Thursday, November 18, 2010

Barr’s Irn-Bru not strong enough to see Scotland through.

Marine Harvest Shinty/ Hurling Series
Scotland 3:7 (16) Ireland 5:6 (21)
Ireland win the series 5-4*

It has to be said that Ireland deservedly picked up the Marine Harvest Quaich last weekend at the Bught though to be equally candid there was not a lot in it at the end. The Wing Centre had a nice seat in the stand behind the royal box along with the Herald guy and Kenny Stephen of Scotland on Sunday. Just as well too although there was no sign in the Press Gallery of the Courier’s top man Dave Calder which was a shame because you can always rely on him to get the facts right which is not a bad idea at a public occasion. Sadly the royal box did not contain much in the way of civic dignitaries with the exception of Cllr. Roddy Balfour. Roddy is an old friend of the Gael, his language and of his sports but where the rest of Toytown’ s top guys were was a mystery but given the fact that the visitors were representing another country you might have thought that somebody might have shown up to represent the fastest imploding town in Europe. Perhaps they had worked out that the TV cameras were not going to be present!
No matter. The game was fast and exciting and certainly Ireland turned in a powerful performance to clinch what was the second leg of the 2010 Shinty /Hurling international series with a 21-16 victory. With Drew’s Blues having won a notable victory in the first leg in Dublin, Ireland trailed the series by 3-1 under the arcane formula* which ultimately decides the championship: sensibly ,that formula rewards goals-score two and you get an extra point - and in the end victory went to the side which hit the net most frequently. However, had the home side not lost the services of front man Ronald Ross just before the interval –he twisted his ankle on the heavy turf and had to be substituted- things might have been very different.
Scotland started strongly going ahead in 2 mins when Lochaber’s Shaun Nicholson (that boy ought to consider a Glen career) fed Roddy Macdonald and he went past the Irish defence on the left and pulled the ball back to Ross who drilled it home for the opening goal. Then a free hit from Gary Innes should have added two further points to Scotland tally but the ball struck the post and bounced wide. This was a signal for GAA all star Tommy Walsh to burst into life and he picked out Shane Dooley with a neat pass and the Offaly man opened the Irish scoring with a single point. Within a minute Dooley, a constant thorn in Scottish sides, had added to his team’s tally when he eluded his marker to fire home a simple goal.
Ross hit back with a two pointer but Ireland’s Willie Hyland replied with a single before the Scots put together a flowing move in which Ross juggled the ball through the visitors defence and cut it back to Gary Innes but his shot was superbly saved by Irish keeper Paul Dermody. Minutes later Dermody pulled off yet another save from Innes but this time the ball squirmed over the bar for a home point.
At the other end Scotland keeper Stuart Mackintosh had an excellent series of saves -in particular a stunning stick stop from Neil MacManus- and with Glen’s John Barr and Lochaber’s Neil Macdonald solid in defence it looked good for Scotland especially after John Macdonald had popped over another two pointer. The sight of Ronald Ross on the touchline however perhaps was a hint that without their talismanic striker to lead them for the rest of the game then the home side might struggle and so it proved in first half injury time when Antrim’s Neil MacManus burst rather easily through the Scotland defence to send the teams in level on points.

The half time chat behind the royal box revealed that there were growing doubts among the home fans at the number of times Scotland had failed to convert their two point chances, but a well worked goal from John Macdonald just after the restart ought to have settled them and the team. Unfortunately, it was quickly cancelled out by Dooley when he bagged a third Irish goal– and the ease with which he did so raised further fears at the vulnerability of the home defence. Single points from the massively built Gareth “Magic “Johnstone, Neil MacManus and Brendan Murtagh increased the pressure on the Scots who came frustratingly near when Innes hit the woodwork for a second time.
A foul on John Macdonald let Innes finally clinch a two pointer while Mackintosh was again on hand to prevent a finish from MacManus though he could do nothing about the single from Hyland which resulted. With Scotland chasing the game, Gareth Johnstone found enough space at the back to score yet another Irish goal but with 70 minutes on the clock fine stick work from Finlay Macrae set Gary Innes up to score Scotland’s third goal. One more goal for Scotland would hand them a share of the series but inevitably pushing forward they left space at the back which was exploited by Ireland’s player of the day Shane Dooley. He picked the ball up in midfield and ran through a tiring home defence to fire home an injury time clincher. The Offaly forward, son of Irish manager Joe, makes a habit of such goals. He did precisely the same thing last year at the Bught with the same trophy winning effect.
So how did the Glenners do? Very well indeed and the whole Glen should be proud of their contribution. John Barr was superb at the back though at times he is scarily intense in his tackling as more than just his Mam will understand. He is simply an uncompromising boy- and he definitely gets the gig as Glen full-back. If at times the Scotland defence looked vulnerable to pacy Irish attackers doing an “egg-and spoon” race imitation with the sliothar balanced on their hurley, Barr was certainly not at fault. The main problem there seemed to be that big Norman Campbell was carrying a knock from early in the match- and truthfully Walsh and Dooley seem to possess a turn of pace and a level of aerobic fitness that implies they play on a plane akin to Ronaldo and John Macdonald.
Stuart Mackintosh in goal was also outstanding- his reflexes are superb, his adaptation to the new “skills” of catching the ball and volleying it out on the run make it clear he could switch codes without problems- but then one must remember that bearing in mind his under 21 experience Scotland have never before had a keeper so used to the mixed code experience.
Andrew Corrigan had a harder deal when he came on not only because he had to replace Ronaldo but also because – and it was something that Manager Drew MacNeil hinted at three weeks ago- the surface of the Bught in November is not made for flowing shinty. The ground was much too soft for that and it was a bitter irony that the treacherous surface caused such a nasty injury to Shinty’s ace player-Ronald-of-the-thousand-goals. It was also too heavy a surface for the lads to be able to lift a “live” ball over from open play for singles-none were scored. Beyond that dead balls hit from distance were too heavy to carry over and fell just short of the Irish goals and were able to be batted gleefully away by the defence on several occasions. Whatever the difficulties, “Corky” stuck to his task and played his part though in his front position in the latter part of the game he got little service and Scotland had to rely on Gary Innes, John Macdonald and Finlay Macrae to spark the crowd.
The contest was intense and physical and at times the Wing Centre was wishing that MacNeil had a fourth Glenner on the bench i.e. Mr Tembo. He certainly has the strength from shoulder to wrist to handle any Irishman who might wish to tango but having hurt his back mid-season he was simply not available. Pity.
So memo to whoever becomes President:
Congratulate our Irish friends.
Ask them to play the games in the dry.
Persuade Drew McNeill and Kenny Achnasheen to stay.
( * Under the mixed code rules teams get two points for a win and 1 point for scoring two goals. In Dublin Scotland‘s scored two goals and picked up 1 point and then of course they earned 2 for a win. Ireland got 1 point for their 2 goals i.e. after Dublin the points were 3-1
Today Ireland got two points for a win and two points for scoring four goals. Scotland merely won 1 point for their two goal, so at the Bught the points were 4-1 in favour of Ireland.
Put them together and you get Ireland 5 Scotland 4-thus Ireland win the series. Simples!)

Enjoy the pics from Neil Paterson ( ) and of course the three Glenners together came from the Herald guy.

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