Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Greetings from the D

The above is the Glen’s Christmas card this year and they will have been dropping through more than a few letter boxes over the past day or two in the run up to Christmas. It features all three teams-the Premier side, the North Div 2 and, of course, the Under 17s with the London Shield. Also sending out Christmas greetings from whiteout Shintyland is the Glen’s Snow-bodach who was trying to get a wee knock on the front green before Santa came - nice to see he’s reassuringly retro with his “Currachd Ruadh” and his old McPherson hickory one –piece.
Without even Zandra’s Sixes to keep us on our toes, at this time of the year there not much doing shinty-wise in the Glen except to turn on Caman on Alba every Thursday at 8.30pm. to see what EJ has been up to the previous week. He’s had quite a time so far, but for the Wing Centre the highlight has been when he got that Chinese bird to put him on fire. As if merely sticking pins in EJ wasn’t enough, the lady in question attempted to cause him to burn down and Ed in his pants too! No doubt there will be some further ups and downs to come but the betting in Balmacaan is that he’ll be back fit to play for the first team before the end of the series.
To strike a more sensible note for a moment, the programme is turning out to be not half bad with one particularly powerful, genuine piece of television when David Macpherson (senior) spoke movingly about when young Davie told him about his cancer. One might have thought that such a moment was worth a mention on one or other of the TV reviews that are churned out in the broadsheets and tabloids- but no such luck.
Such was ever the way with things shintywise. Though we are making strides, Shinty is still ignored by the big wide world. Ever since Greek traders came in contact with nomads on the Russian steppe north of the Black Sea in 800 BC, the notions of “civilised” and “barbaric” have come to poison European thought. The prejudice was picked up by the Romans, fed into European kingdoms and besides providing notions of Empire and racial superiority fuelled the anti–Highland prejudice of the Lowland kings leading to the Statutes of Iona and eventually the proscription of a culture post Culloden with consequent Clearances. Shinty? Mere collateral damage and it still suffers today and still after all this time, if one is not vigilant, it is liable to be patronised at every turn.
Wow! What was that about? Where did that come from? Doesn’t the Wing Centre care that Prof Tom Devine might pick holes in the analysis –always assuming he can find any? Nuh! . For one thing it’s always nice to see the reasons for Shinty shabby treatment in a wider context and there ain’t no wider context than the one provided above. As well as that, a further cause of the rant was the Wing Centre’s realisation that, despite Aberdeen University Shinty Club having Eck Salmond as President, his appointment won’t make any difference to the sport. Perhaps it’s better having him on board than having him not involved at all but the Wing Centre has studied carefully pictures of Eck and he does not have the look of a particularly sporting guy, and therefore he will not be especially interested in any sport let alone this quaint Hieland one. If only a football-obsessive politico like Henry MacLeish had been born in Tighnabruaich. But then again the Wing Centre might be wrong because he has been known to be wrong in the past. Once or twice.

Finally the news has broken that the greatest shinty player who ever pulled on a red and black jersey has decided to retire. Yes it’s true! Big James Clark who helped Fort William to 5 Camanachd Cup wins (2005, 2007 2008 2009 & 2010) has decided to hang up his golden caman at the age of 37. Big Jim has let it be known that being a partner in a joinery business has meant that his work commitments mean that he has found it difficult to attend training sessions. His loss is huge for the sport because though as far as the Wing Centre is concerned he did not really receive the media attention his special skills deserved. On the field he was a massively powerful figure with the surest of touches with the caman, an excellent shinty brain and a deadly shot in front of goal. At his peak his skill and physique made him simply unplayable. After a season and a half with Glengarry, his home side, Jim joined Fort William in 1993, earned caps at under 21 and full international level before in 2005, winning the first of his Camanachd Cup winners medals at An Aird in the 3-2victory over Kilmallie. Jim was the man who made the difference that day when he scored two goals the second of which was the late goal which landed the Cup. He scored two more including the winner as Fort beat Inveraray 2-1 in the 100th Camanachd Cup final at Inverness in 2007 then two more as Fort beat Kingussie 2-1 at An Aird in 2008. For the Wing centre however big Jim’s most spectacular assist was in Oban in 2009 when Fort beat Kyles 4-3 in a Camanachd final in which the big man started as sub. Clark came off the bench and fired home a double including once more a last gasp winner that gave Fort 3 Camanachd Cups in a row. The big man picked up yet another winner’s medal in 2010 when Fort William beat Kingussie 3-2 at the Bught though this time unusually he did not find the net. One other little statistic that is worth mentioning is that while there have been a few players who have won the Albert Smith medal, given to the outstanding player in the Camanachd Final on more than one occasion, so far no one except big Jim has done it back to back as he did in 2007 and 2008.

The thing about Big Jim is that having worn the black and red as a schoolboy in Kilchumein,he could have easily chosen Glenurquhart . He must be kicking himself when he thinks about all the Macdonald Cups and Strathdearns he could have won if only he had picked his team carefully and correctly. Indeed look at the pic here. OK so it’s not top quality but here is big Jim in a Glen strip way back in the mists of time. Indeed it is so old that it looks as if the chemicals in the print are disintegrating. Yet despite this Jim went to the Fort. Was it something we said, Jim?
Never mind you are always welcome to come back. You’ll be in good company because most of our Strathdearn guys find it hard to make training too.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Cups and Downs of Shinty.

