Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Wanderer Returns

Glenurquhart 8 Ardnamurchan 0
It is the best start the Glen has had to a shinty season for years: four weeks in and neither team has lost a point or even a goal. If only it could always be like this! What is more - quick glace at the results page reveals a familiar name up near the top of the scoring charts. Who other than J Bell (4)? He is scoring freely for Aberdeen University as he has done since last century. He is certainly the lost Messiah of Glen shinty, the wunderkind who moved away to grace the shinty scene in Aberdeen fifteen or more years ago. He kept his talent and passion for the game and retained the true faith, never giving up, never glory hunting. He should be recognised by the Camanachd Association for services to the indigenous sport. The bottom line is -the Glen have never replaced him.
Aah -the period 1982-1987 was truly a golden age in the annals of Glen Camanachd.
Enough levity -it is a serious business when four weeks into the season the Glen have yet , in the words of Beauly’s own Caldermeister “to lift a caman in anger”. Not that anger ever enters the minds of Glenners on the field of dreams -that we leave to other Glens and Straths. However for the sake of some reading matter a brief report of the Glen’s only competitive match this season is worth putting down. The result is of course given at the head of the column but what is more worthy of note is the pic taken by the Wing Centre’s favourite snapper, Mr Denoon of Fort Augustus and Inverness.
Yes your eyes-and the Wing Centres -do not deceive . Himself is back from somewhere and better than that -back in the Glen colours. If the side could only get a game under its belt and the force stays with us until we get up to competitive speed-the Wing Centre’s only worry is that the side has overtrained -then the omens are good. The same side as last season with Himself added to the pool. The cup game against Lochcarron will be the tester-and on that subject it is sad to note the retirement from the stick sport of the west coast sides’ peerless Iain Mackenzie through injury. He was a superb stick player and it is to be hoped he will be able to put something back to the youngsters of his home club through coaching or the like.
Back to the matter in hand which is the Ardnamurchan report. It has to be said that this match was never a classic though the youngsters who turned out acquitted themselves well. Indeed the Glen got off to a rapid start when Davie Stewart opened the scoring with a fine strike in 6 minutes. The ball was worked forward by young centreline maestro Neil Porter - his fine performance was a feature of the game -and Davie S fired the chance into the roof of the net.
And that was it for the rest of the first half. Ardnamurchan put up the shutters, the Glen failed to get any coherent pattern of play and despite some nice pushes forward and skilful touches from Dave Smart , the net refused to bulge. Mr S had some scope for killing off the match but scorned to take it. At the back Calum Smith and in particular Drew Maclennan were quick to snuff out any thrusts forward by what was a young if indirect Ardnamurchan team.
The second half was different- not least because a three goal Glen burst inside 7 minutes of the restart changed the complexion of the match entirely. The first of these came in 48 minutes when Calum Fraser latched on to a ball from Dave Smart. His initial shot was well saved but the ball came back out to Fraser who finished off well. The same player hit the target with a fine finish after some nice shinty in 50 minutes and before long the ever lively Bradley Dickson had drilled home yet another goal and the game was well beyond the Lighthouse Boys.
This comfortable cushion of goals was enough to allow Manager Henderson some scope for experimentation and also permitted him to give Himself a run out on the hallowed turf. With Dave Smart withdrawn because of a slight injury , the Boss also replaced the injured Donald Fraser and centre man Matthew Clark to give a run to Malkie Munro and youngster Ben Hosie.
It was EJ Tembo (Himself ) who bagged the next goal with a massive strike from the centreline which left his fans gasping with wonder. It was the sort of goal he will not get in the Division above because the keepers are more clued up but the young Ardnamurchan keeper had come off his line and EJ’s drive off the tee simply deceived him.
In the 75th minute Ben Hosie worked a dead ball out to Calum (Jock) Fraser and the big striker won the match ball when he completed his hatrick. In 80 minutes Bradley Dickson helped himself to a second goal before the scoring was completed in favour of the Glen through an unfortunate own goal from defender John Nudds . It was an undeserved piece of bad luck for Nudds who had had an excellent second half in very trying circumstances. He is a good player and Ardnamurchan are by no means a bad team as their most recent result -a 4-4 draw with the Caranachs proves.
Next week the Glen are involved in a sudden death encounter in Old MacTavish’s fine cup competition and given that the opposition is Lochcarron , then the form will have to be good. Goals one expects will be required.
At least the Glen have a home draw.

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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