Friday, August 22, 2008

Shock! Horror! WHFP claims Glenurquhart well worth their victory

Kinlochshiel 2 Glenurquhart 4
The forecast was wrong . It was supposed to rain all morning and then pour all afternoon : it didn’t, though perhaps the Shiel faithful could feel it gently raining in their hearts for the duration. The result was certainly right as far as it went. The truth is that the Glen on their first half performance simply overwhelmed Kinlochshiel and a score of five clear goals in front should have been the minimum expectation by half time. It wasn‘t though there was a fair shout for a penalty in 43 minutes when Shiel keeper Kennedy appeared to Glen eyes to smother the ball on the ground but the call wasn’t given and the first half came to an end with Shiel facing a severe uphill struggle to salvage some self respect after a nightmare first half for their defence.
It was a game however that the Wing Centre and the former manager were a bit unsure about as they travelled up Glen Moriston and over Cluanie to the land of hearts desire. It is beautiful in the west but with five players missing from the squad the omens were not good. Paul Mackintosh, Billy Urquhart and Arran Macdonald were sidelined with muscle pulls while Davie Girvan and Gregor McCormack were unavailable. With Iain Macdonald pulled in at fullback to hold the back line the management looked at the thick Shiel grass and the slope with the wires running across the field. This was no park on which to run the ball but, defying all logic as usual, the Glen forwards ran it to great effect. They posted their intentions right from the throw up where a ball was quickly pushed forward to Neale Reid whose snap shot was saved by an alert keeper Kennedy with his feet. Andrew Corrigan then fired a shot on goal only to see it float past the post. The opener however was not long in coming. Calum Miller found himself in a tussle with full back Paul Macrae out on the left, with the big Shiel man having come off the sawdust. Miller pushed Macrae off the ball and slipped it to Neale Reid who fed Lewis Maclennan. Maclennan worked the ball back across the face of goal where Andrew Corrigan was on hand to stick it home for a stylish opener.
Five minutes later and with a desperate Shiel defence conceding a number of free hits outside the D, the ball was worked back to Lewis Maclennan who rocketed home a trademark drive with keeper Kennedy helpless. Shiel settled for a bit but still struggled to cross the centreline where Eddie Tembo, Ally Mackintosh and an uncompromising Dave “Dixon” Maclennan had a tight grip of matters. Steven Callender and Finlay Macrae are fine players but under this sort of relentless Glen pressure they struggled to make progress.
Up at the road end the Glen pressed continuously and Lewis Maclennan was unlucky to see two strikes flash past the Shiel post. Then in 27 minutes the Glen struck once more. “Dixon” Maclennan grabbed the ball in midfield from Finlay Macrae and fired it forward where Calum Miller threw off Macrae’s challenge and fired the ball into the net to put the Glen three up.
The next goal followed soon after, again showing skilful improvised forward play from the front men. Neale Reid played the ball up to Miller who once more held Macrae at bay before slipping the ball to Lewis Maclennan who made no mistake with another clinical strike.
An injury to Ally Mackintosh at this point upset the Glen’s rhythm and when the injury proved serious enough for the youngster to leave the field then the Glen had to revamp their approach. Ewan Fraser came on against Shiel’s internationalist Gordy Macdonald in the centreline and for the remainder of the half had the upper hand.
A few minutes before half time there was a strong shout for a penalty after it seemed that goalkeeper Kennedy had fallen on the ball and smothered it at his left hand post. The claim was dismissed however and the Glen went in for the jaffa cakes and camembert a little less than fully satisfied.
From a Glen point of view the second half was an anti climax. The injury and the reshuffling caused the Red and Blacks to lose their momentum a little and while they had a number of forays to the bottom goal , the finishing was not as sharp as it had been in the first period.
With much of the play in this half being confined to the middle of the park with occasional attempts to venture forward, the game lost some of its compulsion though Neil Fraser showed that he is his father’s son with two well taken goals with more or less his only two hits at goal. There is one thing you can say about Fraser - he appears a true shinty predator inside the D and if Shiel could give him more service on the deck and earlier then their goals for tally would be greater. To the disappointment of their fans however, too often they were tempted into trying hopeful drives from distance which flew high and wide. The only note of discord came late in the half when Lewis Maclennan and Gordy Macdonald became involved in a tangle for the ball which ended in both players being booked. Also into the book went Scott Maclean for getting involved. The foul went with the Glen but with Shiel almost finished their fixtures the cardings don’t matter for them. However, for Maclennan with a serious number of games to be completed before the end of the season, these five points on his shinty licence could be a problem. Let’s hope not.
In the end, Glen will feel that they annihilated Shiel : in the record books it won’t look like that. It will show up as 4-2 - no more no less. But then you can’t believe everything you read in books or in the papers - though for the WHFP this week there should be an honourable mention despite the uncharacteristically tiny report on the game.
Anyway here is a picture of the Boss. He is well pleased - no wonder.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Corky Pops in a Brace for Glen

