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.

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