Thursday, September 22, 2011

Normal Service Resumed ?

It was a real Rip van Winkle day at the Bught on Saturday. You would be forgiven for believing the clock had been turned back 25 years and that a quarter century of Kingussie dominance had never happened. Perhaps it was all a dream. Think about it. The Tories are in power and Newtonmore are winning the Camanachd Cup as usual. They still have Ritchie, Campbell, Macrae, Chisholm, Cheyne, Macarthur and two Mackintoshes in the team. Why even John Mackenzie himself is still playing.
Enough of the levity. Saturday’s game was a tremendous shot in the arm for shinty-not so much the result – as in the quality of the competition on display between the two teams on a day when the pitch which was just heavy enough to have potentially undermined the match as a spectacle. The television audience were given a glimpse of shinty at its best-as the Wing Centre learned from the Treasurer. The Treasurer, Mr T to his friends, was phoning up the helpline for Business Stream to try to get someone to take a reading at the pavilion though to be fair he did not expect the amount of water used to be too high. It is the Glen after all.
“Oh I see it’s the shinty pitch, “said the lady in the Dundee call centre. “I was watching that Cup final game on the telly on Saturday. It was fantastic “
Now granted such folk are trained in customer relations- and she might have been the sort of chick who was naturally quick enough to latch on to something which might make common ground with a potentially angry customer- but since the exchange had been cordial from the beginning when it had been made clear to the lady in question that the Club was merely wishing to get its account up to date before the AGM, then her remark should be seen in context. An ordinary member of the Scottish public, Lowland by accent and female by gender, had actually expressed a genuine liking for shinty. Hold the back page-that is if you can get one which is not hogged by football.
The press coverage post match was positive though on a national level it was a disappointment to see nothing in Monday’s Herald. Some of the stuff which appeared before the match however was patronising though not all of that was probably the fault of the journos involved. The suspicion of the Wing Centre is that the guys in one half of the heartland were winding the unfortunate scribe with tales of life on both sides of the Badenoch Peace Wall which owed a lot to the fact that the writer appeared to know nothing about either the communities or the game. The boys shouldn’t really make fun of strangers-it’s not in the old Highland tradition of hospitality. Surely, if Newtonmore fathers did hit their sons about the legs with shinty sticks to toughen them up then certainly someone in Kingussie would have phoned social services. Similarly if kids in Newtonmore were able to throw stones at venerable old persons who were merely cycling through the village minding their own business then surely, big Calum, or Kenny Mackintosh or Alan Macrae or whoever was charged to “Cuidich is Dion” the community would have lifted them or drifted them, so to speak.
Next time guys –let the shinty do all the talking.
However, it ill behoves someone writing from Drum to lecture Badenoch boys about winding up journalists by telling porkie-pies since the whole economy of this village is based on the biggest Highland lie of all time. Ever since St Columba conned Adamnan over the fact that he saw a monster in Loch Ness, Glenners have convinced themselves that it exists and have marketed the fact to a gullible public to the extent that to all intents and purposes it might as well exist. If only Columba had reported seeing a pile of Glen lads playing shinty by the lochside then perhaps the existence of the indigenous sport could have become the Glen’s enduring myth instead and given Glen marketing skill we would now have both Original and Official shinty exhibitions, Shintyland and perhaps even English guys spending a lifetime in caravans, carving little souvenir camans and hoping to spot a genuine shinty player. Who can tell?
And did anyone notice that according to “Scotland on Sunday” Norman Campbell apparently won the “Arthur Smith” medal for being the best player on the big day. You can Google Arthur Smith up if you like and you will find that he is a comedian, so that was unfortunate, though if the writer had in the past watched Norman dancing in the ‘More version of “Strictly”, then we might class it as a Freudian one.
And what about the Sunday Herald guy? He made Deke score the world’s fastest cup final goal way back in 1991 when even Deke- though apparently in his case time seems to stand still- can remember it was 1992.
The Wing Centre met the Sunday Herald guy by chance in the paper queue and asked him how on earth he got such a simple fact wrong. No explanation was provided though he threw down a challenge as to whether the Wing Centre could do a report himself on the game.
Not an easy task but here goes.

