Thursday, April 08, 2010

Kings look like they’re commoners once again.

Glenurquhart 2 Kingussie 3
At moments of great change it is always instructive to look back and try to learn the lessons of history. Not that learning the lessons of history is always to everyone’s taste- even although few would attempt to go as far as Henry Ford and claim the whole subject is bunk. For the Wing Centre the enduring truth of the great indigenous sport is to be found between the covers of a very slim pamphlet indeed. First published in 1939 by the Schools Camanachd Association in the guise of a “Handbook of Hints on Playing Shinty “the 56 page paperback contains many truths about the game which bear repeating.
It may have been a co-incidence that the Schools Camanachd Association brought out the work in the year when the safekeeping of the game passed for six years out of the hands of adults and into those of school kids but co-incidence or not, the modern player ignores these simple truths of the game at his peril.
For instance take the following: “You may let the ball past you and you may let the forward past, but be very careful not to let the ball and forward past you” This seeming invitation to a body-check is to be found on page 20 but properly interpreted it is simply good advice for defenders though in the Wing Centre’s youth it used to be interpreted more loosely by Sir Gerry and the rest of the Beauly defenders.
Let’s apply this aphorism to Saturday for instance and the Glen’s opening goal in 6 mins is quickly explained. Dave Maclennan takes the corner on the left and Ally Macleod of Kingussie (who would have believed it?) lets the ball and the player go past him and said player, Billy Urquhart , first times the shot into the net.
The game continued for the next little while with Glen in the driving seat though gradually Kingussie began to pick up more of the play. At buckshee for Kingussie James Hutchison controlled the defence and set the tone for the game and he was helped there by Greg Macrae, Ali Macleod and full back Gary Munro. The same strict control was also evident in the Glen defence where all four defenders- and at times keeper Stuart Mackintosh performed excellently. Drew Maclennan caught the eye with his excellent blocking and good anticipation. If there was a note of caution to be injected into the proceedings it came from the fact that percentage-wise the Glen centreline began to lose out and the ball did not stick there or move up field as often as it was doing on the Kingussie side. That having been said, John Barr at full back had an outstanding game against Ronald Ross and his physical pressure was so much that Ronald was forced at times to hunt for the ball deep into his own half.
The second half was a bit of a similar story but none of the Kingussie pressure ever looked as if it was going to cause the Glen any trouble until in 55 minutes Ronald Ross suddenly scored. The goal came via a set piece-but more interestingly it shows Ronald in two lights-the Villain and the Genius.
As the ball dropped into the Glen defence Ronald the Villain was one on one with John Barr. He barged John aside with a high elbow. A foul? Definitely yes but missed probably because it might be thought that a big powerful lad like John cannot be fouled by being pushed before the ball comes-though the rules actually say otherwise. Then Ronald the Genius-he has a split second free and as the ball is dropping over his shoulder he guides it first time into the net. No big swing –simply wrist and timing and Kingussie are back in a game that no one else looked like saving for them.
Any lessons from history? Not sure that the School’s Camanachd handbook deals with this but certainly John Barr will never get any of these fouls from any ref that the Wing Centre has seen -ever. A season ago Newtonmore’s Danny Macrae barged him aside and battered home a goal and that is simply the way of the shinty world.
Lee Bain put Kingussie into a 2-1 lead with a shot which took a deflection past Stuart Mackintosh though he probably should not have been left free to hit it and then Neale Reid equalised with a well worked goal. Coming in off the left hand side, he twisted and turned before firing a low left handed drive past Kingussie keeper Andrew Borthwick.
At 2-2 the Glen were every bit in the game until Ross stepped up to be counted once again. A high ball comes over , he pulls it down and with an outstretched arm and flick of the wrist he makes it 3-2 showing that he had carefully read the Schools Camanachd Handbook at some point especially page 33 where the words of wisdom given are “ not try to burst the net with your shot. Strike with a “jab “ or “flick” shot and your opponent cannot hook your stick” The time on the clock was 82 minutes.
Glen had the ball in the Kingussie net one more time via Neale Reid but this was ruled off by the ref because he judged the Reid had his foot off the ground as he stopped it. Whether that could have been disputed or not there is no doubt that the ref blew the whistle right away and certainly before the ball went in the net- and so he could not have let the goal stand.
So there it is – Glen out of the MacTavish but reasonably optimistic. The defence was superb: the other sections of the team less so and whatever else we do, we need to score more goals.
Kingussie? A reasonably good team no doubt –Ronald Ross still gives them a dimension that other sides do not have: no doubt he will continue to do so for the rest of the season. They are no longer Monarchs in their own Glen or anybody else’s for that matter.
How will they fare over the season? They may well win something but if Scott Don was still taking odds in Inverness you would want to bet on Newtonmore and Fort William for the big trophies- and that is without seeing Kyles or Inveraray as yet.
Pictures? Who wants to see another snap of Ronald with his hands in the air?
However a final thought from the Handbook is worth treasuring. “We believe that a boy who has learned to play a good hard clean game of shinty is better prepared to take part in the rough and tumble of life than the boy who has not”
Apart from the rather dated sexism of the language, that sentiment has much to commend it.

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