Saturday, June 28, 2008

An off night for Beauly- and Smack nods off!

Beauly 0 Glenurquhart 5
This was a league game following the MacTavish final defeat back from which it was important for the Glen to bounce. It was played on the Wednesday because the Glen had a free Saturday to host a skills/6 a side tournament for Primary kids and the Glen are grateful to Beauly for playing the game because folks in their village were still reeling at the tragic death of Tony Tillman. He was shinty player of note in his day as well as being a past president of the Beauly Club. Tony’s heyday was in the “good old days” when Beauly played at the Ferry Park and a fine team they had too with Alan Simpson, Clickan Maclennan and the late , great Sandy Mackay - and it was fitting that the match was preceded by a minute’s silence observed by both sides in his memory.
However once the game got under way it is doubtful if these old Beauly boys would have struggled so much in a game against the Glen as the Braeview lads did the other night.
Certainly the men in green had a good opening spell but considering the Glen were minus John Barr (suspended after the MacTavish) and “Dixon” Maclennan out with a muscle strain , they should have cashed in. Roger Cormack did have the ball in the net early on but it was ruled offside and from then on Beauly did not seem to want to shoot. Barry MacDonald and Sean Stewart are two players who can hold their own in most company but Wednesday was certainly not their night. At the back it is clear that they miss Martin Davidson-out with a broken kneecap- and while they have plenty youngsters who are coming through they are short on experience.
The real damage to Beauly was caused by Neale Reid who followed up a solid performance in the MacTavish with a blistering display against a Beauly defence who found him too pacey to hold.
His first goal came in 16 minutes when , after Beauly had tamely wasted a free hit, Paul Mackintosh , Glen full back for the night, cleared mightily and Reid outpaced the home defence and fired the ball into the net. He repeated the feat in the 20th minute, again passing the keeper who took him down, but as he fell he knocked the ball into the unprotected net . The third goal was the best of the lot for having received a high through ball from Andrew Corrigan , the youngster fired it home having without letting the ball touch the ground.
At 3-0 the half time whistle went and the Wing Centre spotted two Newtonmore spies in the camp - manager Norman Macarthur and Norman Campbell- so there will be no doubt that young Master Reid will be tightly shackled when it comes to the Camanachd Cup quarter final in July. (It is worth noting that until today’s win over Kingussie the ‘More forwards appear to have found it hard to hit the net. Certainly the 4-0 scoreline sounds good but it appears that Ronaldo was not playing so perhaps that result should not count)
The second half continued with Glen dominance and Beauly in their few breakouts were seemingly unwilling to shoot. The Glen made various changes in the second half - off came Eddie Tembo and Gregor McCormack. It was clear the pool was suffering because of hard fought games against Kilmallie , Kingussie and Lochcarron - but the Beauly defence still looked vulnerable and eventually some nice stick play between Corrigan and Reid left a shooting chance for Calum Miller who blasted an unstoppable drive past the hapless Lymburn. By this time the Glen had two more walking wounded in their ranks - both Lewis Maclennan and Stuart Reid were sporting head bandages (wear helmets, guys!!) but still red and blacks continued to press and Reid earned his forth goal after a neat exchange of passes with Calum Miller. It is worth noting from the Glen point of view that Miller , lively in his spell up front, as well as Billy Urquhart and Andrew Macdonald who were on the bench for the MacTavish all performed well. Also making his debut in the last quarter was young Drew Maclennan who came on at right wing back and performed nicely against Sean Stewart .
There were two other points of note : one was that Andrew Corrigan had a run that would have gone down well in the all-Ireland in which he burst through from his own half right into the attack keeping the ball up on his caman all the way ; the other was a lung bursting run from Neale Reid which ended in a blatant body check by keeper Lymburn and should have led to a penalty. The Wing Centre is not sure if these two events are linked but suspects that they could be : if it were a Glen team in the 70's down 5-0 then they certainly would have been , if you catch the Wing Centre’s drift. So perhaps guys when it comes to games against Skye and Newtonmore (two crucial matches upon which the future happiness of the Wing Centre and that of the both bits of the Glen -Up and Down- depends) then simplify the shinty, shoot more often, forget the beautiful game and win at all costs.
As for annoying Beauly-it is a dangerous practice. Given the Wing Centre’s family connection with the village - on the distaff side he hastens to add - such Beauly baiting has been forbidden. Though look at the pic. Here we see Smack , asleep at his post the other night. Testament perhaps to the lack of perceived threat from the Beauly attack. Never! It will not be like that against the Island, Stuart -so keep your eyes open but good to see you've still got both hands on the club.

