Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The biggest shinty fortnight since the season began

“Well,” said the Chairman, as he adjusted his new hands free kit in the Caman-mobile so he could listen in to the first shinty scores on Radio Free Beauly, ”That must have been the biggest fortnight for shinty since the season began.”
“Couldn’t disagree with that”, said the Wing Centre, “what with Kyles dropping that vital point to Inveraray and then Newtonmore getting the Premier League winner in the last minute of their final match. You couldn’t make it up”
The Chairman looked at the Wing Centre: there was a profundity of pity in his regard. “EJ was right, Wing Centre. You always miss the point. I never gave Newtonmore, Inveraray or Kyles a thought when I said it was a big fortnight for shinty. What I meant was that Glenurquhart have had a Sale of Work, an AGM and a Dinner Dance all in the last week or so”
“Wow!” said the Wing Centre, “What happened on these auspicious occasions?”
“I don’t have time to go through it all now “ said the Chairman “but why don’t you do what everyone else in Shinty does when they want to find out something about their own club. Just Google up the Skye website- you will find it all there.”
With that he engaged the gears in the Caman-mobile and set off in the general direction of Pitkerrald Road.
There was nothing for it then but to take his advice and look up the Skye website and what a treasure trove that turned out to be. It was nearly all there. You wonder how these Skye guys do it. If their League position is to be believed they can’t play shinty like boys from Lochalsh and Kintail,but they can find out secrets all right. Suppose when you think of it there’s a Skye person to be found in every village in the Highlands either living openly or not letting on, and it’s clear from the website that they are gathering info on the local shinty teams with thoroughness reminiscent of the East German Stasi. Still it is useful.
The mole missed out on the Sale of Work though, a spectacular event which took place on Friday 5th November and which saw the hall packed with a most lively throng of happy buyers. All the usual stalls were to the fore with the venison, the baking, the books and the bottles flying off the shelves with abandon. A particular feature this year was the large number of Christmas decorations which sold especially well to youngsters and families.
The next event was the AGM which was held for the first time ever in Glen Urquhart High School as opposed to its usual venue of Blairbeg Hall which was otherwise engaged.
To find out what happened it is as well to quote what the Skyvers say :
Scottish Hydro Premier Division side Glenurquhart has pulled off a management coup by appointing Fraser Mackenzie and Drew McNeil as first team co-managers at their Annual General Meeting on Friday 11 September 2011.The two most recent Scotland managers take over from Jim Barr who stood down at the end of the 2011 season and they are already preparing for the 2012 campaign.
Drew McNeil managed Scotland in the Shinty / Hurling internationals against Ireland in 2010 and 2011 and before that he was assistant manager to Fraser Mackenzie when he managed the Scots.
The duo has also experienced the highs and lows of club management. Drew McNeil won the Scottish Hydro Camanachd Cup with Fort William for three years in the row before he was replaced by Peter McIntyre. Fraser Mackenzie managed the Lochcarron first team prior to taking on the Scotland job.
“I’m delighted to be back in management and can’t wait to get going,” said Fraser Mackenzie. “Drew and I have previously worked together in the Scotland job and we are both driven and we get on well. Drew has had a lot of success at club level with Fort William and I’ve had my time in charge at Lochcarron so we know how it can go right and how it can go wrong. We also hope to appoint an experienced assistant manager from within the club and we hope to be able to make an announcement on this in a couple of weeks’ time.”
Mackenzie and McNeil are both keen students of the game. “Drew and I have both been at Glenurquhart for a season and we have had a good meeting with the players where we discussed what is expected of the team next season and we’ll try to bring success to the club. We are not looking at this short-term but we want to help the club longer-term from the youth set-up right up to the first team and I must say that everyone is very positive.”
“We are looking forward to a good pre-season so that we can build on the last few seasons. We have a great bunch of guys and the players can certainly take belief from beating Kingussie and Newtonmore on their own pitches this season, We just need to get consistency and we can look at Kyles to see what can be achieved. James Perlich has done a fantastic job training the Kyles boys and their fitness is fantastic. You get out of the game what you put in.”
Mackenzie is expecting the strongest top division for a few years now. “The Premier Division is going to be very tough next season,” he said. “Bute are a good side and I think Kinlochshiel will surprise a lot of teams and I would be very surprised if ‘Shiel were relegated at the end of the season.”
Drew McNeil’s two year tenure in charge of the Scotland team has come to an end but he has aspirations of continuing in that post. Fraser Mackenzie doesn’t see why his international successor cannot continue in a dual role especially with a strong management team looking after Glenurquhart affairs.
Mackenzie also has a family link to the area, “It’s great for me to be involved with Glenurquhart as half my family come from the area and my mum lives here. The new season can’t come quick enough.”

(To be found at

In the interests of historical accuracy it should be pointed out that the Fraser Mackenzie mentioned as manager is of course the “Official” Fraser Mackenzie. The Original Fraser Mackenzie continues as Treasurer. Unusual, two Fraser Mackenzies in Glenurquhart? Not so- far stranger is the fact that there are two Ally Mackintoshes, two Andrew Macdonalds, two Peter Macdonalds and at least three Dave Maclennans in the village.

