing second hand about the way they played shinty. Now they are a Premier side and the Glen have a set of players that should also be playing at the top-if only they would push themselves to do so.
Are the boys good enough to win the Balliemore? The bottom line is that they are-with the stick: it’s up to them to collectively prove that they have what it takes inside their heads as well. Not a lot of pressure then. Except that the club has phoned up the head honcho at the Runrig gig and asked for a direct phone line to the band so that the result and updates from the game can be beamed live to Borlum and fed to the hungry fans.
Who will tame the Kinlochshiel bear?”- believe it or not that is a line from Runrig’s Clash of the Ash. Now it has always been known that the Macdonald Bros are good at the Bardachd but how could they not have come up with a rhyming line to make the couplet perfect for Glen lugholes :“Its got to be Glen’s Johnny Barr” In the soft lilt of the Utter Hebrides Barr/Bear is as good a rhyme as it you‘ll get.
Whether the young Abriachanite can tame the bear or not will be seen on the day: personally, the Wing Centre does not wish to upset the Kinlochshielers but simply wishes them the best and wonders why both sides are required to trek all the way down to Oban when we could have met at Spean and travelled back in harmony to Drum to enjoy the Runrig concert for which all of our mums have bought tickets.
“Beat the Drum?” What’s that play on words all about? The Wing Centre hopes its to do with upstaging Belladrum and not a secret subliminal message of support for the West Coasters. Better not be- we know where the concerts being held.
Back to the Balliemore match with Ballachulish (You couldn’t make this up-it writes itself) The result was 4-0 and it looked in the end a straightforward victory but truth to tell the first half was much more even than that. Balla’s Steven Henderson made the musical goalie look lively in the first half- a superb save and on a number of other occasions Stuart Mac had to sweep the ball away wide. He did this perfectly. For a moment or so an injury to Stuart Reid looked like it would upset the Glen’s rhythm but a revamp of the defence saw David Girvan take over as wing back. Up the other end Lewis Maclennan was taking a little while to get his sights set- but gradually the pressure told . The Ballachulish keeper-Macphee- had a series of good saves including a block on a tremendous strike from Lewis Maclennan before he failed to stop a sharp strike by Neale Reid in 41 mins. The screw began to turn and finally Lewis Maclennan doubled the lead with a fierce drive from distance in the next minute.
The second half was more clearly Glen-centred: not that the Wing Centre managed to see much of it because he was delegated to accompany Ballachulish club man Kenny Mackenzie round the field to take a collection of which more anon. Neale Reid began to run at the defence more as did Andrew Corrigan-the Dell is perfect for that type of shinty -until eventually Ballachulish began to crumble. The centreline for the Glen were immense- Arran Macdonald was supremely commanding though against a tough player in Dougie Rankine. The Mackintoshes -young Al with a broken nose too- ran the show and piled in the effort. Lewis Maclennan got his second despite a robust challenge from the Ballachulish defence and finally Calum Miller gathered the ball wide and fired a goal in from an acute angle. It was a clear victory but not one that should make the lads complacent. There is a league game against the Skye men to come before the Balliemore big match. Does it matter? League-wise no-psychologically yes but only in as much as the Free Press will be there and hoping for a slip up so they can give a wee boost to Bertie’s Boys. And do Kinlochshiel have a fixture this week ? Not likely-don’t want the wee souls to be tired out before their big match.
Anyway back to the collection at the Dell.
The Ballachulish folk are generous : the Glen folk dipped their hands in their pockets but the Kingussie folk- leave aside the ever generous Joe Taylor and his committee- are not for parting with the bawbees . In fact, it must be easier to get a sensible conversation out of a sheep in Kintail that it is to get money in Kingussie but then maybe the real fans were in Cannich watching Ronald play Fort.
Anyway we are off to Oban and the jaffa cakes-see above - are coming too.

Scottish Blogs