Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lets Keep the MacTavish in Perspective

Now those of you reading the Wing Centre’s comments and coming at them from the viewpoint of another team must perhaps feel that there is little to be gained in the way of an unbiased perspective from the D. Quite right too, though the guy in the Sunday Herald who is not unconnected with the Club called it correctly last week when he wrote the following :
Much of the Kingussie success in recent years has been down to the influence of Ronald Ross; his hat tricks in the finals of 2005 and 2006 underline the magnitude of the debt which his side owe him. While Kingussie’s uncharacteristic loss to Fort William in last year’s final might appear to offer some hope to Glenurquhart, the recent form of the maestro hints at a more conventional script.
This season Ross, now 35 and playing in a Kingussie side which is maturing to say the least, is back at the top of his game. Already he has already scored three more goals than his age and the season is barely half way through. Anyone who pretends to have an interest in sport in Scotland ought to make a vow to see Ross play once before he is gone from the game with the march of time. He totally dominates the sport and has done for years but it is when you see at close quarters what he can do with a shinty ball that you realise the magnitude of the talent that you have witnessed. Everything he does is economical and functional, designed to lead to goals rather than to entertainment and in the Premier League this season his shooting has been deadly.“
The Brahan Seer or what? And just let us look back at the matches of 2005 and 2006. Ronald beat Newtonmore 6-1 in 2005 - with the Norman Campbells and Fraser Mackintoshes - and Ronald again beat Fort William in 2006 5-1 with the James Clarks and the Robertsons. These were Premier League sides in the top half of the Division at the time and if the Camanachd Association had an archived website you could check the facts out at your leisure and you would see the truth of the observation. In that sort of context the Glenurquhart score is simply the default scoreline of any other club. Not that there is any comfort in that and before there is any talk of a learning curve - and undoubtedly there will be some learning involved though whether that will be shaped in an upward curve is too early to say- there are one or two other points to make.
Last year (2007) Ronald lost 1-0 in the MacTavish to Fort William because he was marked extremely tightly latterly by Duncan Rodger but earlier he had clashes with Neil Robertson and on occasions with Liam Macintyre. Yesterday the Glen did not shackle him closely until the damage was done and then when he was closely marked he received protection from referee Calum Duff of a sort he did not receive from the more mature refereeing of referee Donnie Fraser in 2007. No doubt Calum and the Glen will clue on to Ronald. He is a winner- so he whinges the whole time in the manner of a Badenoch Roy Keane but truthfully the hits just roll off him. Calum probably had not come across that sort of intensity before and it seemed from a Glen perspective that Ronald and Kingussie got more of the 50-50s than the Glen received. From the wee club perspective it’s definitely the big club syndrome.
Where did the goals come from?
The first was from a corner and the ball was chipped over, Ronald meeting it in the box and glancing it up and over Stuart Mackintosh into the roof of the net. Lovely goal but with more than a suspicion of offside about it (Told you this was not going to make easy reading for the Dell boys -though there was no obvious sign of the real Dal Boy in the crowd which was a shame because he is good crack )
What happened next was that Paul Mackintosh went straight into the book for a trip on a Kingussie forward and Gregor McCormack equalised for the Glen with a nice touch having got to the ball before Rory Fraser. There were two or more opportunities then for the Glen to get shots on target before Ronald managed to achieve two further strikes both having been rolled back to him from free hits. Have to say the defending was naïve but the frees were, in one case at least, very cheaply bought.
Then there was a penalty. What for? If for a kick by S Mack and the goal judge gave it - one would argue . If for a foul then the player who went down - Ronald -was outside the box but ok a penalty and the Glen went in for half time at 4-1 having put two chances over the bar late on.
By that time John Barr had moved on to Ronald and had gone in the book for playing the ball in the air, Ronald having gone slightly low under pressure and the ref having judged the swing to be dangerous. Yet James Maclean and James Hutchison got away with similar moves in the match and were not cautioned.
Three minutes into the second half Kingussie were gifted a penalty which never was. A trip on Ronald? No - he slipped or fell or stood on a club and lost his footing. A penalty? Come on. Even Ronald had the grace to look embarrassed about that but he accepted the freebie gratefully and rammed it home. For other goalies out there who might feel that they would like a chance to save a Ronald pen, he put them both to Smack’s right -one higher and one lower.
The sixth goal came from a deflection off Stuart Reid’s stick as Fraser Inglis played the ball across the face of goal : the Glen were so stretched an incident of this sort was liable to happen and so it came to pass.
Glen lifted things a little and a drive from Andrew Corrigan flew into the side netting. Finally John Barr was dismissed for tangling with Ronald in 84 minutes. Rash challenge? No more so than others but one assumes that the accumulation of them was such that the ref dismissed the defender. Looking at it in perspective, given that he will now be banned for at least one important game, it does suggest that perhaps JB should have let Ronald go or like Fort William would have done have someone else pick him up. Whatever the act made him miss out on a medal since he was unable to go up to collect one which is probably more than a little mean of the Association .
Not one of the Glen fouls were in any way malicious or intended to injure which is more than can be said for many fouls the Wing Centre has witnessed in the game: neither were the fouls which Kingussie gave away nasty for that matter, them mostly being for back charges on wingers Neale Reid and Lewis Maclennan.
Whatever his motives Jim Gow subbed Ronald as soon as John Barr was sent off- Jim might wish to punt the story that he did not want the Glen to be further punished for being against Ronald-but certainly as soon as the talisman left the field there was no further hope of a Kingussie goal. Indeed the Wing Centre’s diary suggests that of the other Kingussie players only Fraser Inglis had a shot on target.
So where is the perspective? Is the above sour gripes? Not entirely.
Take Ronald out of the Kingussie side and the teams become more even. Two penalties, two free hits and an own goal :these testify to the pressure the Glen was put under throughout the afternoon.
For Kingussie, Rory is still a fine player and all the rest do things competently and well. Ally Macleod and Ian Borthwick were solid as was Hutchison and the sub Louis Munro looks a find. Fraser Inglis has lovely skills that were super to watch if you were not a Glen fan.
For the Glen EJ Tembo had an excellent game - winning his own duel though the guy against was no mug. EJ drove forward for most of the match and at the end had slipped across to the centre line. In the absence of Ronald he would have had a shout at MoM.
JB was good and had a solid game under stormy conditions- as did Paul Mackintosh and Andy Corrigan though the latter did not receive enough of the ball to be effective.Gregor McCormack took his goal well though Rory had him sussed by the end of the game. The Glen also put together a few nice moves as did Kingussie though they always seemed to be much more in control of their destiny.
Shinty at the highest level must be more than a game of 11 wee duels on the park though it does have that element to it. If so , then Ronald constantly worked to win his duel but beyond that Kingussie seem to play to a system. The forwards and midfield move and pull wide and rotate the defence, always working to create space into which they are happy to place a ball. The Glen seemed hung up on trying to beat the back and were firmly placed on positional tramlines. If we are to learn anything we have to learn to aspire to the Kingussie model in the front line.
So what is the perspective then?
Well, every other MacTavish final team in recent years has lost to Ronald by a 4/5 margin. The ref appeared somewhat in awe of Kingussie though the Glen had no choice but to try a spoiling game on Ronald since he is virtually unplayable. Beyond that we need to continue with the dedication, simplify the shinty and work at developing a more sophisticated system in front of goals-including dispatching and coping with free hits.
The next few weeks of the season are critical and we need to move on. The big Glen support that turned up at the Bught yesterday deserves at least that.

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