The Chairman continues as chairman while Hazel Stewart remains in the key post of Secretary while Mr Reid keeps his fingers in his many club pies including the lottery and Stuart Mackintosh stays on board to handle the fixtures secretary’s post. Second team boss is to be Iain Macleod.
Better was to come for Smack though at the annual “Do” held at the Clansman when he was awarded the club’s trophy for Player of the Year. The accolade was richly deserved too after his excellent season and international honours though if rumour is to believe he was pushed close by his brother Al while as you may see in the snap his cousin Paul is indicating how close the voting was. Gary Smith was named Junior Player of the Year for his performances with the second team. Also honoured was young player of the year Fraser Heath who has not only had some first team experience this session but has also had under- 17 district and national acclaim. A special award in the shape of an inscribed caman was presented to retiring second team manager Steven Henderson. Hendo has won 3 league titles in a row, a Strathdearn Cup and made a Sutherland final. This year though League form was a problem the side, despite big changes in personnel, also made it through to the semis of both the Sutherland and the Strathdearn.
Other presentations made on the night were to Jim Barr who stepped down as first team supremo, Helen Maclennan for all her efforts, everywhere, all the time Janet Emery for her work at the pavilion and present High School Head Teacher Josie Mackenzie retiring after 31 years of tirelessly promoting shinty in the halls of academe.
In sum it was an excellent night with superb food with over 70 persons present amongst whom were some of the Clubs most generous sponsors and as ,we were wont to write of yore,” a good night was had by all ...... while everyone else seemed to enjoy it as well.” On the top table was a fine display of trophies amongst which was the Macdonald Cup , the “Clash of the Camans “ piece of kindling, under 17s Inverness Sixes Cup and of course the Tug o’War Cup from the Glen Games.

At this point the Chairman returned to vet the blog. We have, it is true, tight media control in the Glen after experiencing some choppy journalistic waters earlier in the season- and after a minute or so of tutting the boss said “It‘ll do but I’m not sure I like the tone of the last par. It does not seem to be entirely respectful of the trophies”
“But we do respect them. At least EJ didn’t take them up to the top of Queen Mary’s Rock and pose for a snap without his shorts on”
“Who did that?”
“The Newtonmore boys. They took the Camanachd and the Premier League Cup to the top of Creag Dubh and took off their pants for a photo. The shot was captioned ‘Naked Ambition’. It is a visual pun.” added the Wing Centre helpfully.
“I bet their Mams weren’t pleased,” said the Chairman.
“I doubt if they were. Still you can’t blame the guys-they must be Team of the Year now. All the Twits say so”
“It’s not Twits...It’s Tweets- but you still don’t get it do you Wing Centre?”
“Get what?”
“This Team of the Year thing. Look, which team beat the Glen twice this season?”
“Well it wasn’t Newtonmore or Kingussie was it?”
“No, It was Kyles. Ergo, Kyles must be Team of the Year. If the Glen can beat someone then there is no way that team can be Team of the Year, so it has to be Kyles, hasn’t it? Astie chose them and Astie’s not daft.”
Apparently not.
Enjoy the pics.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

We live in interesting TV Times.

What an interesting world we inhabit here in shinty’s little parish. You wouldn’t learn it anywhere else but the Wing Centre can reveal that the reason the Shinty/Hurling internationals were held on the 22nd & 29th October was because the Stag shooting season closes on the 20th October (having started on July 1st for those with an interest in precision) and Astie and Torquil at the Camanachd Association hoped that clever timing would maximise the number of stalkers and gamekeepers coming through the turnstiles of the Bught on the Saturday. Now Astie is a Lochaberman and one would have been entitled to bet that he would not actually be aware of such dates, since everyone knows that Lochabermen if they are not stealing cattle, are certainly poaching deer and for such a pastime , legal dates are irrelevant . Torquil? I would bet that with a name like that he has a touch of the Sgiathananch or Hearach in him and behind that smooth exterior he will also have a Highlander’s distaste for the rule of law. Who knows? Astie and Torquil may have been right but in the end it made no difference. The Irish “Wild Geese” flew in and flew out with the International trophy thanks to a late, late strike from Joe Bergin that some might have considered to have been offside. But then some didn’t and that’s all that mattered.
The Wing Centre asked a newspaper guy if he could have a report- and the guy said yes-so here it is right down to the deeply dull last line that tries to imply that the result is somehow linked to the national psyche. As if. Anyway here it is….
Scotland failed gallantly today in their attempt to narrow the gap between themselves and Ireland’s hurlers left after last week’s defeat in the mixed code international. Trailing by five points and frustrated by the conditions in Co. Kildare, the Scots had hoped they could turn the series around on the more closely shorn home turf- and they gave it a real go leading their opponents in points scored until a goal from Brendan Maher in the dying minutes sealed an Irish victory which had looked unlikely for most of the afternoon.
Though injuries had forced Scotland boss Drew McNeill to refresh his squad –with Kyles Athletic’s Roddie Macdonald, Lochcarron’s Mark Sproule and Bute’s Ian Macdonald the new faces–his side got off to a superb start when Kevin Bartlett popped the ball over for two points in the opening minutes. A nasty mouth injury then deprived Scotland of chief play-maker John Macdonald but when a long drive from Finlay Macrae eluded Irish keeper Paul Dermody for Scotland’s opening goal the stage looked set for a home victory especially when Bartlett had added to the lead with two more points. Dermody however soon redeemed him-self with a series of fine saves .Then Bartlett was denied points by the post and Roddy Mac-donald struck the ball into the net with his foot rather than his caman after Macrae had set him up with an open goal. These were missed chances which would come back to haunt Scot-land but for the moment Bartlett was on hand once again to add two more from a free hit awarded for a push on Macdonald.
Then in 35 minutes Ireland woke up for the first time with a single from Willie Hyland. Worse was to follow for the Scots when Bergin scored from a narrow angle and then Craig Doyle further eroded the differential with a single. Though Bartlett hit two more points be-fore the whistle the 6 point half time lead was cold comfort to a Scotland side should have been well ahead by the interval.
Playing into the wind in the second period Scotland also found themselves confronting an Irish side clearly galvanised by manager Joe Dooley’s half time team talk. Gradually the visi-tors began to chip away at the Scotland lead with five points from Hyland, and two from Kil-kenny All Star Michael Rice. Though Scotland did partially stem the flow with a single from Innes and another double from Bartlett they were riding their luck. That eventually ran out when, with the defenders claiming offside, Maher’s s long range shot deceived Scotland keeper Stuart Mackintosh and gave Ireland a victory on the day that they barely deserved. For Scotland it was a case, as always, of what might have been.

