Sunday, February 25, 2007

Macdonald Wins Cup

The news came to Drum by telegram at precisely 4.46 pm on Saturday afternoon. The telegram read as follows MACDONALD WINS CUP STOP STRATHGLASS AWARDED DUBIOUS PEN STOP RAIN DID NOT STOP….…..
The rest of the story whatever it was disappeared in a hiss of static and so when Postmaster David Paterson commandeered a child and told him to run up to the Braes with the news, the story was incomplete. Depending on the Wing Centre’s mood and memory as this piece continues , it may well remain so.
Whatever, lets hear it for Arran Macdonald : a doubt earlier in the week because of a muscle injury, he became man of the match and undoubtedly the most famous player in Lewiston and indeed the whole Glen with an outstanding performance at full centre against former Scotland international Les Fraser. At the end of the match Arran was called from the changing room to receive the cup for Man of the Match from Glenurquhart legend Ken Fraser . He was well worthy of the award.
The Glen’s own dear Ikey Fraser - who owes his hand-eye co-ordination as a football goalie to his early shinty training- came up to watch his old team mates in the big match.. Now Ikey might play Premier League football with ICT but even he agrees that the real sporting hero in the Glen today is big Arran.
The Wing Centre was there with his note book for both the Ally Ban and the Macdonald Cup- indeed he is very fond of the cultural and sporting significance of these trophies- and what follows is an honest account of his observations.
The first game was an excellent context with some superb skills shown by young Neale Reid who took two nice goals on a difficult pitch to put in a strong claim for his own Man of the Match award. Odd to think that the two best players in each team live in the same block of houses in Lewiston. This makes the Wing Centre wonder what an excellent Lewiston squad there would be if the old village had some proper sporting facilities on which to develop the next generation of shinty players . The site of the Lewiston Arms -since it appears that it will never again be put to community use as a pub - would be well worth utilising to build an all weather dedicated shinty training ground with astro turf and…….but back to the day trip to Strathglass.
Ben Hosie also caught the eye with some excellent stick work up front . He has excellent positional sense and if the ball had gone in the net more times than Strathglass managed to achieve, why then Ally Ban’s silver cup would have been won by the Glen. That it wasn’t is entirely due to the fact that Stewart Morrison who was beginning to win the duel in the centre got his knee trapped under an ample Strathglass bottom and had to retire from the fray. Duncan Fraser came on late in the match as did Bradley Dickson and both did well. Strathglass however had some experienced pensioners at the back of whom the most nimble was Roy Mackenzie and his will to win - though the Wing Centre is loathe to admit it- is invaluable. And thus was the Ally Ban lost for the first time in living memory.
“Get your glasses cleaned,” the Strathglass supremo advised the Wing Centre.
“Cleaning my glasses won’t remove my blinkers” our hero replied a little too smugly but blinkers or not , the scribe was very upset when he returned to Drum to find that the rain had caused his scribbles in the notebook of truth to run and much of what he wrote in the heat of battle about the big game was unreadable. More’s the pity…..
The return to Drum was of course via Struy and Cul na Circ : as the Chairman said “I have never gone back up Kerrow Brae beaten and I am not starting now.”
The Wing Centre concurred with these sentiments though he was not sure what beaten meant. In all his years as a Glen player he never knew the meaning of the word at least in Macdonald Cups except for the Billy Bolton match. The Wing Centre has had therapy and counselling to come to terms with that trauma and has no intention of rehearsing the gory details here. All he has to say is that the game was played with a black ball and no further explanation should be required.
Suffice to say that when the ball was thrown up at the start of the match, Arran won the centre, pushed Les aside and launched the ball forward where Ruaridh Cameron had a half chance. The ball did not go in.
Around ten more periods of possession were monopolised by Arran in the next 15 minutes- he won every ball and as the pitch became heavy his big hitting and work rate kept up the Glen spirits. For forty minutes Arran, Paul Mackintosh and Dixie Maclennan held the centre firm but then for some reason Referee Sloggie brought the ball back to the centre again before half time. He did this twice in fact and Arran won the throw up both times. Perhaps Referee Sloggie simply wanted to admire the handiwork of a true artist of the caman.
The second half was of a similar nature- Arran at the heart of everything. Strath were awarded a penalty and one of the guys in maroon jerseys managed to keep it below the bar by some stroke of good fortune which allowed Arran to have another shot at winning a centre against Les. He did so with ease. Then Paul Mackintosh, who must have run Arran very close for man of the match, burst through and scored an excellent goal. Arran won the resulting centre. Young Master Reid came on for the last few minutes but the Strath defence managed to hold on and the game drew to a close.
There was then a speech and some cheering from the Strathglass boys who kept putting their fists up in the air in defiant gestures : the Wing Centre did not go over to see why because as a west coaster he has been wary of the Glasaich ever since his grandmother told him how they murdered the Kintail Macrae after he had stopped for a drink at the Struy Inn . The body was found in a pool in the River Glass and with that caution in mind the Wing Centre had to turn down the invitation to drink from a silver vessel offered to him by young Donald Fraser, an excellent shinty player and by far the most civilised of the modern Glasaich. With the prospect of a long drive back via Struy and Kiltarlity there was no knowing what might have happened.
Then Arran was called forward to collect the Cup and the crowd went wild with delight.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

