Sunday, September 26, 2010

Former Glen School Shinty Player turns in Top Performance in Camanachd Final

It has taken a long time since 1988 but finally -if you pardon the pun -another lad who came through Glen Urquhart High School’s Shinty Academy has made it to the big stage and performed well. This thought came to the Wing Centre as he sat in the stand at the Bught and watched what was an excellent display from Kingussie full back Lee Bain in Shinty’s biggest match of the year.
Camanachd Cups and indeed Camanachd medals are not ten a penny in the Glens on the warm side of Loch Ness. Before ’88, Davie Thow who picked one up with Lovat in ‘53 and the legendary Jimmy Burnett who captained Kilmallie to their ‘64 triumph were the only chaps in the whole of Glenland who had made an appearance in a Camanachd final. Then there was ’88 and all that- but since then despite a whole heap of Glenners who have made international squads at various levels there has been nothing. Nothing that is until former Glen Urquhart School player Mr Bain made it to the big time with Kingussie.
How he got there is a bit of a story - as was detailed in a recent article in the Scotsman by Kenneth Stephen. When he left Glen Urquhart High School, Lee became a gamekeeper and in the course of his training through North Highland College he picked up a two year placement in Pitmain Estate near Kingussie. There he came into contact with head keeper Graeme Mabon assistant manager of Kingussie second string.
Whist there, Lee continued to play in North Division 1 but when his job at Pitmain became a permanent one, he decided to attempt to move clubs. On Mabon’s advice he wrote to the Kingussie club stating that he was now living and working in Kingussie and on the strength of that letter, was accepted and the rest is rapidly becoming history. After starting the season as an outsider carrying an injury , he recovered to clinch a place in the top team and has given assured performances in all three cup finals he has played in this season. A win over Kilmallie in the MacTavish was followed by victory over Fort William in the MacAulay Cup and in the Camanachd final he kept the hems on big James Clark so effectively that it can only have been that glorious last minute strike from Gary Innes that prised the Albert Smith medal from his grasp.
How well did he do? Pretty well if this unbiased observer is anything to go by. Kingussie were rather unlucky not to hit more goals in the second half but Bain’s ability to block Clark and more importantly to nip in front of him to smother Fort attacks kept King’s in the game when they were under first half pressure. The other feature that impressed was his ability to clear the ball for distance when he got the chance of a free swing: we’d seen him do it in the MacAulay and the MacTavish but the Camanachd certainly confirmed that he was a player whose time has come.
For all that he is a nice lad and deserves every success. Last year he lost his twin brother Scott in a road accident -but his displays this season have showed a grit and determination that all in the shinty world admire.
Will he continue to play for Kingussie? He most probably will but if he returns to the sunny side of Loch Ness to guard Lord Burton’s pheasants then he is always welcome to write a letter to the Glen.
It will most probably be accepted.
Two pictures to note. Lee with the MacAulay Cup and - what else- playing against the Glen. Thanks to Kenneth Stephen at Heartland Media for the first and to Neil Paterson ( the second.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Just another Saturday

A perfect Highland Saturday : the Free Church Coffee Morning followed by the Camanachd Final at the Bught Park- and all the better because of the soft Highland rain which didn’t let up for a minute . Whateffer! The afternoon was a perfect one-drive into the Bught; follow the directions of Big George Campbell and Malcolm Fraser; on past Davie Glass up to Stevie Munro who directed the parking of the Glenmobile as if he was bringing a Jumbo jet into a landing bay.
Then pick up the tickets, and off to the stand- and because the Glen are not on duty the next 90+ minutes are spent jotting down some jumbled notes on the big game . Here it comes.