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.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

The Wing Centre has been silent this week because there is not much point in saying anything about last week's win against Inverness in the light of the fact that we are due to play Kingussie in the final of the MacTavish Cup tomorrow. How will the Glen do? Hopefully well : the Wing Centre takes the fact that house martins have built two nests on his humble home for the first time ever, to be an omen of the most propitious kind.
What can the Wing Centre do to help the cause?Apart from phoning up Ronald Ross's house on repeat dial so he gets no sleep the night before the final , very little. Except to print this picture from Phil Downie who won't mind since he has taken what will now become the iconic Glenurquhart photo of this generation-up there alongside Mr Reid' s sunny physog in the 1977 Strathdearn side. Why should this be? Because it captures the cool Mr Maclean in cheery mood. Somewhat aloof from his players -note the contrast with Mr Menzies and Coach Corrigan who are in there with the rest of the guys- Mr M still has the sunspecs on his head even in moments of ecstasy. How cool is that! Pretty cool in the Wing Centre's book. Deep respect.
Good luck tomorrow guys!!!!!
If you want to be inspired , have a wee listen to Willy Anderson's team talk. OK so he is trying to inspire Deke! However, it is almost moving at the end-and the sentiments are sound. Parental guidance recommended.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Glen Keep the Winning Habit - For Now

Balliemore Cup
Glenurquhart 2 Lochcarron 1

Whatever happens in the rest of the season, it has to be said that the early part has gone well. The Glen are unbeaten still and, with this week’s match against Beauly having been prevented from happening, yet another week goes by without a Glen defeat. How can this have happened?
Well the Lochcarron match perhaps gives an inkling as to how. The players have dug in and yes they have had some luck- especially with winning the semi-final tosses (there are plenty jokes to be made there and doubtless other sides will make them, though the Wing Centre won’t ) but in the end they have stuck to the task and with no exceptions they have worked to earn the victories.
This one was an easy one to lose. OK it was the Balliemore Cup- the one trophy which the Club should fancy itself to win - but coming after the amazing extra time penalty decider against Kilmallie it would have been a game which the Glen could have chucked away. On other days in other seasons this was a banana skin waiting to trip the Glen up -just as next week’s Camanachd game against Inverness is another banana skin - but so far this season the side have refused to give up.
The game seemed to start brightly for the Glen and very quickly after a battle round the edge of the D in which Gregor McCormack put the ever excellent Lochcarron full back Alan Mackenzie under a bit of pressure, the ball was flipped back to Andrew Corrigan who had a decent strike. Michael Macmillan in the Lochcarron goal however was alive to most of the early danger and was quick to clear his lines on the occasions that the quick moving Glen forwards burst through.
At the other end however disaster truck for the black and reds when a mix up in the home defence allowed a ball to fall to John Martin Phillips and in 16 minutes the Lochcarron forward slammed the ball home past a helpless tangle of players. Part of the problem in the Glen defence was because big Davie “Ham” Mackenzie is not the sort of forward most Division 1 defences come up against too often. He is not the fastest but he is the strongest and can pull a ball into him and hold off the defender- at least in the early stages of a match when he is fresh. If he does get to turn he can hit a ball well and yet everyone underestimates him while pretending to take him seriously. He made it clear on Saturday that pretending is not enough until he eventually ran out of steam.
One wonders what would have happened if Mr Cushnie was available? The boys at the back would say “Nothing.” They may be right but then again? Cushnie might have linked up even more effectively with Peter Mackenzie, a player who did for a time, look to be a possible threat to the Glen defence though he faded in the end, possibly because he had to do all the running on his own.
The Glen however up front worked a free hit and Neale Reid smashed a shot into the side net and then EJ Tembo - having a run out in the front line for a change - had a strike in 29 minutes but it was left to Lewis Maclennan to equalise with a glorious drive in 35 minutes. A corner taken on the right eventually hopped into his path and his low strike beat the Lochcarron defence for pace.
Lewis is in good goal scoring form just now and he knows that hitting the net is something that he needs to keep at the front of his mind in the next few weeks. Few can hit a ball better than him but he sometimes needs to simplify his game-go for the ball with the body rather than always with the stick when at the higher level he will be nudged by experienced backs just enough to make him misconnect.. However when he does connect he is deadly and fortunately this was one of these times.
By this time in the match- and indeed for the rest of the game except for the occasional flurry the Glen were in command but apart from Neale Reid’s match winning strike just after the interval the boys failed to add to their tally.
Yet it was not a bad performance and truthfully an interesting game . Rumours of it being flat as a contest were much exaggerated. Arran Macdonald had an excellent game against Kenny Ross- and that was a contest that Arran will one day no doubt look back on with some satisfaction because Ross is one of the iconic players in the sport who has deservedly played at international level in the senior side.
The centre line also performed well. Billy Urquhart was extremely effective on one flank while on the other, David “Dixon” Maclennan also had a fine game. He was however evenly matched with “Dickie” Mackenzie. “Dickie” is one of these players that the Wing Centre had not seen much of in recent years because whilst he was plying his trade for Lovat, the Glen were in the old National Division I and never actually came against them .
One has to admit that Dickie has the superb Lovat eye for the ball and worked hard in the wing -centre position but “Dixon” gave and took with Dickie and both contributed greatly to the shape of the game.
So why did the Glen not score more goals? Probably the answer lies in the name Alan Mackenzie. He has quick hands on the club and certainly held his team together at the back on more that one occasion - in fact probably on about five or six occasions.
The Wing Centre’s recollection of formidable full backs is that of the old National Division 1 twosome of Hector Whitelaw of Bute and of Graeme Mackechnie of Glenorchy -defenders who are uncompromising as well as good in their reading of a game, powerful in the tackle and mighty in their clearances. They are also extremely verbal in their marshalling of their defence when under pressure. Mackenzie , who is reported by those in the know to be the merest shadow of his former self , looked mean and lean at the back. He too reads the game well and while Gregor McCormack was tenacious in his pursuit and tackle, Mackenzie dealt with much of what came his way with craft and skill which was good to watch.
The result though went the way of the Glen. The confidence is high as it should be and for now the results have gone well. The task is to keep the winning habit, habitually.
In the picture, while John Barr walks off the field with his hero Kenny Ross , Manager Maclean appears to be attempting to snap Alan Mackenzie’s caman over his knee. Before the game, Bill would have been better!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Quality Seconds