Like all of shinty’s faithful followers in the Glen and the Aird, the Wing Centre likes the “Courier” even though he gets a little tired of the fact that in recent times its sports page has tended to focus too much on Caley Swizzle. Not that he is in any way against Caley manager Terry Butcher because, despite living in Abriachan, he at least seems to perform the socially useful function of attempting to keep the traffic on the A82 under some sort of control with his admonitions. To be fair though the Courier does give shinty a regular place-we have even had a recent sports editorial on the indigenous sport-though, as always, there is more that could be done.
Which is why the Wing Centre was most disconcerted last week to see the following little snippet in the Courier section which is entitled a bad week for....

In the Glen we did not really consider that particular victory to be the marker of a bad week. Winning a National Trophy for the first time in ten years was generally held to be a good thing , though when the point was put to the Chieftain he did indicate that he hoped the victory would not go to the heads of the youngsters involved and that having won at that level, they would continue to think of themselves as students of the game “with a lot to learn”. It is possibly a groundless fear because the last time that this trophy was won, it was with a side that was captained by Michael “Ikey” Fraser and contained Corky, Arran ,Lewis and Stuart Reid all of whom have gone on to be mainstays of the senior side. Michael has gone on to play in Ross-shire, not only in another county but also in another sport. It seems like a waste of a good Glenner but there you have it. That day victory was claimed at the Jubilee Park , Ballachulish and the opponents were Inveraray – and some of their guys have gone on to do quite well too.
This year’s victory came over at the Crofterdome on a day when that noble stadium undoubtedly harboured the only playable sward in the whole of Shintyland. A dreadful morning of wind and rain made for an anxious hour or so of wondering whether the match would go ahead but in the end Kinlochshiel came over the bealach and the match got underway with ref Graham Macmillan in charge of proceedings. The Wing Centre enjoyed the atmosphere- because despite the weather there was a sufficiency of aficionados present to create one- and the game wasn’t half bad either. Being of a gloomy disposition your reporter did not start out with too much faith in his valley’s young folk – especially when he considered that Shiel’s Connall Fraser had got four goals in the semi – but right from the start the young Glenners put in a shift. Inspired by Ewan Brady , Ewan Lloyd and Jack Hosie in the middle ,the black and red babes, with the help admittedly of a strong breeze, managed to secure some territorial advantage though secure defending from Shiel prevented both Daniel Mackintosh and Sam Cumming from turning early half chances into goals.
Glen took the lead though in the 15th minute when Connor Golabeck was put through on goal and the youngster kept a cool head to slip the ball past Shiel keeper Hugh Macrae for the opener. Glen kept up pressure and Cumming saw a drive come back off the post while another chance or two also went begging. At the other end Kinlochshiel tested the Glen defence when Jordan Fraser edged his shot just over the bar but both Fraser Heath at full back and James Hurwood at buckshee were on top form while Rory Maclean and Lachie Smith on the wings also kept the pressure on the Shiel forwards and star player Connal Fraser found himself with neither enough time or space to strike a telling blow. However just before the half time break Shiel got back into the game thanks to a close range strike by Aedan Macrae. Played in by Connal Fraser he slipped the ball past Glen keeper Cameron Maclennan and the sides went into the interval all square.
If Glenners on the side lines were worried that their youngsters were going into a second half having not made enough of the advantage the wind gave them in the first period they need not have worried. Glen kept on the front foot and their defence was alert enough to deal with whatever the Shiel lads could throw at them. Daniel Mackintosh fired home the decisive strike in the 57th minute when he persevered to find himself space and fired a powerful drive high into the Shiel net for what turned out to be the winner. Shiel were not completely out of it yet and Glen keeper Cameron Maclennan had to make an excellent save from a powerful drive by Fraser before Shiel resistance was finally overcome and the trophy went over Culnakirk for the first time in a decade.
An excellent advert for youth shinty, this game raises hopes that perhaps in the years to come it might be that a Glen side will have more trophies to put on the top table at the Dinner Dance than the Games Cup for the Tug of War !!
So what on earth were the Courier guys thinking about when they judged the victory as heralding a bad week for the Glen?
“That’s an easy one.” said Mr Reid, as he sorted out the Lotto tickets for the weekly draw.
Now if Mr Reid thinks it’s easy then most likely it is very complicated but in this case everything hinged on something that the Wing Centre hadn’t quite taken in.
“I bet they’ve got a little mixed up over the Premier League situation.”said Mr Reid and he went on to explain that when the last Premier game of the season, the Kyles v Kingussie match, had been cancelled the Camanachd decided that the points should be shared. Kings and Kyles got a point each, so the Glen slipped from 4th to 5th in the Premier League table since Kings now had the same points but a better goal ratio. Glen lost a place without even playing.
“A little bit like the old Pools Panel eh Mr Reid?” said the Chieftain. “What was the score?”
“What? They didn’t even give Ronald a goal? That was pretty mean of Astie.”
“Suppose so” said Mr Reid “but I bet Stevie Borthwick was pleased.”
“ ‘Cos Kings finally kept a clean sheet , that’s why”
With that Mr Reid went back to sorting out the Lotto. It was clear that he thought Kingussie were so jammy that if a Kingussie guy had come in and bought a ticket, he would have won. Not that Mr Reid would have sold him one.

Thanks to Neil Paterson( all the pictures except the first one and the one of Garry and Dan.

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