Fort makes it Four in a Row-Just

“A last minute goal from man of the match Gary Innes saw Fort William lift the Camanachd Cup for the fourth time in a row- edging out a disappointing Kingussie side by 3 goals to 2. In the end Fort just about deserved the win though judged on their second half performance they would have had little to complain about if, when ref Billy Wotherspoon blew his final whistle, the cup had been on its way down the A9 to Badenoch instead of the A82.
Kingussie have won shinty’s premier trophy 22 times, the last occasion being in Dunoon in 2006 when Fort William were their victims, but on the slippy Bught surface they failed to impose themselves on an understated game which was crying out for a big personality to step forward and make a difference to the pattern of the play. Usually you can rely on Ronald Ross to provide such an injection of energy and power: after all he has already scored 56 goals this season- but this Saturday out of all possible shinty Saturdays it wasn’t quite Ronald’s day.
Indeed so closely shackled was he, with two Fort William defenders deputed to dog his footsteps that it wasn’t until 18 minutes were up on the clock that he got away his first shot of the day, a nice piece of opportunist striking from a chance he created himself but it bumped harmlessly past the right hand post of Fort keeper Paul Mackay.
By that stage Fort William were already in the lead having moved ahead thanks to a Gary Innes strike in 15 when he blasted the ball home from just outside the D having picked up the slip ball from free hit. James Clark might have made it two for the Fort a few minutes later but under severe pressure from defender Lee Bain, who put up an outstanding defensive display, he spurned the chance and Kingussie began to come into the game. Part of this was due to the fact that with Liam Macintyre and Addie Robertson hovering within Ross’s immediate environs, Kingussie’s Barrie Dallas was left virtually unmarked in the middle of the field and he began to feed up ball to the front men. The problem was that apart from Ross up on the D, the other forwards, cousins Thomas and Ryan Borthwick were unable to physically power their way through the Fort defence. The wet grass too played its part slowing down the ground passes and making the ball heavier- and when push came to clash some of the Fort defensive tackling in the first half had an admonitory edge about it.
For all that the tackling was hard, the game was played in good spirit and referee Wotherspoon had little to do in the earlier stages although Fort William’s John Macdonald did have to go into the book after a high swing at Kingussie‘s Paul Gow.
At the other end Innes was the man on form and in quick succession had a shot saved by Andrew Borthwick and then having muscled Ricky Grant out of the way he fired a shot just wide. At the half hour mark Ross began to drift deep off the dust to hunt out balls that were being denied to him up front. In 36 minutes he picked up a ball from Dallas drove straight at the Fort William defence and fired the ball out wide to Thomas Borthwick who found himself unmarked at the back post, the youngster had just enough space to squeeze off a shot but with the ball net-bound, Fort Keeper Paul Mackay turned it past the post.
Two minutes later Ross picked out Ryan Borthwick with a neat ball but the youngster failed to convert the chance. Then with Kingussie pushing strongly for what seemed the inevitable equaliser, some slackness crept in at the back which allowed Fort William’s Bryan Simpson, playing with his hand in a protective cast, to pounce on a through ball from Innes and finish emphatically from close range.
The loss of a second goal stung Kingussie into more co-ordinated action and finally Barrie Dallas’s unmarked situation paid dividends when he placed a long diagonal ball into the D and Ross, having reverted to his front role, was on hand to finish the move with a precise flick past Mackay to make the score 2-1 at halftime.
Kingussie continued their assault on the Fort defence after the turn around but somehow their attacks seemed not to get the break of the ball. When Paul Gow juggled the ball through a ruck of players the crowd rose in anticipation, but his flick sailed over the bar. Then Ross drifted out, and fired a shot on the turn only see it fly back off the post a feat that Thomas Borthwick replicated shortly afterwards. Kings continued to string the passes together and in the move of the match Fraser Munro slipped a ball to Gow who fed Dallas on the right but the shot was blazed wide. Fort momentarily reversed the situation when a long free hit out of midfield by John Macdonald was picked up by Gordy Mackinnon but his shot went high over the bar.
At the other end Ross was still on the prowl bringing down the unprotected Neil Robertson with a fierce swing, hitting a slip from a free hit over the bar then having a dink at goal once more saved by Mackay who was belying his inexperience with a solid performance between the Fort sticks. Kingussie then stuck on James Maclean in the centreline and moved Fraser Munro up front in an effort to make their pressure count which it finally did in the 75th minute when Ross in his unaccustomed role as provided released Thomas Borthwick at the back post and he blasted the ball past Mackay for the equaliser.
With a mere 9 minutes left on the clock veteran Rory Fraser came on in the back line to replace Ricky Grant who was beginning to find Mackinnon troublesome while James Clark who had been well marshalled by Bain was also withdrawn to be replaced by Victor Smith. It was still anybody’s game – and when Paul Gow made another lung bursting run up on the Fort backline he deserved better that to be brought down by Addie Robertson just outside the D.
Robertson went into the book but the resulting foul came to nothing and the ball rapidly returned to the other end where King’s keeper Borthwick had to concede a corner.
From the set piece Fort William managed to work the ball to Innes who got some space free on the right, held his balance under pressure and drove the ball home for the winning goal.”

Then there was singing and dancing, Gary Innes picked up the Albert Smith medal for the second time and James Clark brought a baby out from under his shirt to put in the photo.
And the Wing Centre? He is now a Kingussie supporter – after all his daughter married one of the Masons from Ardbroilach road, - and now that Kings are the underdogs, the traditional position of Glenners everywhere, he feels he can support them at least until they start winning again.

Enjoy the pics. The opener is obvious. A nice one of Scotland Manager Drew MacNeil- but boy was he cold what with scarf and earmuffs and everything!

And Bobo? The only man from the Glen to get a medal on Camanachd Cup day.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Glen get it Smack on against Bute- and in the Strathdearn as well!