Glenurquhart 4 Beauly 0
While the top side have been basking in their winning ways- and the Wing Centre does not just mean winning the tosses, though that has to be credited as a winning habit too -the second team has shown that they too have some quality about them as well.
The pleasing thing is that the side is scoring goals and given that the first team is playing a goodly number of hard , high intensity matches , the presence of a competitive second squad is extremely useful should the need arise. It would be a pity to reach a final or move towards a big match and find the top team down a player or two because of a injury and to think that there is no-one down below who could not do a job if called upon. With a second team playing at this standard the overall health of the club is improved and long may it continue to be so.
The first game in the above list- a 4-0 win against Beauly at Blairbeg was a nice competitive game to watch. Beauly are no mugs and truth to tell the Glen were lucky to steal a win over at Braeview a few weeks earlier. That came via a long midfield drive from Matthew Clark : this time the forward line- Calum “Jock” Fraser , Ben Hosie and “Chips” Smart were bolstered by “Panda“ Crichton who has been newly recaptured from the wild. Now “Panda” played briefly at Beauly in the first game but he is now back in the side on a regular basis and is showing that for all that he is a big lad he has a deft touch on the club. When he hits a ball , it stays hit.
The first half was an even affair with not much evidence in the way of there being a Glen breakthrough, and much of the interest was in the little duels between players in various parts of the field one of which between Glen’s Calum Smith and the Green’s Orrin Macpherson was a particularly well matched tussle.
The opening Glen goal came from Calum “Jock” Fraser when he latched on to a ball from David Smart and finished nicely to put the Glen one up. Some nice interplay between “Panda” , “Jock “ and Bradley Dickson a few minutes later doubled the Glen lead. In 61 minutes it was “Panda” Crichton who hit the third goal and the Glen ran out comfortable 4-0 winners when Ben Hosie scored with a neat tap into the corner of the net in 80 minutes. Ben is a touch player and it has been heartening to note how he appears to get better every week as he becomes more used to the pace and physical contact of the senior game.

