Monday, November 26, 2007

Don't You Just Lovat?

Well no not really-don’t really love it at all , especially when the Wing Centre has spent a number of his columns trying in turns to irritate and amuse the good crofters of Kiltarlity, they turn round and give him the only answer that matters. They win the League. And as is always true, he who laughs last , laughs….and laughs…and laughs, though from the look of this snap John and James are still fired up for battles yet to come. Still , their Mams will like the picture, even if it will put every hen in the Glen off the lay for months.
So it’s a humble Wing Centre who prints this picture and wishes the Lovat boys all the very best for their journey up to the Premier League. Here they are for posterity, John and James with the Division 1 (North) Trophy which they well deserved : they beat the Glen twice and if you beat the Glen twice you are probably better than the Glen, hard though that is to say.
“Anything worse than Lovat winning the League?” the Wing Centre asked a young Glen player who shall remain nameless.
“Yes” he said
“Strathglass staying in the Premier ”
And when you look at it like that , Lovat winning North Division One was not the worst that could happen this season.
Truth to tell, Lovat seemed to come late to self-belief and perhaps the experience of coming from behind to beat the Glen in Drum brought on their confidence. So we can take credit for that then.
When the Wing Centre went over to see them last, he had to travel to Castle Leod where they were up against a determined Caber’s outfit and despite sharing an even first half the black and whites ran out clear winners in the end scoring six goals. Steven Cameron was the player that most intrigued on that day and on others too- he can hit a ball with excellent accuracy and without any obvious back-swing. He is strong physically and can make himself space by throwing off the defenders : the nearest player one can compare him to is former Skye full forward Calum Murchison . The only doubt is whether Cameron will have the mental toughness to prosper at the highest level and whether he will add some serious fitness to help him make the most of his talents. Murchison did that when Skye were at the top and he has a Camanachd Winners medal to prove it. Time will tell for Lovat. Whatever he does in the Premier, he was certainly too good for the Glen in the North Division.
Watching them demolish Cabers that day, it was clear they had too much of a never say die attitude to let ‘Shiel simply run away with the title however much their final fixture against Inverness helped them. They did take 6 off Cabers , a feat ‘Shiel never looked like matching but because -some honourable exceptions aside-their side was packed with kids the Wing Centre did not really think they were on for the League until it was too late to do anything other than be jealous of them.
At Castle Leod, they had a royal defence-(four Jameses-geddit!) but their real ace was between the posts . That boy is going to be a great asset in the Premier- and this respect comes from a club which has a top goalie itself.
The Premier will be a big ask - though Strath have stayed up for two seasons or so now- but at least three of the Jameses are not getting any younger and will have to dig deep to hold out Premier forward lines.
They will take points at Balgate if they can keep their self-belief .Raymond Rennie and Martin Bell are long overdue a run at the top level and the kids will grow into the job-they always do. The talismanic figure in the side however ,to the Wing Centre anyway, is Ewan Ferguson : he never gives up and never stops running. In any sport at any level, that has to be inspiring. If they get Fraser Gallagher back- and he decides he wants to be part of something then who knows?
On Saturday past, James and John picked up the award as Coaches of the year and well deserved too - to the victors go the spoils - and it was nice to see a Lovat table in the Camanachd tent to greet the victory. Mary Ann, Ally Macrae , Graham and Linda Bell have waited a long time to see their side on the up- and the Wing Centre hopes the young guys realise they didn’t just do it for themselves. Theirs was also a victory for Jackie , Big Finlay, Don Neil, the two senior Jimmies G & J and the two Ronnies - yes and for the memory of Hughac and wee Ali as well.

*The Wing Centre would like to thank John MacR for the photo which was taken by Phil Downie

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Glen Man Helps Rout the South

