Saturday, March 08, 2008

Without You ,What Would Shinty Do Ron Ron ?

Premier League.
Lovat 1 Kingussie 4
It was a lucky chance (what other kind of chance is there worth writing about?) but the Wing Centre found himself over at Kiltarlity watching Kingussie play Lovat on the opening day of the season. There were quite a few other chancers over at Balgate too and all there because poor weather had forced the cancellation of their home fixtures. Had it not been for the incessant rain then the Wing Centre would have been at Blairbeg watching the Glen playing Inverness and an enjoyable experience it would have been too. The other chancers who arrived at Balgate composed a Beauly contingent-Dave Calder, Davie Mackay , Simon Jack and Martin Maclean, the Glen’s own Hendo plus Strath’s elder statesman George Fraser. The group was later joined by former Scotland on Sunday Shinty Correspondent Brian Denoon who provided the snap at the head of this column. As with all pics in the “D” Blog it can be read on many levels : so do the work yourself. The least likely is that Dellboy Dawson is bowing down in homage to the resurgence of the indigenous sport at Balgate.
One point worth making however was that from the snap it can be seen that Lovat seem to have a fair amount of local sponsorship and good luck to them.
Now the chancers did not mix with either the Crofters or the Dellboys : the intention was to have a cold analytical look at both Kingussie and Lovat and fraternising might have deflected the trusty companions from their task.. However a good part of the early part of the first half was filled with unfocused shinty related blethering before the group became aware that Lovat , who were attacking towards Brockie’s corner, were more greatly in the ascendancy than one would have thought before the game. At the other end though , Kingussie seemed intermittently dangerous in the sense that Ronald Ross and Russell Dallas put their shots on target.
Lovat were fortunate that keeper Stuart Macdonald was in form and in the early stages he pulled off in particular one superb stop from someone -whoever it was, it was too far away for the chancers to see.
Up at the Brockie’s end Lovat made good progress from defence to centreline but when the ball came up to the front there was a distinct lack of coherent interplay amongst the forwards and there might have been more progress made if more shots were played, however weakly, into the D. Perhaps then Ackie Dempster in goal might have had to do some work. On the few occasions Lovat did get shots on target Ackie handled things Ok but had an uncomfortable moment or two in the mud.
Too often , however, Raymond Rennie had a strike from an impossible angle- as far as the Wing Centre knows the only one who can score from these positions is Robert Geddes-and the ball whistled harmlessly off into the fields behind the goal. At some point Russell Dallas opened the scoring and the chancers exchanged glances-now would come the deluge. The second half was set up to be a scene of slaughter.
That of course is precisely not what happened.
There were however three Ronald Ross goals. They were each individually excellent- and they are proof that even on a muddy , wet and bumpy pitch, in a run of the mill League match on a dull March Saturday and with no other Kingussie forward to help him, Ronald Ross is a national treasure. Anyone who pretends to have an interest in sport in Scotland ought to make a vow to see him play once before Ross is gone from the game with the march of time. He totally dominates the sport and has done for years but it is only when you see at close quarters what he can do away from the big stage that you realise the magnitude of the talent that you have witnessed. Take nothing away from James Grieve, Lovat’s teenage fullback. He played Ross well and got his fair share from him for at least 70 minutes . Grieve would also have found Ross to be a hard opponent but a fair one. Never once did Ross attempt to physically bully or smash his way past the youngster. Perhaps one day James Grieve will realise the significance of what that game meant in his own development: he played one on one with Ronald Ross and held his own. Yet Ross scored three.
For his first goal Ross managed to burst past Grieve, who had gone forward to cut out a ball but did not manage to anticipate its bounce. Grieve had a split second to take Ross down but, credit to him, he did not consider the foul though big George and the Wing Centre thought the window of opportunity was there for a non -malicious trip. Ross then ran at pace down the wing with the ball under right hand control and cut into the D from the right. As Macdonald made to approach him he flick-fired the ball halfway up the net between stanchion and post. There was no back swing so the chasing pack were outmanoeuvred and the flick was not only accurate but too powerful and pacey for Macdonald to react to. That alone would have won him the accolade of man of the match but there was better to come.
Ross’s second goal was another testament to class. The ball came over from the left wing into the D : it was bouncing ;Ross was falling and surrounded by swinging defenders yet he punched it with the blade of his caman into the roof of the net via the only available clear route to goal. Not only was the strike precise but he had the courage to do it at personal risk in a game that was already won. It is doubtful if his mind bothered to weigh up the risk.
For his third goal, Ross pressed further up on Grieve, got on the wrong side of him and picking up a through ball dribbled past another defender and the keeper and slipped the final ball into the net- and all this on the muddy bumpy surface and under pressure from harassing defenders.
Ross of course had a number of other attempts at goal in the shape of full drives at the target from distance. Some whistled narrowly past while three others - rocket shots all- were very well dealt with and cleared by keeper Macdonald. The other Kingussie attackers? Ross did not seem to bother with them . He shot himself every time. Despite the presence of Russell Dallas, Paul Gow and a young Borthwick who all ran and made angles Ronald did not seem to want to play team shinty. Perhaps he made a fine judgement on the basis of the condition of the pitch that interpassing was pointless. Perhaps he also thought it pointless because he does not rate his present playing companions to be on the level of old frontline comrades such Fraser Inglis, Kevin Thain and Ally Borthwick. The observation may mean nothing - or it may be a pointer to Kingussie’s prospects of Camanachd glory this year. If you took away the contribution of Ross you might have been watching any other village shinty team in the kingdom.
“Have you ever seen anyone better?” asked Strath’s George of the other chancers.
They ran the names through in their heads-Johnny Campbell, John Fraser, Tommy Nicholson, Davie Anderson, Willie Cowie.
“Do you think there was anyone better?”
No one could make a judgement on Johnny Cattenach. He died in 1915.
And that was their last word on the matter.

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