Friday, May 13, 2011

When Two Glens go to War……..

Sutherland Cup Second Round
Glengarry 2 Glenurquhart 3

If there was ever a match when the Glen came off at half time and the guys on the side-lines looked at each other and said “How did they get away with that?” it has got to be this Sutherland Cup match.
The Glen have had a tricky time in the Sutherland Cup this season what with drawing Newtonmore in the opening round and then this away tie against Glengarry, a side which has been unbeaten this season and which had earlier defeated the Glen 4-0 in a League fixture. Not only that but as each game passes the demands on Glen resources become higher– and with more players being sucked into the top team, the pressure and the rewards for those left become greater.
On Saturday, Glen turned out a team minus Gary Mackintosh, Gary Smith, Iain Macleod, Brad Dickson and Drew Maclennan. However the presence of Lewis Maclennan helped to plug these gaps. Also present were some experienced players like Billy Urquhart, Calum Fraser, Gregor McCormack and of course the peerless Iain Macdonald. These last mentioned have been second team regulars this season though it’s rare for Hendo to have everyone on board at the same time.
The Garry started brightly and quickly put the Glen under early pressure and before the five minute mark Steven ”DD” Cameron had fired two balls past keeper Dave Emery’s posts from distance with the Glen centreline struggling to have an impact. Garry poured forward with Kenny Campbell and John Mackinnon helping Cameron punt balls forward but the Glen backline of Donald Fraser , Daniel Mackintosh and Iain Macdonald , while sometimes pushed to the limit always managed to clear the ball from the danger area- and Dave Emery, though it often appeared that his goal was under threat, had few stops to make.
Garry’s opening goal came from a set piece after Iain Macdonald was harshly penalised for a supposed double swing just outside the D. Macdonald certainly swung at the ball twice but both swings were in the same direction, the second connecting and firing the ball clear- and neither appeared to this commentator to be wild or careless or involved a direction change. In the end of course it is a judgement call and even at this early stage it was becoming clear that the lads from the bottom of the loch-or some of them at least- were becoming agitated at their lack of goal scoring. They converted the free hit though when DD’s slip through fell to Martin Cameron and he tucked the ball home from close range. A few minutes later Garry’s Mackinnon had a fierce shot which went narrowly past.
Glen by that stage had begun to get into the Garry half of the field occasionally and Lewis Maclennan who had been hindered at buckshee forward by the fact that the ball hardly reached him came close with a long range attempt. Gregor McCormack was ploughing a lone furrow up front and came up against some tough and impatient tackling from Garry defender Michael Brady on a number of occasions but Greg is always persistent and his swing, close to his body and off his toes makes him difficult to play against. In 42 minutes Lewis Maclennan worked a ball through to the Glen full forward and McCormack’s snap shot caught the home goalkeeper unawares and, against the run of play, brought the Glen level at 1-1.
Which is precisely where this report started………
And then at the start of the second half Glen wing centre Ross MacAulay drifted a long high ball in from the left. It sailed into the Garry net, much to the consternation of their supporters on the side-lines. Ross is always an accurate hitter from distance and though he has had better games than he had on Saturday, his contribution in shies and with this goal in particular set the Glen up for victory.
Why? Because from that point on the guys began to believe that they were in with a chance.
For Garry, the experience was different. You could see it in the players and in the supporters. How could a side which had appeared to dominate a game now be losing the match? Easy. Fate? Bad luck? Carelessness? Probably all three. However this sort of thing is always liable to happen if you don’t take your chances – and Garry had plenty. What is more the same thing happens everywhere in shinty. In fact, it happened to the Glen against Lovat the other week.
Glen began to pick up pressure and Calum Fraser was a little unfortunate to see a shot go over the bar. Garry did get one back through Ewan Brady when he hit a bouncing ball from the right which surprised Glen keeper Emery and brought the match back level.
The game continued at the same frantic pace but gradually the feeling grew among the visiting support that a positive result for the Glen was only a matter of time. The appearance on the field of Andrew Macdonald and the tactical awareness of the Glen management team which saw Lewis Maclennan moved into the buckshee position plus the tight marking of “DD” Cameron, who had to drop back into midfield, by youngster Fraser Heath, changed the dynamics of the game. Daniel Mackintosh too at wing back had a tight tussle with his under 17 Glen teammate Ewan Brady and the Glengarry youngster, did not get either the room or the service to thrive.
The goal when it came was well taken but the home defence will feel they ought to have done better with a ball which came over from a corner and was missed by the Garry backline. It fell to Glen veteran Stuart Morrison and he gratefully accepted the chance.
There was no way back for Glengarry and shortly afterwards when Ref Innes Wood blew his whistle for full time they had to accept that they were out of the Sutherland Cup for another year. For the Glen it was a hard fought victory which they won with fewer resources available to them than they might have hoped. For Glen the lesson is that in the next round they will have to start quicker and master the centreline sooner if they are to keep alive any hopes they might harbour of getting to Aberdeen for the final.
Is there a lesson for Glengarry? Only if they want to take one. They need to take their chances quicker and perhaps they should focus on playing shinty and moving the ball which they are capable of doing, rather than getting too caught up in the physical side of the game.
For the record Ross MacAulay went into the ref’s book as did Gregor McCormack. For Garry full back Michael Brady was also booked.
By the miracle of Astie’s scheduling, Glengarry are due to come to Blairbeg this Saturday in a league fixture. Goodness knows what Glen side will be there to meet them –but then again Glen are through to the next round of the Sutherland which remains the only one of the reserve trophies that Hendo’s heroes have not won yet and truthfully that’s all that matters.
The pics? The boys at the Garry and the boy-so to speak.The real question is who is that sitting outside on the seat?

The title of the blog? Just a bit of journalistic licence perhaps....

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