Monday, July 30, 2007

Stripes R Us-'Raray Revel in the Black and Red

Glenurquhart Strips 6 Strathglass 2

Hard to say who got the bigger surprise - the Wing Centre when he got a strip-begging phone call from Inveraray as he watched the Cabers/Kinlochshiel Balliemore match at Blairbeg or the Glasaich themselves when they saw the hated black and red stripes coming on to the Hydro field on the backs of Campbell serfs.
But we’ve all done it -set off for distant parts and left the strip behind. The historically aware of the Glen faithful will remember that a strip once had to be speed boated across Loch Ness to Foyers when the squad reached Boleskine Park, opened the boot of some wreck of a van and found that the solemn stripes were left behind in the green glen. So Mr Watt and the rest of the Campbell sub-tenants should not feel bad about it though it was a good bit of psychology to ask for the Glen strip when the Beauly team colours were available. Perhaps they are keen students of history down on Loch Fyneside and they maybe even knew about the rivalry between the Glasaich and the men of Urquhart.
On the other hand perhaps they merely met DP and in his legendary generous manner he offered them the strip. He would never have made it clear it was simply a loan. It was the fear that DP might have actually given Inveraray the strip to keep, that prompted the Wing Centre to go up to Cannich after the Balliemore game to see if he could persuade the Campbell clansmen to give their “creach” back.
Thus it was that for the first time in a number of years ,he was able to watch a victorious black and red team at Cannich. It was however an uneasy piece of spectating: as the black and red striped players of Inveraray added goals to their account, the suspicious looks at the Wing Centre became more pointed.
“I’m just up to get the strip back” was his regular comment to the locals but they did not look as if they believed him. The reception was polite but distant and the Wing Centre regretted greatly that he had left behind his disguise of the fore and aft and the old shepherd’s crook that Allie Buidhe had given him in Gairloch, because that would have allowed him to pass incognito amongst the spectators.
What about the game? Inveraray need not be complacent : Strathglass will not perform as badly again. After a bright start, they just were not seriously involved in the match. Player-Manager Robert Geddes is hampered with the shallowness of his team pool. Angus Macdonald has been injured for some weeks while Les Fraser was also absent on Saturday as was Iain Macleod. Macleod apparently will not be available for the semi-final either and from the way the Strathglass team performed on Saturday he will be a huge miss.
Strath are due to play Inveraray again in the Camanachd semi and top priority is to protect Stewart Geddes in goal and help Donald Fraser out at the back by restoring both George and Barry John Phimister to the back line - with the addition of Lee Bain, Strath will have as tight a defence as they can ever get. Is it good enough? Actually on paper and on past form possibly good enough to restrict Inveraray though the Argyll boys still have Gary Macpherson and a McMurdo to return. The Inveraray forward line is their strength however and Strath must counter that man for man.
With two Reids and James Ross up the front they can survive provided they can get Les Fraser back fit for the centreline. The centreline is their big worry but they cannot afford to strengthen that at the expense of the defence . The semi is a one-off of course and if Strath can score one goal they have to put up the shutters and do or die in front of goal. “You can’t defend in shinty”, say the pundits. Well you can - sometimes. Jimmy Burnett’s Kilmallie did it in 1961 and the Glen themselves did it in the ‘88 semi against Oban. Strath need to be fit ,train and simplify their game.
It might be worth pressuring Ian Macleod to rethink his choice ; if they did not know it before they know it now-in their present position they simply have to have him. They will be lucky to get another shot at a Camanachd semi in their lives- what with an up and coming Glen team and all that.
Anyway in the match, Andrew Corrigan’s jersey scored 4 goals -the jersey was doubtless surprised but will welcome that fact particularly because the shots were taken nicely and carefully and tucked in with style which is very different from what it usually experiences when Mr C has a go at goal. The jersey certainly looked pleased to be back playing after being out for four weeks because of suspension.

Lewis Maclennan’s jersey scored one goal which is only right because it is used to scoring every week while the final goal fell to Billy Urquhart’s jersey.
At the end of the match the Inveraray lads handed the jerseys back : they looked pleased with themselves as well they might. Indeed to the observer they looked a more teamly team in the black and red than they ever look in the loud yellow strips which can only be off-cuts from rejected Macleod tartan kilts.
“Would you like to hire them for the Camanachd semi? ” asked the Wing Centre when he got the strips back from Davie Robertson.
“No You’re all right. We’ve got our own.”
The Wing Centre would never have guessed.
To make sure he's telling the truth , have a look at these superstars enjoying their day in the famous "Black and Red".

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