Friday, October 03, 2008

Ee-aye Ee-aye Ee-aye O! Up to the Premier Glen Now Go

North Division 1
Glenurquhart 1 Kilmallie 0
In the end, it was only what the team had worked for all season long. For the last thirty minutes of the match however, the Glen followers found their emotions and their nerves severely tested as Kilmallie , who had probably shaded the match in terms of pressure, mounted a last ditch attempt to prolong their season by snatching a dramatic equaliser. Considering they had managed to force extra time in the MacTavish semi by scoring right at the death, there was no complacency up on the steps of the pavilion as referee John Sloggie’s watch ticked the time down.
"If they lose the League, it will all be down to that stupid point they lost against Inverness" Now everyone knows that-even Stevie Munro the ‘Ness goalie who kept out Reid, Corrigan , Maclennan and Mc Cormack-but it did not help to be reminded of it. In the end, the very end, the story was that Kilmallie missed their chance to equalise when minutes from time, John Stewart finally eluded what the Courier guy was wont to call "the smothering tackles" of John Barr and fired his shot high over the top when the normal expectation was that he would hit the target. When the Glen forwards then carried the ball successfully into the left hand corner to run down the clock, not once but twice –winning a foul each time-then it was clear that the Glen wanted the victory more than they wanted to play good shinty. Good shinty or winning shinty? Sometimes these coincide-sometimes they don’t, as Fort William will testify- but what mattered to the Glen, after Balliemore failure four times in a row (the Wing Centre has suffered them all-at Ballachulish, at Kingussie, at Newtonmore and then this year’s robbery by Skye)was a victory and a trophy. Nothing less would do.
Mind you the opening was not especially promising because within a minute of the start Ross Lavin the Kilmallie centre had found himself in enough space to try a drive at goal which fortunately flew wide. The next action of note came in a strong clash between John Stewart and John Barr in which the Glen defender proved that he had the measure of Kilmallie’s international forward- and with Stuart Reid tight on Fraser Massie, the pattern of the game was set. The next to try his luck was Michael Rodgers but he too was off target after being put under severe pressure from Dave Girvan. Glen’s first serious attack came in 8 minutes when Eddie Tembo slipped the ball up the wing to Gregor McCormack who had run wide to receive the pass. He slipped the ball in to Neale Reid but his drive flew high over the bar.
In the next Kilmallie attack, John Stewart had a shot saved by Stuart Mackintosh before another powerful run from Tembo into the Kilmallie defence resulted in a semi clearance which was picked up by Glen wing centre Ally Mackintosh but his forward hit carried on too far going out of play. Play at this stage was uncompromising and in some fierce exchanges Kilmallie’s Rodgers took a knock from which he appeared to recover though it was clear that by the second half he had lost some fluency of movement.
The closest Glen came to a goal in this period was when a fierce low strike from distance by Eddie Tembo almost caught "Bochy " MacNiven unawares but the Kilmallie keeper got his feet to the ball and it flew past the post for a corner. This was quickly taken but with the Kilmallie defence struggling to cover, Gregor McCormack put his shot over the bar.
The second half provided more of the same fare with one exception and that was in 52 minutes when in the course of a Glen attack the ball broke loose from the Kilmallie defence on the edge of the D and Neale Reid forced the ball home to make his own small piece of Glen history.
Kilmallie naturally enough came back but they were fated to be up against-the stats prove it- the best defence in the League. David Girvan was exceptional while Paul Mackintosh had a superb afternoon- and with John Barr and Stuart Reid also in uncompromising mood Kilmallie were not going to score, especially bearing in mind the fact that Stuart Mackintosh was right on top of his game.
In the end –after a small scare at the end of the match when Kilmallie worked a chance for John Stewart which he failed to convert-the Glen ran out deserved winners. Why? Perhaps because they have not lost a game in their campaign so far nor have they leaked goals all season like Kinlochsheil and Skye with their poor starts to the season.
Kilmallie though are different. No doubt there are some churlish guys on the other side of the River Lochy rubbing their hands together at their misfortune, but the truth is that they have had a desperately unlucky season. League wise they have not been consistently unbeatable but to lose out in all three competitions at the last hurdle must be very hard to bear. The Glen know that it is like given the way they lost out in the Balliemore and the League last season-and the Kilmallie lads have never been anything less than sporting when they have been defeated –narrowly- by the Glen. They are a credit to their management and to the sport. They are a young team yet-and they certainly possess some players-Stewart, Rodgers, Lavin, MacNiven, Carmichael and Stoddart who are clearly Premier League class and they must be in the frame for next season.
The snap is of the guys in the aftermath of victory but where was the trophy? Unfortunately not at Blairbeg for the presentation. Now everything is a bit of an anticlimax especially when we receive the trophy at Canal Park -but then that is perhaps what you have to get used to in the world of shinty.

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