Lochcarron 0 Glenurquhart 3
Early days yet and it will continue in this vein until shinty’s fat lady gets her voice in full tune for the end of the season-but so far, so good in the Glen’s bid to amass more points than their rivals in North Division 1. This game was a more impressive performance by the Glen than the score tends to suggest and it is fair to say that, despite the return of Gregor Cushnie and Peter Mackenzie to the Lochcarron forward line the Battery Park side were less impressive than they had been in the earlier fixture at Blairbeg. Certainly they were missing Darren Coyle and Ross Matheson was suspended (that’s the trouble when you take in these boys from South West Ross; you need Macraes to control them) but then the Glen had Arran Macdonald , Paul Mackintosh and Billy Urquhart on the sidelines so it cuts both ways in the competitive world of senior shinty.
Shinty would not be shinty if there were no hitches and both teams arrived at a very wet Lochcarron pitch to find that scheduled referee John MacPhee was not available and a substitute whistler had to be agreed on with the blessing of both clubs. Local ref. Kenny Murray agreed to officiate and the match got under way in less than clement conditions. It was clear from the outset that Lochcarron, who had lost the services of manager Fraser Mackenzie the previous weekend were going to be competitive but that the Glen defence with both Stuart Reid and Dave Girvan in uncompromising form as wing backs were going to give them little scope in front of goal. What tipped the balance in the Glen’s favour was their midfield trio of Eddie Tembo, Ally Mackintosh and the superb Dave “Dixon” Maclennan at full centre. “Dixon” was player of the match for the Wing Centre’s money in that he was always on his toes , quick to the tackle and excellent in his moving of the ball up to the front men and his close attention to the ball put Lochcarron’s Michael Cooper-a fine player in his own right-on the back foot for most of the match.
The first goal which came in 22 minutes was an excellent one. A Lochcarron attacking move had fizzled out leaving the ball to run back to Glen keeper Stuart Mackintosh who drove the ball up field to Andrew Corrigan who fed Lewis Maclennan . Maclennan cleverly switched play wide left to Neale Reid who burst away from marker Angus Mackay and touched the ball inside to Corrigan who had continued his run and was on hand to tap the ball past keeper Michael MacMillan into the net for the opener.
The Glen management at this stage made a tactical switch which probably enough on its own to seal the game. Despite the early success and the fact that young Reid at left wing was getting his share of ball away from the excellent Angus Mackay, the decision was made to switch Reid in against veteran full back Alan Mackenzie where the youngsters speed would be at its most telling and the move rapidly paid off. Ally Mackintosh at wing centre played a ball in and in the defensive scramble Reid outpaced Mackenzie and tapped the ball into the net from close range. An excellent goal but the only concern for the Glen faithful was the fact that the Red -and-Blacks continued to create a series of easier chances which they scorned to take. Reid beat four men in a row on one occasion but failed to strike the net while Corrigan and Lewis Maclennan had other opportunities but fired their shots wide. Keeper Macmillan too had his part to play in thwarting the Glen when he tipped a trademark drive from distance from Lewis Maclennan over the bar in 38 minutes.
The game however was effectively sealed in 50 minutes when Reid raced on to a ball pushed up the line from Mackintosh. He pushed the ball across to Gregor McCormack who fed it back into the path of Corrigan who finished with a clinical strike from all of 20 yards. For the remainder of the match the Glen pressed on the Lochcarron goal , looking at times as if they were going to sweep the men in blue jerseys into the sea- but despite a number of chances-some more clear cut than others there were no further goals. Substitutes Calum Miller and Calum Fraser also took part in the rout but despite some nice opportunities, the Glen could not convert their dominance to goals. At the other end Lochcarron attempts to redress the balance were sporadic though Peter Mackenzie , who had always remained competitive throughout came close to scoring with a first time drive after having moved up to the sawdust for a spell. Stuart Mackintosh was quick to block the attempt with his club and the fight back was effectively over before it could begin.
The Glen now move on to the most important few weeks of their season with serious games against Sheil and Kilmallie still to come- so no real pressure then. The photo shows just how much pressure the Glenners feel. Snapped at Blairbeg though : too wet for pics in Lochcarron

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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