Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Kilmallie Pay the Penalty

MacTavish Cup Semi-final
Glenurquhart 4 Kilmallie 4 (aet)
(Glen win through 10-9 on penalties)

As a game this had everything - goals, excitement, passion and a top gun penalty shoot out. The only thing disappointing about it was that there could not be two winners. Make no mistake about it Kilmallie were worthy opponents, as the Glen knew they would be - and while they were no doubt desperately upset about losing out in the end, John Morrison’s men earned a lot of friends in the Glen by the sporting manner in which, having stood up to be counted throughout the match and especially in the penalty shootout, they accepted the administrations of the cruel hand of fate with generosity and genuine best wishes for the victorious Glen team.

A thank you also to referee Coke Macdonald who reffed firmly but fairly and played his part in keeping two well hyped teams within the bounds of commonsense.
It was however a game in which, having got off to a flying first half start, Kilmallie took their foot off the gas. It is usually the Glen who like to start fast and in the opening six minutes there were opportunities to put Neil MacNiven under pressure but first Andrew Corrigan shot wide and then an attempt by Neale Reid skimmed over the bar. Kilmallie were not so wasteful and in a quick raid up to the shop end John Stewart was on hand to drill the ball low past Stuart Mackintosh. If things were looking gloomy for the Glen in 8 minutes the picture looked even worse in 17minutes when a lovely piece of interpassing by the Kilmallie forwards -at this stage running the Glen defence ragged - ended up with Fraser Massie doubling the visitors’ lead. The Glen were determined to make a fight of it and for the rest of the half the two sides were evenly matched for the most part with the Glen perhaps shading it for possession although the Kilmallie midfield looked powerful and always in contention. The visitors were also helped out by a superb display in goals from Neil “Bauchie” MacNiven who had a number of important saves including one particularly important stop in 30 minutes when Reid slipped the ball to Corrigan whose low fierce drive was kept out of the net by the quick feet of the keeper.
When the Glen got back into the game they really had to. With the last hit of the first half Dave “Dixon” Maclennan blasted a shot in from the left. Did he mean it? Dixie will always say he did and truthfully on that left hand side he is pretty accurate. However he took his shot from an extremely acute angle and just as the pavilion experts got ready to groan in despair at the madness of a youth shooting from such a narrow angle, the net bulged and the ground erupted. It was to be the Glen’s ticket back into the game.
The second half was barely four minutes old when Andrew Corrigan levelled the match after pouncing on a through ball. In sixty minutes Gregor McCormack who throughout the afternoon had exerted constant pressure on the Kilmallie fullback, put the home side in the lead with a neat touch into the net. Given that the Glen were in the ascendancy and playing with a sharp breeze in their favour, it looked as if the red and blacks would hold on until a wonder strike from all of 40 yards by centre man Donald Lamont threw Kilmallie a lifeline and brought the contest into extra time.
By that time Calum Miller had replaced the injured Gregor McCormack and the game went into its extra period.
The add-on minutes repeated the pattern of the second half of normal time. It was the Glen who enjoyed the bulk of the pressure but came away from the contest having put the ball in the net just once. This came in 94 minutes when Lewis Maclennan smashed a shot on target : keeper MacNiven palmed it down but his attempted clearance was charged down but the speedy Glen front men and the ball fell into the path of Neale Reid and he fired it into the net. Further chances to finish the match fell to Reid and Corrigan but they found MacNiven in excellent form and from one of his clearances the play switched rapidly to the other end where veteran Alec “Tottie” MacNicol managed to salvage an equaliser.
This took the match into extra time and a penalty shootout was required to settle matters. Given that Kilmallie had been through this several times and that the bulk of their players had big time experience from having played in the Camanachd Cup final three years ago few of the Glenners gave the youngsters much chance of keeping their nerve.
In the end it took 26 penalties to settle matters : Glen had three saved and Kilmallie missed with four. Things were worse than that however because the balance of scoring when matters reached sudden death left the Glen staring at defeat seven times in a row with the red and black striker having to hit the net to keep Glen in the contest.
A Kilmallie miss left Lewis Maclennan with the pressure penalty to put the Glen into the MacTavish final for the first time since 1977. He shot. He scored- and the guys became legends in the D.
The Courier (27/5/2008) printed a superb picture of the end of game celebrations - Phil Downie certainly captured Lewis’s good side - but courtesy of Milky Fraser , the Wing Centre has another iconic snap of the immediate aftermath of this charge.
So how good is the team?
Good enough to get to a MacTavish final..
After all the Glen has only been in the MacTavish final twice - in 1902 and 1977.
So its D-Day for Kingussie then? Well certainly the Wing Centre will slag Kingussie off but can the Glen beat them ? Realistically?
Whenever were the Glenners realistic about shinty ? More important short term is to rally the wounded troops and prepare for the arrival of the Caranachs because - and this is realistic - the Balliemore is the Cup to win.
The Wing Centre would of course like to thank the present day Glenners for providing him with the opportunity to party, to reminisce and of course to live dangerously in the company of former Glen legends so that when he finally made it home he could say “Big Ron , Geordie and DP made me do it…” To be fair, first footing in May is pushing it as an excuse, and the only way out is a trip over to Beauly to see if Ian Marr has any lines he would like to off-load.

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