Thursday, October 27, 2011

Roman Holiday ..... then comes Irish wakeup call

The Wing Centre missed out on the Glen’s equivalent of an end of term outing when Mr Reid hired a big bus to take the faithful down to Glenorchy to sign off for the season. To be fair a number of lads Stuart Mackintosh, Andrew Corrigan and John Barr (sadly not EJ) had to follow up the trip to Argyll with a journey to an even remoter part of the world viz. Athy Co Kildare where they were involved in a gutterfest every bit as muddy as the one they were involved in at Glenorchy.
Still though the Wing Centre was in the Eternal City (of which more later) he was kept appraised of the score not the least by Astie who phoned him by mistake whilst he was walking round the Vatican – the Wing Centre was doing the walking, that is, not Astie - though with a name like that the Camanachd Association’s esteemed representative on Earth would be at home in many a Roman wine cellar.
The full story however was provided by Il Capo J Barr himself –who is incidentally the subject of some recent media speculation. In more or less his own words the story goes
“Suffice it to say that Glenorchy adapted better to the slippy conditions and deservedly went into the lead. The Glen struggled for most of the first half to come to terms with the pitch but a welcome solo effort by John Barr got the side back in contention. Neale Reid came off to avoid aggravating his leg injury with the under 21 international to come and Liam Girvan came on to play on his ancestral pitch.
After halftime the quality of the Glen play began to assert itself and clearer cut chances were being created. Liam Girvan snatched a goal with a tap in after his own shot had come back of the bar. Glenorchy responded with some pressure of their own but Liam added the third goal to make the run in more comfortable. Glen then had a couple of goals chalked off for off-side but John got the fourth goal towards the end”
It was a good result in as much as it left the Glen sitting in 4th place in the Premier League on 20 points and with a bit of luck- i.e. if Kyles manage to win their match against Kingussie, as they have to if they want to win their first Premier title-then it has not been too bad a season. Don’t put it any higher than that though because considering the fact that three guys are in the National squad with EJ in the extended pool , Neale Reid made the under 21s , various other guys have made the under 21s in the past and Fraser Heath also made it into the under 17s then we could have done better.
The Wing Centre missed all this of course as stated earlier because basically the Glen should have been finished of all shinty activity- and he had booked a trip to Rome in order to obtain a version of the “Currachd Ruadh” the traditional red cap of the Glen shinty warrior. Having received a “Currachd Ruadh” in the shape of a fez some years ago (see blog December 2008) it seemed only fair that a red cap representative of that other great faith be purchased. Not so easy because although the side streets of Rome near the Vatican are filled with little shops selling religious vestments, to purchase a cardinal’s hat you actually require to be a cardinal- and presumably in possession of a piece of parchment written in Latin and addressed to the shopkeeper indicating your entitlement to purchase. This the Wing Centre did not have but that small disappointment aside his Roman Holiday was most pleasant and greatly enhanced by a chance meeting in a restaurant –Taverna Angelica (where else?) with an Irish priest Monsignor John Kennedy who appeared familiar with hurling , shinty and shinty/hurling ,that trinity of sports much revered by the Gael and no-one else.
Which takes me on to the Shiny/Hurling international first leg in Athy, Co Kildare? Everyone knows that for shinty to have a chance then the guys have to keep the ball down on the ground, work it forward and score points. If they do get a chance of two points from distance they simply have to take them because everyone also knows that big strong Irish guys-All stars or not- will simply bash the ball over the bar from the half way line and build up a points lead that Smack can do nothing about.
The guy in the Herald had previewed it thus:
Last year Scotland, after a memorable win at Croke Park came unstuck in the later stages of the home tie, eventually losing out on aggregate to a resilient Irish squad which had learned in the course of the first game how to negate the shinty boys superiority on the ground.
Despite that loss Scotland boss, Drew McNeil was upbeat about his side’s chances in this year’s mixed–code contests. “I am confident that we have a side who can match whatever squad the Irish choose this year. We know we have to focus on our shinty skills which means get the ball on the ground and keep it moving. It is a disappointment the shinty season is still not finished- the decisive Premier Clash between Kyles and Newtonmore has still to be played yet sides like Fort William have been idle for some weeks. That has not helped in keeping all the players up to the level of fitness and focus needed for the Test series. Our guys are also used to playing summer shinty but you don’t always get the conditions for that at this time of the year. Having said that last year at Croke Park the surface was superb and we were able to profit from that. From all reports the park at Athy is of a similar quality- and hopefully when we get back to Inverness the Bught won’t be too heavy either.”
With his emphasis firmly on skilful stick play McNeil has found places in his squad for six players who ply their trade outwith shinty’s Premier Division, though at least three of these have had recent top flight experience. Of the others, brothers Finlay and Keith Macrae of Kinlochshiel have had an outstanding season for a side which has just been promoted to join the Premier Division. They are joined by Caberfeidh’s Kevin Bartlett a forward with a superb first touch whose loyalty to his local club means he will never win the sports glittering prizes as he surely would have done had he been born in Badenoch or Argyll.
While eyebrows might be raised at the absence of players in the National squad from Premier Clubs like Kingussie and Inveraray- the sports all-time top scorer Ronald Ross is not included- McNeil is philosophical. “The presence of Newtonmore’s Norman Campbell as team captain, is a big plus for the side. He was man of the match in the Camanachd Cup final and no-one is more experienced at this level than he is. I had difficult decisions to make in the selection process as there were a high number of talented committed players available to choose from but our preparation sessions have gone well and I certainly feel we have a side that can do enough over both legs to bring the International trophy back home.”