Camanachd Cup Final 2011
Newtonmore 4 Kingussie 3 (aet)

A stunning strike by full forward Danny Macrae in the second half of extra time brought the Camanachd Cup back to Newtonmore for the first time in a generation and sent their Badenoch rivals Kingussie crashing to a defeat that they had struggled desperately to avoid all afternoon . Truthfully, Kingussie were on the back foot right from the start when Newtonmore went ahead with the first move of the match when the ball was sent forward to front man David Cheyne. He played it on to Macrae who fired a past Kingussie keeper Andrew Borthwick for the opener. The time on the clock was 12 seconds- and doubtless it would have been a record were it not for the fact that today’s referee Fort William’s Deke Cameron actually bagged one in 9 secs back in the final of 1992.
Worse was quickly to follow for Kingussie when in 6 minutes they conceded a second. This time Macrae was the provider playing a ball across field to midfielder Steven Macdonald who made no mistake from distance. At this stage Kingussie seemed to have lost their way against the physical presence of the Newtonmore front men and their own attacks were quickly snuffed out with record goalscorer Ronald Ross getting no change out of eventual man of the match Norman Campbell. All that changed when a face knock to Kingussie defender Ali Macleod saw 47 year old veteran Rory Fraser come on as replacement. His sure hitting from the back seemed to calm his teammates down and Kingussie gradually clawed their way back into the match. Their goal when it came though was something special. A hit out from keeper Borthwick found wing centre Fraser Munro inside the Newtonmore half and he blasted the ball past keeper Mike Ritchie from all of thirty yards.
The game then swung from end to end and while Borthwick stood firm at the back, Ross uncharacteristically missed at the other when he squeezed a ball past the post from close range . Then just before the interval Newtonmore went further ahead when a ball blocked by the Kingussie defence fell to Macrae and he banged it in to put his side into a 3-1 lead at half time.
If ‘More had the first half, Kingussie had the second and they should have gone a head right at the start but Ross’s drive was well saved by Ritchie. However Kingussie were not long to be denied- and when the ‘More defence failed to clear their lines Fraser Munro played in Martin Dallas who finished convincingly to reduce the deficit. With Lee Bain and Fraser standing firm at the back, Kingussie had the balance of play as they pushed hard for the equaliser and it came in 78 minutes when Ronald Ross, found himself presented with a chance and smashed the ball home to bring the sides level.
The end to end stuff continued into extra time until in the 114th minute, with both teams out on their feet, good work by John Mackenzie out on the right forced a deflection off a Kingussie defender. The ball fell to Macrae who blasted it through a ruck of players for the winner. It brought his own personal tally to three and the cup back to the blue half of Badenoch for a record 29th time.

“Let’s hope that Shinty will be the winner,” said Astie earlier in the week when asked who he thought would win. His hope was certainly fulfilled but somewhere at the back of his mind the Wing Centre has a small wish that perhaps one day a team like Grantown might beat let say Alness in a Camanachd Cup final. That way progress lies.

Thanks to Neil Paterson ( for the snaps. Obviously Lee Bain is here because he went to Glen School. The second pic is one for the history books: it shows John Mackenzie in what must be his 40th playing season. Doesn’t he look younger every day.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Glen miss out on Strathdearn Cup win

