Hendo’s Heroes finally claim North Division 2 title.
Caberfeidh 3 Glenurquhart 4
A 79th minute goal from boy wonder Ewan Brady saw the Glen finally clinch the North Division 2 title after a tense afternoon at Castle Leod. The result came as more of a relief than as a fitting climax to the season and for long periods in the match the mood among the Glen spectators tended towards the pessimistic. The fear was real that the side would have to travel to Invergarry to clinch the title in the last game of the season if they were going to win it at all. Given recent shenanigans of a grass-like nature down in the other Glen, a trip there with winning intentions was not a happy prospect.
Now of course it does not matter- indeed playing the game at all has no point- and the Wing Centre will not even bother to go no matter when it is scheduled.
However, after the disappointment of last weekend’s 3-2 home defeat to Newtonmore the Glen side started their afternoon in the Strath in a tense mood and the early exchanges were marked by Cabers confidence in moving forward mixed with that all too characteristic Glen ineptitude in front of goal. Cabers pitch-for all that it is the Laird’s lawn- is soft and heavy. It demands a simplified type of hitting shinty which has traditionally suited Glen teams: however in recent outings the Glen have tended to play a passing game. Castle Leod on a wet October afternoon was not the place to retain that style but given that it had been so successful earlier in the season on dry pitches it was not a surprise that it tended to be the Glen’s default game. That it was the wrong game was proved in 22 minutes when Stewart Kryzanowski was sent through on the left and hammered the ball home with the Glen defence caught by surprise.
It was not however that the Glen were playing badly-indeed they had the edge in midfield where a bold decision by Managers Henderson and Cameron to play Ewan Brady at wing centre proved to be inspired. Brady quite simply had his most effective afternoon ever in the red and black jersey and he pumped ball after ball up the line. In the centre the team were driven on by Iain Macleod whose fighting spirit and determination began to enthuse the squad. The first Glen goal came in 29 minutes when Calum Fraser squeezed the ball over the line despite a series of heroic attempts to prevent a goal by Cabers keeper Donald Mellis A few minutes later Fraser doubled the score with a fine strike from the edge of the D and the points looked in the bag when he completed his hat trick in the 43rd minute.
3-1 just before half time: at that point it looked as though there would be an opportunity to congratulate the Cabers faithful on their massive new pavilion and generally shoot the breeze with Stewart Maclennan, Davie MacMaster, Robbie Taylor and the rest of the guys. The building which is going to replace the old green shed looks large enough to be a fair alternative to the Strath Ballroom itself and is sure to be a source of pride not only to Cabers but to shinty as a whole. Well done to them for taking the project on – along with the Strath Highland Games. (How daft were the toffs in the Cricket Club for not coming in on the deal?)
But just as the Wing Centre was looking forward to a half time blether and a dram from the hip flask with his fellow Drummers, disaster struck big time. Left wing back Calum Smith slipped on a muddy patch and the ball was flicked past Iain Macdonald at fullback and on to Cabers full forward Alan Ross who fired a beauty high into the net with no backswing. It was an excellent strike but coming just as it did before the halftime whistle blew it deflated the Glen contingent and made a clear statement that Cabers were going to pose serious problems in the second half.
Glen started the second half in fairly good fettle and for the first 20 or so minutes had the clear upper hand. Balls were fired into the Cabers defence – one decent strike brought a super save out of Mellis- but the finishing was just simply off. It did look, however, as though there just might be enough of a head of steam to see the Glen safely over the finishing line.
Cabers though had not given up and gradually it seemed as though they were coming back into the match largely thanks to the power of their own full centre Ian Macdonald who continued to bang the ball up from the middle of the centreline where too many Glen clearances seemed to drop.
With that amount of pressure something had to give and in the end to Glen frustration a penalty was awarded for hand ball against full back Macdonald. Was it a penalty? Ref Deke Cameron thought so- so did the goal judge. The Wing Centre? Blethering- he did not see it- but he did see two other incidents which could have equally been pens- a bit of footwork at one point by the Glen keeper which could have been called and some impeding of a Cabers forward by the Glen defence as the ball broke into the clear in front of goals- so the pen wasn’t entirely a surprise.
Ian Macdonald (Cabers) battered the ball- Dave Emery got some feet to it but could not prevent it crossing the line and so in 65 minutes the game was tied at 3-3 - and if the truth be told Cabers were in the ascendancy.
The last stages of the match were played in a nail biting frenzy. The Glen defence-the two Smiths, Donald Fraser and “Hilltopper” Macdonald began to put their clubs through the ball as if they had been born and bred in the Strath. Young Calum Smith and Donald Fraser both showed they had the guts it takes to dig in while Ian Macleod was inspirational in rallying the troops and keeping them going when the temptation was to hold on and wait for the ‘Garry match.
Supremos Hendo and big Mike Cameron also had a part to play with two brave substitutions which tilted the game in favour of the Glen. On came Arran Macdonald to add hitting power to the centreline and young Brady was pitched into the front line as the red and blacks strove frantically to get a winner-some winner-any winner. Youngster Ewan Menzies also came on the left wing and added some new pace to that flank. On at least two occasions he fired accurate balls in on keeper Mellis and with luck something better should have been made of the rebounds. There were also several occasions however when it was possible the Cabers lads would make the break through but then in 79 minutes Ewan Brady hit a ball which took a deflection and skipped past Cabers keeper Donald Mellis for what proved to be the winning goal.
Ten scary minutes followed before Deke blew the whistle and the snap which adorns this report could be taken. A satisfying end to the season for both the Glen and the Camanachd Association. Congratulations to all-but come on guys-it should never have been this hard.
The Camanachd Association? With a bound they are free – bet Astie pretends not to know why. At least he didn’t turn up at the Strath with the trophy and put the buidseachd on us. We can do that all on our own.
One last thing -with Xmas on its way- you can pick up all your Glen merchandise by pasting this link here into your browser.