It could have been a day to forget- but in the end it was a night to remember. Or rather bits of were. Walking up the bumpy path from Lewiston to Balmacaan Road with the base of the Strathdearn in a coop bag along with a modest “cairry-oot”, the Wing Centre uncharacteristically mused on what actually had been, rather than his more natural subject of “what might have been.”
What actually had been was a win against Bute in a game where a loss or a draw would have left the side wondering what might happen in games yet to be played by other less trustworthy sides: as it was the two home points took the Glen clear of the relegation zone and up ahead of Lovat on goal difference. It set the seal on a season which saw Glen perform in an uneven manner throughout the season discarding points that really should have been gathered in and losing out on at least one occasion to a freaky goal.
Saturday saw a comfortable win - and it could have been more -but at the back of the Wing Centre’s mellow mind was the fact that Smack had saved the day by stopping two penalties-one from Hector Whitelaw in the first half and another from Roberto Zavaroni in the second. Though that was balanced by a save from Bute’s Kevin Queen of a Glen penalty by Neale Reid. It was that tight.
The 1 pm start did catch some of the lazier Glenners having a late Saturday lie in but when Duncan Kelly threw the ball to start the action it was clear it was going to take both sides a while to settle. The opening encounters were nervy and not much worthy of record occurred until the 8th minute when Eddie Tembo fired in a rasper which was excellently saved by Bute’s keeper Queen. At the other end Bute had some pressure but nothing direct on goal until the penalty was awarded. Whitelaw struck his shot firmly enough but Smack was equal to the stop and more importantly killed the danger by firing the ball out over the bowling green for a shy.
That’s how you can tell the class of a keeper: it comes down to the way he clears his lines. Every premier keeper is a good shot stopper- the measurable difference comes in how they deal with the balls they stop. In this respect Smack had a superb afternoon: all these nasty little bouncy shots around the D with forwards following them up - and let’s face it shinty doesn’t do many forwards bigger than Hector Whitelaw unless you count Danny Macrae-were tucked by or volleyed wide despite the fact that the Glen keeper knew the incoming forwards were going to hit him anyway. He couldn’t afford an error: he simply didn’t make one.
The game swung from end to end until the 32 minute when Calum Miller playing well at full forward pulled in a ball tight to himself and slipped it left to Eddie Tembo who found the net with a nice strike. Bute were not to be outdone and with James Craig pushing them on at centre then mounted a series of attacks on the Glen goal none of which came to anything more serious than a number of corners. Glen then missed a penalty and Bute, heartened, upped their efforts. However, the Glen defence marshalled by Stuart Reid, who had an excellent afternoon against Hector Whitelaw, kept the Islanders at bay and the Wing Centre for one was relieved to hear the half time whistle while trying not to find a ball in the grass after it had been fired out into Sandy Whyte’s field for a corner.
Glen started the second half well and almost immediately after the restart Calum Miller had made it 2-0. “Game over,” thought the Wing Centre. “What we have we hold. Pull John Barr back to buckshee, concentrate on hammering the ball up long and not letting them through.”
But before these negative, Rangers-like thoughts were fully formed in the Wing Centre’s brain (if he possesses such an organ and there are those in relationships with him who contend that he doesn’t) Bute’s Robert Walker had won a ball on the right and finished excellently to make it 2-1.
Then Bute had their penalty saved , then Calum Miller had a sharp shot saved by Queen , and the game flowed on from end to end until in the 81st minute the unfortunate Bute defender Ian Macdonald, under pressure, directed the ball past his own keeper to make it 3-1. That was really it-though Paul “Mac” Mackintosh came on for the last two minutes to help run down the clock.
Apart from Smack, Stuart Reid, David Maclennan and Andrew Corrigan were top drawer though everyone played their part. As for Bute, they are a good side and it has to be said extremely sporting in a contest when with so much at stake, the temptation to swing the stick must have been strong. They must be reflecting however on the bitter truth that losing 4 points to the Glen in the one season is no way to safeguard Premier status.

And so it was a happy throng in red and black who went over Culnakirk to Prioryville. The thing was that when we got there we found the pitch going the wrong way-how the houses on the up side let that happen is hard to explain-and we had to park on the pavement. Then we found there wasn’t a programme- how were we to know who we were playing?

