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)

Scottish Blogs