Monday, February 23, 2009

Glen Regain the Ali Ban

Strathglass 1 Glenurquhart 2
The years rolled away on Saturday and the oldest team in shinty took their own cup back to the Glen after a gritty performance in the Strath but sad to say the Wing Centre was not present at what was a tremendous display of geriatric sporting prowess. Why so?
The main reason for this was that the Under 17s were required to put on a performance in Drum against Jock Sneddon’s Fort William which meant that no youngsters under the age of 18 were permitted to play for manager Hendo’s travelling side and with the senior team due to have a practice match later in the day, it was a case of old hands to the pumps. The problem was that Stuart Morrison , Ian Macleod and Gary Smith were not available and with Ryan Brady, Drew Maclennan ,Calum Smith, Ross MacDiarmid, Ewan Menzies, Neale Reid , Bradley Dickson , Ben Hosie, Sam Cumming, Kelvin Mackenzie, Daniel Mackintosh, Cameron Maclennan Dael Macdonald-Haig and Ewan Brady having to turn out for the under 17s things were tight. Indeed so tight were they that El Presidente himself had to bear arms in the noble cause and when Hendo phoned up Gary Mac to ask to borrow his knee brace so that he could either wear it himself or give it to big Ron, the Achmony lad decided to do the decent thing and wield the caman himself.
Didn’t they do well? They surely did because, although the Strath managed to score one goal against Mr Emery (and fair play to them for doing that since not many can beat our Dave )the Glen retaliated with two –one from Davie Stewart and the other from David Smart.
What were the goals like? Davie Stewart got a not bad from the President when he was asked to describe it. And Chip’s goal? Now that was a goal - a real goal and thus with that Presidential seal of approval the cup came home. Which is why at the top of the page there is a snap of Dave and Steve with the trophy.
Meanwhile at Blairbeg, the Under 17s put up a fine show against the Fort, taking the lead before half time through Ross MacDiarmid who had an excellent game in the midfield. Truth to tell this was a sterling 90 minute display from a Glen side which had it all to do against a Fort William squad which contained about 7 players who have all had the occasional run out for the Fort’s top team. It might have suited the Glen to have started the game with Neale Reid at full centre instead of taking him on only in the second half by which time Fort had managed to equalise though to be fair it was only the sharp reflexes of Ryan Brady in goal that kept the scores level especially in the long second half. The Glen defence did well – Drew Maclennan at full back was outstanding and he was ably supported by Calum Smith, Ewan Menzies and young Sam Cumming who stuck to his task against a much older and heavier opponent. If the Glen were disappointing it was in their finishing though that having been said the Fort William defence were no slouches and were quick to close down Ben Hosie and Ewan Brady particularly late in the second half, when the presence of Neale Reid lent power to the centreline and more ball began to be hit up field. In the end, the game having gone to extra time it was the strength and experience of the Fort William side which saw them through but even then it took a lucky bounce and injuries to Calum Smith (hand) and Drew Maclennan (leg) to finally subdue the Glen. It was a sad end to a run which probably saw the best set of Glen youngsters coming together since Arran, Stuart Reid, Corky and Mike Fraser wore the black and red together in Ballachulish. Wouldn’t it be nice to see that photo again? The Wing Centre will hunt it out.
The practice match at Blairbeg turned out a draw:0-0.
Lessons to draw? Certainly the main one is that the Glen will need to score goals to survive in the Premier League and we won’t score them unless we try to hit more accurately. The match was a disappointment in as much as the Glen probably had more skilful approach work and neater possession but when it came to scoring goals they were every bit as woeful as the opposition. Andrew Corrigan had a chance within ten minutes but was hurried with his shot and the rest of the strikes which the lads had on goal only served to present Strath goalie Steven McLaughlin with the man of the match trophy, which perhaps is an oblique tribute to the Glen.
At the other end, Lee Bain missed from close range under pressure from the Musical Goalie but more importantly-and luckily for the Glen- Mark McLaughlin put past the post with no-one to beat, which one can only put down to his lack of match practice. The stalemate means however that Strath get to keep the Macdonald Cup which they last won in 2007 (2008 was never played)- and so the Wing Centre prints a picture of a Strath player with the Cup. Unfortunately such was the size that the Strath boys head had grown with the joy of victory that it would not fit in the picture. A shame but there you go.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Return of the Native