We’re Bound to Pay for This

Glenurquhart 7 Glengarry 0

This is becoming freaky. The Glen score 7 goals- some of them very well taken and the season has not started yet. The old Presbyterian sense of gloom is beginning to assert itself : it cannot really be happening. Surely there’s some mistake-the Glen don’t do victory on this scale even although Glengarry were so short that Mr Reid had to lend them his elder son to give them a forward line. Master Reid played well enough but did not get sufficient help to test the Musical Goalie who was as usual quite outstanding. Not quite so outstanding at the training four days later though when at minute 5 into the 12 minute run , he was observed to be lingering in the pack or even at the back and mumbling about doing “special goalie’s stuff”. Don’t really blame him, though as the American Marines would point out ,all the brothers suffering together breeds a sense of comradeship -which is fine except that goalies are in fact a breed apart. I suppose that’s why they get the blame -and if they get the blame , then perhaps they should be allowed to do “special goalie’s stuff”. Just a thought about this special goalie’s stuff. Having talked to a number of goalies and ,more accurately having observed them in the wild ,it would appear their favourite training is a sort of Japanese stick dance followed by some bending exercises , presumably to strengthen the back muscles for picking the ball out of the net. This is quickly followed by some shambling runs behind the goal in preparation for the retrieval of mishit balls.
The next exercise involves chucking the ball up in the air and cannoning it up field beyond the centreline , an exercise invariably to be followed by some shouting practice. Shouting is in fact one of a goalie’s most valuable skills and must be regularly practiced to develop the full range of invective. Indeed that excellent work of reference “Fitness for the Modern Shinty Goalie “ by Kenny Macdonald states categorically that shouting is the one exercise that “no serious goalie should ever neglect” And Kenny should know -because over the years he has had quite a lot to shout about.
Back at the match Calum Fraser staked a claim to be a member of the front line with a neat goal in 8 mins while Mr Reid’s second son doubled the scoring in 17 before a beautiful drive from Andrew Corrigan in 30 minutes sent the home side into their venison burgers at half-time with a clear lead. The Wing Centre was puzzled at the line up in the forward sector and also by the fact that the sub bench was packed with the Galacticos of the D. A passing 8 year old told him that the “manager was trying something out and since that was clear to a child the Wing Centre took it on board that it ought to be clear to him- and “after all said the kid what else are practice games for?”
Suitably rebuked the Wing Centre made notes in his wee book about the number of crows watching the match from the top of the fence above the astro turf. Seven in all - a prime number of some significance. So it turned out to be.
Personnel changes at halftime led to a different approach to goal and in no time -55 minutes actually- Lewis Maclennan had made the total four. A neat piece of play by Ruaridh Cameron allowed Corrigan to bag his second while Lewis Maclennan and David Smart completed the rout with well taken finishes. The latter two in particular seemed to be very accurate in their shooting and an encouraging number of shots had to be dealt with by the Garry keeper.
The score then 7-0 : the crows had spoken. The Garry men were undone by their own symbolic bird - but is this a good omen for the Glen? The raven himself is hoarse and all that….
On reflection it does not seem so- several of the front man have presented with muscle injuries and the next match has some cultural significance .The next match is of course the Macdonald Cup. The venue is Strathglass where the crow of choice is the hoodie. Me, I ‘d clap an asbo on the whole lot of them. The hope is the Glen team can do the same.

