Friday, September 21, 2007

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory and all a few Bon Mots about the "Scottish"plus a postcard from a "fan" in Strathglass

The defeat by Kinlochshiel has been the most distressing one of all this season. The Balliemore was bad enough even though the Wing Centre pretended to be cool about it but the League match was something else. 3-1 up at half time - the Glen dominating proceedings for nearly three quarters of the afternoon and then the whole season thrown away in ten minutes and , for all that it was nice to see Johnston Gill , his brother Melvyn , Roddy Gillies and Dunc Macleod with smiles on their faces Kinlochshiel knew they had got out of jail. The Wing Centre only wished we did not have to hand them the key. Simply put , it was a sickener.
Which made the Wing Centre grateful for the kind illustration sent from a friend of the D in Strathglass. The Wing Centre particularly liked the red and black background and admires the thoughtful malice which inspired it. Though how they can spend valuable time attempting to "diss" their well meaning neighbours when they should be concentrating all their energies on avoiding relegation from the Premier League the Wing Centre fails to understand.
However, it is nice to see the youngsters being creative .
Of course the jibe would have been water off a duck except that now the Wing Centre is now beginning to wonder how long his team can go on without winning anything. It is stuffed full of lads with representative honours, under 21 caps, and North select places. When the boys were under 17 they won the National Championship and they have been in MacTavish Under 17 finals -so what is going on here?
Of course it was all smiles the week before when the result was Glenurquhart 5 Inverness 2.
A hat-trick from Lewis Maclennan and nice finishes from Dave Maclennan and Billy Urquhart. Not only that the news was good from Ardnamurchan as well where the result on the new ‘Murchan park was Glenurquhart 6 Ardnamurchan 1. There our scorers were hat-trick hero Ben Hosie, Dave Smart (come back Chips!!) and Ross MacAulay with a brace as they say-but not on his teeth. And Ryan Brady got his first game in goal.
So what happened against ‘Shiel ?
Well for one thing the Glen were down 4 players- Paul Mackintosh (broken arm v Inverness) Dave Girvan (unavailable due to holiday commitments) Andrew Macdonald (muscle tear) Calum Fraser (injured ankle in Skye game). As well as that Arran Macdonald and Andy Corrigan took to the field with strains and tears which , when the going got severe in the last 15 minutes , limited their effectiveness.
Shiel were down two players themselves-Gordy Macdonald and Neil Fraser- but these boys play up front so the ease with which the Glen forwards pulled the ‘Shiel defence to pieces in the first half does not bode well for a Shiel promotion to the Premier League.
Lewis Maclennan opened in 6 minutes when he dived between the backs and rattled a shot home from the right. He then showed good control of the stick to get his second. Scott Kennedy pulled one back before Lewis Maclennan restored the lead just before half time.
Over the second half goals the Wing Centre will draw a veil except to correct the Free Press on one little flaw regarding their description of the winning goal. What happened was that the ball was played across the face of the Glen goal from left to right (towards the Games Hut). There it was powerfully struck up the wing. Macrae either by intention or good luck got his body in the way of it and the ball bounced off his ribs at a lucky angle straight to Kennedy and , fair play to him, he finished well. By that time however the Glen’s injury list simply meant that they had run out of options.
All of which above caused the Wing Centre to hang up his key board for a whole week and a little bit. How can you be laid back about a result like that?
Still it’s Camanachd Cup time and on Saturday, to coin a phrase often coined, all roads lead to Inverness’s Bught Park where Inveraray and Fort William are due to meet in the 100th Camanachd Cup Final. Shinty’s grandest occasion is being held in Inverness because 2007 is the year of Highland Culture . However, talk of culture to shinty people and you may well be in receipt of a short, sharp response.
Damage caused by the World Pipe Band Championships in July has meant the Bught Park has been closed and will remain closed to shinty players until after the final has been played. Meanwhile in Inveraray , damage caused to the shinty pitch by the recent Connect rock festival means that the Argyll side have been unable to prepare for the big day on their home field and face the prospect of playing their remaining league games away on borrowed pitches.
Given that Inveraray have seen their pre-final preparations upset by circumstances beyond their control, it is tempting to underestimate their chance of victory in Inverness. That temptation is increased by the knowledge that Fort William have been the form team in the sport this season having spectacularly put Kingussie to the sword 5-0 in the Camanachd Cup semi final three weeks ago in Beauly.
It is however worth remembering that Inveraray were in the same underdog situation three years ago in Oban but a neatly worked Ewan McMurdo goal followed by some stout defending broke Fort William’s resolution and brought the cup home to Lochfyneside after a gap of 74 years.
A similar result is not entirely out of the question this time round but to complicate matters, there is no recent form book to aid speculation. Why so? The simple fact is that atrocious summer weather has meant there has as yet been no league meeting between those two sides to give a guide as to the probable outcome of the final.
In a way it is as if the clock has been turned back to the days when Camanachd finalists were drawn from different districts and went forward to the big day in more or less total ignorance of the style and strengths of their opponents. These shinty days of yore had their own charm but the smart money this season is on Fort William to consolidate their hold on the ancient sport and add the Camanachd Cup to the trophy cabinet. Fort William’s secret lies in the middle of the field and when you play shinty on a park as big as Inverness’s Bught Park, the centremen have to be of the highest quality. In Gary Innes, Chris Bamber and Niall Macphee, Fort William have three forceful players who are fast, fit and also big. When it comes to power play in midfield, where the modern game is won and lost, big is beginning to matter. Of course games are won by scoring goals and there the styles of the sides diverge. Inveraray are fast, positionally aware and while spectators love the way they weave intricate knots of endless possession, the forwards often give the impression they love the art of stick-craft rather than the goals it should beget. Having added Ballachulish native John Macdonald to their front line this season, Fort William quite simply have become a more focused side. That in itself should be enough to see them ease past Inveraray on the day and perhaps finally convince their followers that they are a team fit to take over the mantle of Kingussie.
As for the Glen-there is always next season. Maybe.
Thank goodness the Primary boys won the Aird shield and lets hope for something silver from the Under-14s who meet Bearsden and Milngavnie in the final of the Development League on Camanachd Cup Day.

Scottish Blogs