So that was it and if there is a slightly elegiac air about this piece it is because we have reached the end of shinty as we know it in the Glen for yet another year- and so what if we still don’t know who won or who is going down from the Premier yet. To Glenners all that hubbub is simply noises off stage- and yet maybe the Wing Centre should take the wider view- and reflect on the broader shinty world for once- as long as that means he avoids all mention of Beauly or Strathglass. The Glen won nothing- but that means other people did, which was nice for them.
Earlier on the season the Wing Centre was watching the boys training on the Astro and there was a group of guys following Eddie around with a TV camera and stuff. Nothing odd in that – Eddie is the sort of chap who has always had his own PR man, personal shopper, personal trainer and all the rest of it – so the Wing Centre waited until Spielberg and his pals had gone away and asked Ed what was all the fuss about.
“TV crew, making a programme about shinty” said Ed.
“Who’s all in it?”
Eddie told the Wing Centre about who all was in it in confidence and said not to tell anyone else until the director had a chance to tell Alex and Chris Evans about it on the ”One Show”. So the Wing Centre wrote nothing about it at the time but recently reviewing it with Ed it seemed that a theme emerged.
First Eddie said it dealt with Sunny and the Rodgers Family from Fort William and Kilmallie.
“What did Fort and Kilmallie win this year?
“ Nothing” said Eddie.
“Any other Fort guys?”
“Big Niall MacPhee”
“Suppose he won nothing as well”
Eddie agreed that was true.
“Then there were the Borthwick boys from Kingussie and manager Stevie but they never won the Camanachd Cup either. In fact none of the Kingussie guys-even Ronald Ross himself- won the Camanachd Cup which seems to go against the natural order.”
Eddie agreed with that too
“An Inveraray guy was in it too- and they didn’t win the Celtic Society Cup. In fact things haven’t gone too well for them this season and then take yourself Ed and you spent most of the season injured and the Glen haven’t won anything either although the under 17s did win a six a side cup but the TV crew missed that. In fact these TV guys had all the shinty clubs in the world to choose from and every one they picked won nothing. You’ve got to admit that takes a special skill. ”
“Wing Centre” said Ed ,” as usual you’ve missed the whole point.” and off he went to his work.
Later , pondering the point, The Wing Centre reflected that Ed was right.
In fact the programmes are not really mainly about shinty at all. They are about people and families, fathers and sons, relationships and communities and how they are bound together by shinty. You have David Macpherson in Inveraray facing up to a massive health issue and the shinty community is there with him. And Big MacPhee has made enormous efforts to stay with his shinty community, What is Lisa Norman doing in Aberdour but building a community- and Aberdeen University Camanachd what sort of spirit has kept it going over 150 years?
All bound together by the indigenous sport, eh? That thrill of getting the ball up off the ground for the first time as a kid certainly never leaves you.
Some people –even Highland people -don’t get shinty- but then they probably don’t get life. It’s that simple – but the Wing Centre can’t write that because then even shinty people will think he is just full of it. They would be right…………………. but he wrote it anyway .
The pictures –just the guys who took part in the internationals. Thanks as always to Neil Paterson who took the ones that look decent.

The programme? When is it on?
Toisichidh a chiad prògram aig 8.30 air a 'phriomh latha den Dubhlachd.
That's what Eddie said anyway.

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