In the event the guys did not do too badly though the Wing Centre having seen the game on a tiny internet screen did think that the chances will need to be taken when they come up since some of the Irish players , particularly Eoin Kelly looked pretty deadly in front of the posts.

Shinty /Hurling International First Leg
Ireland 1-16 (19 points) Scotland 2-8 (14 points)

Scotland lost out in the opening leg of the international series against Ireland at Athy , Co Kildare yesterday but by keeping the difference in scores down to a manageable 5 points they did enough in the first leg to give themselves in with a chance of winning the series on aggregate when the sides meet again next week in Inverness.
On a wet windy afternoon, with the grass rather longer than is comfortable for shinty players, the Scots found themselves on the back foot right from the start. The physicality of the Irish backline, allied to the conditions meant that an early chance for John Stewart remained unconverted. Fort William’s Gary Innes managed to get Scotland off the mark lead but Ireland quickly pulled the strike back and raced ahead into a 5-1 through a series of single point strikes the best of which came strikes from All-star Eoin Kelly of Tipperary and Kilkenny’s Michael Rice.
A series of missed chances from free hits by Gary Innes added to Scottish concerns before a two point strike from Caberfeidh’s Kevin Bartlett brought Scotland some way back but the pattern of the Scots front play was too ragged to threaten the Irish goal – and when a fierce drive by Innes was spectacularly stopped by Irish keeper Patrick Mullaney, Scots heads went down and two further points from Kelly and a single from Eoin Nolan saw Ireland go in at half time with a comfortable 8-3 lead.
The second half looked to be the start of a rout when single points from Eoin Price and Willie Hyland and then a goal from Nolan increased the Irish lead to what looked like an uncatchable level. However, Scotland rallied began to move the ball about and pulled points back through Bartlett and Keith Macrae (2)
Though Ireland maintained their dominance by finding single points regularly throughout the half, Scotland’s front play was finally rewarded with a goal in 57 minutes when a John Stewart cross was expertly finished off by Keith Macrae. Further Scottish points came from Innes and Robbie Macleod and then in 68 minutes Innes ran through to tuck the ball past Mullaney for his sides second goal and the points which keeps the series alive.

Why the Scottish optimism? Simply because despite the clear victory (19-14) as far as the series goes the Irish only have two points while Scotland have one. Thanks to the two late goals - Keith Macrae and Gary Innes - Scotland earned a “bonus” point. Ireland received nothing for goals since they only scored one but they picked up the two points for a win - so Drew’s boys have it all to play for and the competition is still very much alive.

The pics were published courtesy of the Camanachd Association and Irish snapper Pat Tinsley who may be contacted at if you would care to do so. Pics include the team and the three Glen boys plus Glen coach Drew wearing the national colours.Also included is JB (sen) looking cheery-must be looking forward to getting out of the hot seat? Maybe no.Never seen him smile? Well he's the guy in the middle if you are confused.

Scottish Blogs