If there was ever a clearer demonstration of the logic behind the Camanachd Association’s move to a summer shinty season, it was evident yesterday at the Bught Park when the North triumphed by 6 goals to 1 over a South select in the annual Marine Harvest Championship game.
Driving rain and an icy wind meant that the spectators as well as the players had to suffer for the good of shinty, yet the 24 guys on the park did not allow the treacherous conditions underfoot to undermine their ability to play surprisingly accomplished shinty.
The probable fault with this game- apart from its timing in the Shinty calendar-is that it cannot generate any spectator interest simply on the grounds that North and South are two admin districts for shinty. Beyond that , they inspire no real spectator loyalty-thus far at least .
For the players there is always their natural pride in playing for a win but the truth is the game has little riding on it to act as an incentive or to give it some edge. Perhaps if it were fitted in before the Irish international and acted as a trial for the international then players may be more up for it- and if somehow a sponsor could be found so that the winning select had a trip over the Irish sea by way of reward then it might have some greater value as a contest.
That said however it is always a delight to see the country’s best shinty players on offer even in a show game and despite quibbles about selection and perhaps the absence of one or two first choicers at the last minute, those who were on display at the Bught were the very best in shinty’s business.
Have no doubts about it, these guys are excellent and it looked at the start as if the game was going to be a tight affair. First some delightful stickwork from Inveraray’s Gary MacPherson saw him present the ball to Hector Whitelaw but under pressure from North’s Norman Campbell, the Buteman shot wide. From the hit out North moved the ball rapidly forward and neat work by North skipper John Stewart saw Ronald Ross move in on goal but his shot sailed harmlessly over the bar.
The next serious chance again fell to Ross but this time his drive was well saved by South keeper Kevin Queen of Bute. A few minutes later Queen was again on hand to deal with a well struck drive from distance by Lochcarron’s Kenny Ross who along with his fellow centremen Gary Innes and Finlay Macrae had begun to take a tight grip in the middle of the park which they were to maintain for the rest of the match.
The North pressure eventually caused the South defence to crack in 30 minutes when a free hit from the edge of the D taken by James Clark was worked across the goalmouth and finished off with a neat flick from the inrushing Stewart.
Eight minutes later the North doubled their lead with a well worked goal from midfielder Gary Innes. The ball was played down the left wing from Innes to Stewart who flicked it on to James Clark who had sprinted across the front of the D to make himself available for the pass. The big forward conjured the ball back into the path of the advancing Innes who made no mistake with his finish.
By this stage of the match the south were beginning to look laboured in defence though their midfield , the Inveraray trio of Ruaridh Graham David MacPherson and David Robertson attempted to remain competitive and indeed it was only poor finishing from David MacPherson on the burst through that saw them fail to pull a goal back after a poor hit out from North keeper Scott MacNeill. If there was anything to admire at this stage it was fine running of Finlay Macrae at wing centre from the North. A North Division 1 player Macrae in no way looked out of place in Premier company though the player who caught the eye with the most elegant stickwork was South’s Gary Macpherson , though he was forced to track back to the centreline too often to be a threat where his team-mates needed him to be.
The game was effectively finished however a minute before half time when Gary Innes strode through from midfield to pick up a loose ball in the buckshee position and drove it home to send his side into the dressing room with a three goal lead.
When the game resumed North continued to press and were rewarded with a fourth goal in the 52nd minute. Ronald Ross had his drive well saved by keeper Queen but Fort William’s John Macdonald was on hand to take the rebound from the keeper’s stick in the air and first time it into the net for a fine goal. The goal was a fitting reward for Macdonald whose speed and close control saw him present a constant threat to the South backline all afternoon.
At this point Glenurquhart’s John Barr came on to replace Norman Campbell in the North defence while for the South, Grant Irvine of Kyles and Gareth Evans of Oban Camanachd came on for Bute’s Graham Fisher and David Robertson of Inveraray.
Barr soon settled in well at half back though he had to be on his toes as Gary MacPherson attempted to give and go to avoid the physical challenge. Fortunately for the defender the state of the pitch did not favour attacking shinty and he was on hand to drive the ball forward into the North attack line.
The best move of this phase came from North when Macdonald set Macrae clear on the right. The ’Shiel forward slipped the ball neatly across into the path of Ronald Ross who laid it wide on the left but James Clark’s finish went over Queen’s crossbar. Moments later Clark returned the compliment to Ross but again his powerful left hand drive flew over the bar when it seemed simpler for the Kingussie man to score.
Beauly’s Innes Simpson and Kingussie’s Russell Dallas took up their stations in the North ranks for the final push but it was at the other end that a Gary Macpherson drive was well saved by McNeill before Ross finally got his name on the score sheet when he ran through the South defence with to slip the ball past the helpless Queen.
Finally in 78 minutes the South got their goal just at a point when the unlucky folks in the stand were wondering if the game would ever finish because heavy dark rain clouds had caused a rapid if temporary deterioration in visibility. Gary Macpherson- who else - was at the heart of the action when after a determined run forward, he slipped the ball into the D, where Oban’s Aiden Macintyre was on hand to force it over the line.
Though the afternoon brightened up a little as the rain clouds passed over, South were unable to capitalise on the improved visibility when Whitelaw’s powerfully struck penalty crashed off the post to be cleared to safety. Southern gloom was complete when Gary Innes took his personal tally to three and sent his team up the steps of the stadium to collect their medals on the back of a 6-1 victory. Earlier in the day the South women beat the North ladies 6-2.