Glenurquhart 3 Fort William 5 (Strathdearn Cup)
It was disappointing to lose out in this match but when one considers that not only did Fort William have Camanachd Cup winning veterans Deke Cameron, Victor Smith and Willie Macdonald in their side , but they are also managed by that star of Youtube Willie Anderson then the Glen should feel happy they were able to compete and they managed to give the Fort a fright. It is funny how the Fort seem to think they have a divine right to win in the lower league. With the Glen on the attack after half time it was only good fortune that the Fort goalie - a good young player - stopped a rocket shot from Calum Fraser with his face. If that had gone in then who knows?
Indeed the Glen had been ahead of Fort until the last minute of the first half though that was after a bad start in 22 minutes when the ball broke off Donald Fraser’s stick and gave the Fort their opener. Panda Crichton levelled matters in 25 minutes with a 35 yard volley and Ben Hosie put the Glen in the lead with a neat push into the net in 32 minutes. It was Michael Slezes who saved Fort’s interval blushes when , having slipped away from marker Matthew Clark , he managed to slide the ball past Gary Mackintosh in goal.
In the second half Fort rang some changes and pushed Deke Cameron up front to support Victor Smith and he scored in 47 minutes but Calum Fraser first struck the goalie on the face and then a few minutes later equalised from the edge of the D.
Willie Macdonald then went crazy. Now all backs claim every goal given against them cannot be because they were too slow to get out and cover, it naturally must have come about because the forward was off side- but to go on about it after the ref has given the goal and warned you and to continue to abuse the goal judge is bad judgement. The hope is that deep down within himself Willie realises this too.
At the other end Deke was doing an Acapulco diving scenario every time anyone came near him. He has been the Drogba of shinty for many years but down in the wee divisions the refs are not fly to him . Indeed he himself is a decent ref now and it is time he was warning himself about his capers- for all that he took a nice goal in 60 minutes. Victor Smith made the tie secure in 75 with a very nice finish.
Make no bones about it, this Fort William side are good ; leaving aside the goalkeeper - young Walker at wing centre caught the eye, but had the Glen seconds actually bothered to train en bloc- which they probably would have done if this had not been a first round tie - then a real upset would have been on the cards. The guys ran out of puff in the second half -there is nothing else to say about matters than that.

Strathglass 1 Glenurquhart 6
Strathglass were actually in with a shout in this game in the early stages but in the end ran out of ideas against a competent Glen side. The hero of the first half was Ben Hosie whose intelligent ball play-he always wants to work the ball-made this a true shinty spectacle. He hit three goals in the first half all of which were well taken. His first came in 2 minutes , the second in 10 and the third in 35 and only a strike from Alistair Macadam in 18 was there to save Strath blushes.
If Strath had a shout it was at the start of the second half when Raymond Fraser put a little pressure on the Glen defence but Dave Emery stood up to the task and big Ian Macdonald was steadfast in his resistance as were Calum Smith and Ewan Fraser. Eventually in 60 minutes, with Strathglass’s Dads Army defence of Stewart Geddes, David Balharry and Roy Mackenzie beginning to run out of puff because of the constant running of Ben Hosie , “Panda” Crichton and Calum “Jock” Fraser, the Glen scored a fourth. Wing centre Ross MacAulay , who has been playing consistently all season, played a high ball in on the Strath goal which dipped in under Allan Macleod’s bar at the last second. Calum “Jock” Fraser grabbed the 5th goal in 70 minutes after running on to a through ball from Gary Smith. The big forward slowed to steady himself and simply smashed the ball past the helpless Macleod.
By this stage Bradley Dickson was on the field and the Glen threatened to run riot ; that they did not was largely due to the work of Michael Stokes and Mark Macleod who both put in good shifts at buckshee back and wing centre respectively.
If “Jock’s” shot was a rocket, then “Panda’s” final goal jumped a time zone. In 75 minutes he found himself in the clear out from the penalty spot and drove home what in Balmacaan Road would be known as a rasper.
So here it is- quality seconds- and plenty young lads waiting to come in. The thing they need to do is train. Keep the nerve and put in the work and the Sutherland is a possibility. It is a pity about the Strathdearn but it would be good laugh to take the Sutherland away from Deke and the Divers

In the pic, Calum Jock demonstrates to Deke what real diving -not phoney , false diving -is all about. Now that's what the Wing Centre calls diving!

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