Truthfully there is little to say about this game except that both sides will agree that they did not play as well as they did in the Sutherland. Perhaps it was the earlier rain or perhaps the Beauly grass held up the ball but the wee flicks and touches which both sides pulled off at the Eilean were all but impossible at Braeview. Both sides were a player or two short but perhaps both sides were truer to the spirit of the whole campaign in their selections in which the kids predominated.
Lovat opened strongly and gave the Glen a few hairy moments at the start and racked up two or three corners all in a row while at the other end Kelvin Mackenzie managed to force a ball over the line but the goal was disallowed for offside. Then Glen’s Ruaraidh Cameron shot over the bar while up at the houses end Lovat’s Greg Matheson had the ball in the net- but only after the ref had already blown for an infringement.
Glen began to come into it here and with Ewan Brady switching to full centre after a lacklustre start on the wing the Glen began to fire on a few more cylinders. This in fact quickly paid off when after some neat interplay Kelvin Mackenzie ran in on goal in 35 minutes and, meeting a cross from the left from Ewan Menzies, flicked the ball past Chris MacCallum in the Lovat goal.
The second half saw the introduction of Ewan “Boo-Boo” Fraser initially at wing forward and pressure mounted somewhat on the Lovat goal and in 60 minutes a long high shot from Kelvin Mackenzie deceived Lovat keeper Chris MacCallum and crept over the line. You had to feel for the youngster but when you reflect that he won his club the Sutherland, then you cannot be too hard on him. Anyway the men in black and white had plenty time to get back in the match but they didn’t. At this point the Wing Centre went away to his car to phone Astie to see how the other matches were going, then he went off down to Beauly Square to have a look in Jock’s window knowing the man himself-freshly unbanned- was at the match. You can’t go when he is there in case he thinks you’re going to buy something- and you would be left with feelings of guilt if you didn’t.
Anyway when the Wing Centre returned to the field of battle, Glen were in defensive mode. “Boo Boo “ had been hauled back and along with fellow defenders Ian Macdonald, Donald Fraser , Ian Macleod , Gary Smith and Mackintosh the Shopkeeper were taking absolutely no black and white prisoners.
In fact the Wing Centre spent the last ten minutes blethering in a state of calm confidence with Ronnie Milligan, Coke Macdonald and Martin Maclean about life and shinty while they seemed to hint he should be worried. Not a bit of it: he came across as the coolest guy in Cooltown. The simple fact is that he was blissfully unaware that 5 minutes after Kelvin’s second goal, Greg Matheson had pulled one back and Lovat were in fact pushing for an equaliser. The two goal cushion did not exist except as a piece of misknowledge in the Wing Centre’s head.
In the end- well the Glen’s name is going on the Strathdearn 2010. Though it has to be said that while the 1962, 1972, 1977 numbers are on the old silver cup-there is no sign of 2002.
Still there’s a whole year to sort that out and meanwhile the club cat now has a new bowl from which to drink its milk.
Anyway, then we went to the Loch Ness Inn, then we went home-then we were sick.
Enjoy the pics.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

It's Shinty's Super-Saturday

Not much to say- that’s the buzz from the Wing Centre about last week’s trip to Kyles. The depleted side did fine for a half and then lost a pile of goals at the end when the guys-particularly the young ones- ran out of steam. Still well done to those who travelled and out of the experience Stuart Reid and young Calum Smith emerge with credit as did Lewis Maclennan who always seems to thrive way out west. The crack on the bus-which we paid up front for the first time in ages- was seemingly good and Dave Emery in goals played well enough in the opening phase for Jimmac to mistake him for Smack! Where did that come from? Should have gone to specsavers, James. If he had mixed him up with the “shopkeeper” then perhaps one could have understood that. The only piece of controversy came with the announcement in the local press that the Glen had as an act of desperation brought on to the field of play “59 year old manager Jim Barr.” Apparently he is not 59: he is in fact 60. Fine. Let it go.
No way is the score being recorded here but if a Kyles poet is able to send some verses up in praise of the victorious Kyles the Wing Centre will not only publish them here but smugly justify the inclusion on the grounds that thereby is a folk art preserved and that however hard it is to read, higher goals are being served in a manner of speaking.
Tomorrow we play Bute. A point is required to stave off the R word. We also play Lovat in the Strathdearn: last time we played them in a final their keeper Chris MacCallum played OK-suppose. All true Glenners will be praying for rain tomorrow at 4pm. Almost enough said except to add that the Wing Centre would rather that both games were won in the wet or not as the case may be. Truly it will seriously be shinty’s super Saturday-in the Glen at least.
The very thought of wetness caused the Wing Centre to meditate upon rain particularly of the west coast variety- the sort that shouldn’t wet you but always does. You know the drizzling, moisture-laden tidal fliuch that inundates shinty fields between Lochbroom and Bute but stops at Drum, Balgate, Castle Leod and Braeview. And lo into his hands came a Beauly inspired cartoon referring to goodness knows what.
Here you can see it but goodness knows what the Beaulacs mean by it.

Clearly Murph is implicated and one assumes the venue is way out west where the hills are all high and the cattle all low. Not only that but the suggestion is that the denizen of the deep is an optimistic west coaster who truly believes that west coast rain won’t wet you- and here was the Wing Centre thinking that west coast teams try to get games cancelled when they do not have a strong side by getting the fire brigade to wet the pitch or driving the team bus into the ditch somewhere out in the wilds. Just shows you how wrong you can be!

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