The Marine Harvest Awards are :
Club Volunteer of the Year-Albert Loades
(40 years of service to Kinlochshiel)
Donella Crawford award (Youth Shinty) - Lisa Norman (Aberdour)
Under-14 Player of the Year - John McGhee (Fort William)
Under-17 Player of the Year -Alexander Ferguson (Lochaber )
Under 21 Player of the Year -Sean Nicholson (Lochaber)
National Youth Coach of Year- Alan Harrison (Milngavnie and Bearsden)
National Coaches of the Year- John MacRitchie and James Gallagher
Player of the Year - Finlay Macrae (Kinlochshiel)
Referee of the Year - Graham Cameron
Club of the Year - Fort William
New President of the Camanachd Association -Duncan Cameron (won out in a vote over
Donnie Mackenzie)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Shinty Club in the Community

It has long been the Wing Centre’s belief that Glenurquhart Shinty Club is one of the corner stones of the Glen community but of course without the wider community there would be no Shinty Club. Always mindful of its obligations to the community, the Shinty Club is keen to put something back which is why Glenurquhart and Scotland under-17 international Neale Reid is pictured down at the Glen Care Centre handing over a cheque for £100 which has been donated by the Shinty Club to help with the old folk’s Christmas Party.
Accepting the cheque on behalf of the Care Centre is Mrs Agnes Morrison whose son Burton Morrison was also a Scotland shinty internationalist and turned out over many years for Glenurquhart , Aberdeen University and Glasgow Mid Argyll.
A lovely picture then which shows how the indigenous sport can reach across the generations and unite the community and it is also perhaps a reminder of how important it is both for the Club and for those outside it to reflect on what a community is.
Of course this is not the only aspect of village life which the club is keen to support. The recent Guy Fawkes Bonfire run by the Rural Community Association received a cheque earlier this month as it has done for the past two decades. The Pavilion at Blairbeg though it was built and is still maintained and funded by the Shinty Club - without any Council help - is also there for the use of the Glenurquhart Highland Games on its big day as well as being available to other local organisations. Support was given to Glen Urquhart High School for their recent trip to Ireland plus those youngsters who are picked for national shinty sides have their travel costs always generously supported by the Club.
It goes the other way too and local businesses from the Lewiston Garage and Kilmartin Estate to the Blar Mor and Fiddler’s restaurant have been helpful sponsors of the Club. Our jerseys have also been sponsored recently by Danwood Highland, a company with a strong local profile while our lotto books are retailed in a number of local outlets namely the Chip Shop, the Blar, the Ben Leva ,the Steading and of course the West End Garage.
A range of other sponsors are also happy to support the club -on match days their boards are on display round the field- while the youth aspect of the sport has had help from both Mackintosh Joinery and HIS.
Of course the Glen has changed massively over the past 30 or so years from the time when everybody knew everyone and supported all local organisations out of a sense of obligation to the Village. Sometimes in his bleaker moments the Wing Centre thinks it would be a good thing for the Glen to be cut off without power for two weeks in a deep snowdrift to get people to have a little more community spirit : it happened once before- in the early months of 1978 to be precise.
However, the Sale of Work which took place on Friday night (16th Nov) was a success. A good crowd was present and thanks are recorded to all helpers. The money which came in was around the order of £1650 and for the first time the club polo shirt ( !!) with its new logo was on sale. The logo was designed by Under 17 and 2nd team Player, Ewan Menzies, in a competition run in conjunction with the High School.
The polo shirts are still available for Christmas and if you have a passion for fashion the best thing to do is to contact Russ Fraser.
There is still one second team game to go before the season is officially finished but as far as can be seen from the Camanachd Website at this point, that game has not yet been scheduled by the Association.
The 2nd team had an excellent season and with a little bit of good fortune they could have won something but with a number of young lads having made their debuts in the black and red this session the future looks quite good provided they make the commitment next session.
Congratulations are due to Calum Smith who made a break through to the North Under 14 squad from the development squad. Calum has also made his debut for the 2nd team in the recent match with Beauly. The Wing Centre is going to make the assumption - the info is not out to him as yet - that Laura McConachie, Neale Reid and John Barr will be participating in the appropriate North selects. This assumption is based on the fact that they were members of the National squads- as such they most certainly should be in the district line-ups.
Next event on the social calendar is this Friday’s Ceilidh Dance at the Clansman-about which more later.

Scottish Blogs