Glenurquhart 4 Boleskine 0
Iain Macleod has been a long time gone: in terms of experience and medals you could say he made the right move when he shifted his shinty playing talents over the hill .However all that is in the past – this past Saturday he was back in the black and red for the first time this century and you have also to say, with a goal in the 80th minute, it was a dream debut.
Macleod lined up in Manager Henderson’s youthful team – which for the record included a number of youngsters who had defeated Beauly under-17s that very morning (5-3 as it happens, with goals from Ben Hosie, Neale Reid and Ewan Brady) and played a well-nigh perfect part at full centre in a match which, though it turned out fine in the end did not always feel as if it would be a straight forward victory.
Of course the truth is you never know how friendlies are going to turn out but given that Boleskine are a one team club there was every chance that a side with too many youngsters might find itself in trouble. In recognition of this Hendo and new sidekick Glen legend Mike Cameron rostered a side which contained up to 6 subs so that in addition to old heads like Gary Smith and Davie Stewart , youth players like Ewan Brady, Ross MacDiarmid , Calum Smith and Ewan Menzies were wearing the black and red too. There were Glen call-offs too-Donald Fraser, Ross MacAulay and Calum Fraser were unavailable while Gary Mackintosh is recovering from knee surgery. Ian Macdonald too was absent and while his presence is a necessity for the bigger games, against Boleskine young Drew Maclennan stepped into the full back role like a veteran.
Boleskine too looked to be a little short up front and as such they never really threatened in the match and sadly missed a penalty. This now means that Dave Emery in goal has not been beaten by the last two penalties he faced, though this one, unlike the superb save at Ardnamurchan, was a shot that flew past the post.
With Graham Black and Matthew Ross in the back line, Boleskine, though they were short of firepower up front, were not easy to score against and it took up till 40 minutes of even play before Calum Miller opened the scoring for the Glen with a fine drive.
The second half saw some juggling of Glen players-Ewan Menzies came on at wing back and put in an extremely fine shift with nice long hitting up the line- and the new line up saw David Smart running in on goal in 50 minutes to put the Glen two up. A minute later it was disaster for the Boleskine keeper who otherwise had a fine afternoon when he palmed a long ball that was going past the post back in to the path of Glen front man Davie Stewart who gratefully accepted the gift.
The game then settled back into its default position with Glen pressure and Boleskine defending that at times was on the robust side of desperate as Glen forward Brad Dickson will doubtless testify. At the same time, the Glen forwards probably were guilty of overplaying the ball to some extent.
The Glen defenders however were on their toes and despite the concession of a penalty looked comfortable at the back with Euan Fraser in particularly fine form along with Maclennan, Menzies and the two Smiths, Calum and Gary.
The older heads were however concentrating on how well Mr Macleod was playing and despite the nature of the opposition they were not disappointed. Of course there will be quicker and more physically intense matches but Macleod’s sharp shinty brain was clear to all: he did most things without fuss, read the game and anticipated much and at all times was keen to move the ball wide. When circumstances called for the long hit, he hit it long. When the little slip was on, that is what he used.
The final polish to the afternoon’s performance was provided by the goal and the Wing Centre who is often accused of blethering rather than watching a match, observed the whole thing. It was a simple goal and deserves a simple description.
The Boleskine defence, under pressure as always, did not manage to get the ball out to that no man’s land between the buckshee back and the full centre. Macleod ran on to the ball, tussled with his opponent and fired a long ball forward which was too much for the keeper to deal with.
That goal signalled the end of the story and the urgency ebbed away from the game, helped, no doubt, by the bitterly cold wind that was blowing in, one can only assume, from Strathglass. Well maybe not, for after all Iain Macleod is a native of the Glen and the Wing Centre is certainly glad that he has decided to return.

Scottish Blogs