Monday, February 12, 2007

New Monarchs of the Glen

Mackintoshes, Macdonalds & Assorted Septs 3 West Coast Mackenzies 0

It was ethnic day in and around the D last weekend: the Caranachs paid a visit to Blairbeg. At a time when the Camanachd Association itself has been repossessed by the clans with John Mackenzie, Alan Macleod and now Gill McDonald in the top jobs at Shinty HQ, the Wing Centre considers it only fair to give an ethnic twist to this report. The Battery Park management have been accumulating new players too with Dickie Mackenzie and Ross Macpherson joining the squad from the departing Nairn Camanachd. Given that Dickie possesses the requisite DNA for a Caranach one must presume that Ross has a Mackenzie granny to make him eligible for selection. Otherwise the assorted kernes and gallowglasses that Lochcarron manager Fraser Mackenzie brought with him didn’t really do too well.
In truth, the result surprised the Wing Centre so much he waited to see what the Broadford Bugle had to say about the match. Given that the Broadford’s mighty organ of truth is intensely supportive of all things West Highland -except perhaps the local Lib Dem MSP- the report was refreshingly frank. Not only was the match reported in detail, but it was a remarkably balanced account and although emphasis was put on the fact the Caranachs were short of more than a few players full credit was given to the Glen goals.
The first was described thus by the WHFP “It was the Glen who took the lead in the 35th minute, following a flowing move that began a half back and was finished brilliantly from wide on the left”
While it would have helped the report if Andrew Corrigan had been named as scorer and if David Smart had also been mentioned , it has to be said that the goal came at the end of some excellent interplay that left the supporters elated and this reporter inclined to disbelieve his eyes.
Lochcarron did have plenty early pressure - and late pressure too- which was blocked out by Stuart Mackintosh with the same casual unconcern he uses to change key on his accordion. Stuart got his name in the paper but how did the hack from Broadford know who he was. Could it be because he is half a Skye-man or are they really trying to keep in with the goalie to book him for the WHFP Office party next Xmas.
Paul Mackintosh doubled the lead when what the Free Press described as “a long range effort” took “ a wicked bounce off the turf to deceive goalkeeper Michael Macmillan” This is sadly to demean the very high level of skill that this goal entailed not to mention the fact that by no stretch of the imagination can the short semi green ooze that passes for a February surface on Blairbeg be noted down as turf. They’ll be calling it “sward” next.
If the Australian cricket team are praised for their skill in managing to throw a ball 22 yards on to a bump in the turf and then into the stumps, then Paul Mac can surely have some credit for picking out a molehill from 40 yards and cannoning the ball off it into the net. What right had Michael Macmillan to claim he was deceived by a perfectly honest attempt at goal?
After the Lochcarron forwards had continued to miss some pretty straightforward chances- this is the Wing Centre’s view though he concedes that the Musical Goalie was particularly on song at that point- “Glen wrapped up victory after another neatly worked move was finished off from the right hand side of the area” Step forward Lewis Maclennan who was the wrapper up.
What does this game tell us? A little - the Glen forwards would appear to be putting across some genuine patches of play : there might even be the beginnings of a system clicking into place.
Lochcarron were missing five players including Coyle and Ross- had they been present they might have given the Glen forwards more problems. Glen were down two top players as well- no Arran Macdonald at full centre and no Dave Girvan at the back- so a clearer perspective on the relative balance of the teams would grant the Glen the benefit of not being at top strength either. It also shows that the Glen’s pre-season training efforts have not been in vain.
And yet , Lochcarron went off for a warm down at the end of the match-it certainly gave the impression of them as a professional squad. It might even do them some good. Maybe the Glen should try it next week
The High Chief of Strathglass was having a look over at the match. He was down with an under-17 squad for a competition on the nearby astro-turf and he came over to the line to keep an occasional eye on proceedings. He didn’t say much-but I don’t think that meant he was bothered. On the other hand , he might simply have been looking at Lochcarron-in which case the Wing Centre isn't bothered either.

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