That’s the thing about headlines. You need a context for them to make any sense.This one is true though in the normal context provided by the “D” this headline would only have been useful for the the match which ended the Glen’s interest in the Strathdearn several weeks ago and that finished in a score that dare not speak its name. It is useful here in this case to point out a disappointing result for the Glen that did get through to the final: Glengarry lost out by 3-2 in a match in which they will feel they should have done better - especially in front of goal in the second half. So what if the TV suggested their first goal had not quite gone over the line. In the facts of the day, it did-and there never has been a recorded case of a result being overturned because of a refereeing decision being reversed. In the end Newtonmore did enough to get through and Sean MacQuarrie kept out the Garry forwards when he was required to do so.
Feelings? Mixed really. Remember when you were a sub and on the bench. Deep down, you actually kind of hoped that your team would lose or, at best, that someone would have a terrible game and you would get on in their place. Well that’s the kind of mean spirit the Wing Centre wanted to watch the match in. He kept waiting for them to take off the Garry and put on the Urquhart –but it never happened. In the end he was won over by some of the skill on display though he has to admit that he missed all the goals.
Why? He was on the gate that’s why and since himself and past President Mr Bell were extorting cash from the public until at least half time and all the goals came at the start he only saw them on TV so that was a downer for a start. Yet being on the gate wasn’t such a downer as watching the Glen play sometimes.
Indeed there are occasions when the Wing Centre feels it might be better for the Club not to bother with Shinty at all, but to branch out into events management. Certainly that was the feeling he was left with last weekend when the band of brothers and sisters put on High-Vis vests, erected a stockade around Blairbeg and requested the public to part with money to watch the Glengarry v Newtonmore in the Strathdearn Final. The pitch was certainly in excellent condition and had been lined by Mr Reid in a tasteful shade of red. His original idea had been to complete the lines in alternate metres of red and black but somehow in the rush of events this intention slipped, as intentions often do. The grass had been trimmed into a state of precise perfection by the ground staff– and Russ had even put a rope right round the pitch to make sure the players stayed on the field once the game had started. That by the way seems to be a Camanachd Association rule.
To make matters official a policeman even turned up at the gate, which must have been the first appearance of one of Highland’s finest in his uniform at a game since big Norman was posted north to Alness. A few months ago Chief Inspector Andy Maclean was seen to mingle with the crowd but since he once ruled the whole of Inverness-shire and was wearing mufti and had also won a Camanachd medal back in the day, he did not count as a real policemen.
This constable pleaded to be allowed to park his panda car inside the field, a request which was, albeit reluctantly, granted. Mr Reid, who was allegedly directing the cars to parking plots, was visibly taken aback at the appearance of the noble figure in uniform but whatever his private reasons for unease, he recovered his wits sufficiently well to ask him how Skye were doing.
“Fine” said the policeman looking puzzled and went off to hunt for neutral fans from Beauly to stand beside, though not appearing to realise that the very term was an oxymoron, he was bound to be unsuccessful.
“Mr Reid,” said the Wing Centre impressed, “how did you know he was a Skye supporter?”
“Easy,” said Mr Reid “He has Gaelic written on the car door”
And Mr Reid was right-there was some Gaelic written on the door.
“Alec Salmond will put a stop to Skye policemen writing Gaelic on their panda car doors when he creates this new super policeforce for the whole country,” said Mr Bell. ”In fact I doubt if we’ll see a real policeman again or Gaelic written on doors. Ever. “
Just at that point a text came through from Skye. Strange how sometimes when you talk about something, other things just happen which seem at the time co-incidental but are in fact probably part of some overarching plan. But clearly not a Glen plan though, because the text was from Hendo and it was to say that after a promising start in which the Heroes had taken the lead on the Field of Zeros , the cunning Islanders had recovered enough vigour to be on the point of winning the match. The phone was immediately switched off.
“Let’s not spoil a happy day,” said Mr Reid “we can read the gory details on the Skye Camanachd website if we have a mind to.”* But however much they tried to keep their spirits up the day remained slightly tarnished. It continued to be so even after a radio ham from Divach came into the Loch Ness Inn to claim that he had heard Hendo being interviewed on Cuillin FM.
“That’s not a radio station” said Mr Reid who appeared to know.”That’s a beer. If Hendo is being interviewed on that, it must have been a bad result in the end.”
“How did he sound?”
“Upbeat. He said the Glen still need to get something out of at least one of their last two games.”
“He has a point,” said Mr Reid.
But the Glen unfortunately didn’t – and they still need one.

The photos show the Blairbeg ground staff as they fixed the field up for the Strathdearn. The second one is of the Care Centre staff (Shirley Lyon, John Reilly and Sandra Wield) who completed the Great Wilderness Challenge.They are displaying a cheque for £200 from the Shinty Club which their efforts earned them.

*An extract from the Skye Camanachd Website is also included here. To be fair the article was a bit bigger but it has to be cut for reasons of space and also because the Glen public can only take so much of the printed word. The Wing Centre is not sure if Lewis will be happy or sad.

Despite playing into the breeze in the first half, Glenurquhart had the better of the opening quarter hour as they began to dominate in midfield.
It was no surprise when the Glen opened the scoring on 12 minutes when Scotland U17 player Fraser Heath ran unchallenged from midfield and played a neat one two with Billy Urquhart before dispatching a lofted drive into the roof of the Skye net past the despairing hand of keeper John MacLeod. Then, Glenurquhart lost defender Callum Smith after he picked up a leg knock. Glenurquhart then began to take a grip of the midfield and they fashioned a number of chances with first Lewis MacLennan firing over from distance and then Ian MacLeod forcing a save from John MacLeod in the Skye goal after a quick free hit from Lewis MacLennan. Glenurquhart still posed a threat however and Lewis MacLennan will still be wondering how he missed from inside the D after a quick Ian MacLeod free hit. Glenurquhart were well served by Lewis MacLennan.

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