Friday, August 01, 2008

No Easy Games in this League

North Division 1
Glenurquhart 2 Lochcarron 0
It might have been relegated to the bottom of Saturday’s news pile by Skye’s Balliemore victory, but this result was a significant one for the Glen, though its overall importance in the scheme of the season will depend on matches yet to be played.
It was a tough game and a tight one, and one suspects that if Lochcarron were sharper up front-or indeed had any sharpness at all up front - the Glen might not have come through with such a clear margin though to be fair the shave was close enough to be going on with at present. Lochcarron were missing Darren Coyle , Gregor Cushnie and Peter Mackenzie - three front men they can hardly do without - and the Glen had the whole MacTavish final centreline, Arran Macdonald, Paul Mackintosh, Dixon Maclennan absent through injury while Gregor McCormack was on holiday.
With Iain Macdonald taking over at full back, John Barr was pushed up front and within three minutes it was clear that Alan Mackenzie, as excellent a full back as ever came out of Slumbay, was going to have a busy afternoon. Barr peeled off the full back, turned him, had a shot, had it blocked and the Wester Ross defence managed to scramble the ball away.
A few minutes later Ally Mackintosh on the left slipped a ball down the wing to Barr who cut it across to Lewis Maclennan. He played it in to Andrew Corrigan who saw his shot diverted for a corner. Lochcarron were at this stage extremely tenacious and perhaps showing some of their former Premier status in defence where they were not shy to have a pop at the ball in the air and young Neale Reid ,who had an extremely competitive first half hour against Angus Mackay, was soon feeling grateful for the fact that he wears a helmet in competitive play. Mackay is an excellent wing back, hard in the tackle and extremely quick in his distribution and Reid had some difficulty in making progress against him because the youngster’s style is to control the ball and try to go past his man. Mackay is too competitive a player to allow this. As the match wore on Reid gradually came more and more into the match and by the end his tight skill and pace was much more in evidence but the lesson must be one of perseverance.
However, back in real time, John Barr drove a powerful shot past the post and then in 25 minutes Lewis Maclennan contributed a long accurate trademark drive which was hard and on target but the Lochcarron keeper tipped it over. The respite for Lochcarron did not last long because in 26 minutes, John Barr came deep off Mackenzie , and turned the ball into the path of Andrew Corrigan who sent a clean strike into the corner of the visitor's net. It was a neat and skilful piece of shinty which impressed even the watching Skyemen who had stopped off to observe the game whilst on their way over the hill to their own day of victory in Beauly.
The second half was much of the same - competitive and hard with Lochcarron’s Michael Cooper in the centreline impressive ,though in the Glen’s Eddie Tembo he had an opponent who was always on the offensive. Ally Mackintosh matched Kenny Ross well and when Ally was on the ball he performed well, not wasting a strike and in particular being mindful to tuck the ball down the wing. Ross too when on the ball performed with economy and skill, bringing the ball down with ease and effortlessly touching it into space for his forwards who, sadly for the men in blue were unable to make anything of it.
It was in a way a tale of two forward lines. The Lochcarron centres and indeed backs managed to move the ball slickly forward but the Glen defence were very much on top. A classy performance by Andrew Macdonald and a marvellous display by David Girvan at wing back meant that Lochcarron had few attempts on Stuart Mackintosh's goal -indeed he only had to pull off one serious save in the second period, while the Glen who were every bit as often in the zone found themselves firing the ball past the post too often when they should really have tested the keeper.
The Glen second goal came in a bizarre fashion - a drive on target by Corrigan was “palmed” by the Lochcarron keeper but he was judged to have caught and held the ball for a split second. Lewis Maclennan kept his nerve and fired the ball low into the net in 72 minutes to double the Glen‘s lead.It was a brave strike for Maclennan given that he had had his previous penalty saved by the Skye keeper in the Balliemore semi. He was however exhausted and immediately after the goal he was substituted by Calum Miller. At the same time wing back Stuart Reid who was also having a fine game was replaced by Euan Fraser who will need now to build up some top team experience since all hands will be required on deck for the rest of the season.
There was one further twist in the match and that was the fact that a very nicely worked Glen goal was given offside.Reid sprinted down the wing past Mackay and fired the ball across into the path of Calum Miller who very neatly prodded it past the Lochcarron keeper into the corner of the net. Referee George O’Rourke made the judgement that the big forward had entered the D before the ball and disallowed the goal. Tricky decision but a real shame to chalk off a goal as neat as that. In the end then, a hard won victory for the Glen and perhaps an indication of the fact that there will be some seriously hard games to come before this particular league is won.
One last note - it was nice to see Iain Mackenzie of Lochcarron come on to Blairbeg for what one imagines will be the last time. Iain has always been a superb player and a true athlete and as such he has had an unlucky time with injury. On Saturday he came on for a short time as sub- and for one glorious moment as he ran down the field , bouncing the ball hurley style on his stick the Caranachs must have though the clock had been turned back ten years. If he had scored though perhaps the Wing Centre would not have been so generous in his tribute - perhaps he would - class is always appreciated wherever it appears in the indigenous sport. Well done Iain and thanks for the memories... and make sure you take up coaching the young ones.
As for the picture at the top, it speaks for itself- and nice to see a cheeky smile. He can still do it!
Let Strathglass beware-he wants his own cup back!!

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