Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Friendly Fire

Beauly 3 Glenurquhart 0 (second teams)
Glenurquhart 0 Fort William 1

The first trip of the season over the hill to Beauly is as always….. well……. a trip. Not that the Wing Centre has anything against Beauly except in as much as it was from there that Mrs Wing Centre’s family originated-fortunately only on the one side.
Of late Beauly has been much dug up and difficult to get into and so the decision was made not to venture into the interior thus avoiding the chic niche shops favoured by the female of the species and merely content oneself with dumping the household rubbish in the bins at Braeview . It seems only right to a Drummer to do this.
Not much separates the two villages: they both have underachieving shinty teams. The Glen Chemist comes from Beauly while the Beauly optician comes from the Glen which seems a fair swap but there is one crucial element which hints at the differing character of both settlements. In the Glen, geese are domesticated: in Beauly they are wild -and there are lots of them.

That was certainly a thought to be born in mind as the match got underway between the Glen youngsters and a Beauly side which included some lads from the upper side.
As always the Beauly crowd were friendly and the game itself was interesting and illuminating. Certainly given the time of year, the pitch needed it all- though it is difficult to agree that the layout is as satisfying as it used to be of yore when the feeling was of more space.
From a Glen point of view there was satisfaction that for the third week in a row there was a full squad available- and though the Glen were slow to start by the middle of the first half they had a spell of dominance. Drew Maclennan at buckshee back was in particularly good form-his tackling is consistently excellent-and James Hurwood was always successfully involved at his side of the field. Prize for consistently high work rate went to Bradley Dixon while Dunc Fraser and his brother Ewan also showed up well in their spells on field.
Beauly failed to penetrate in the first half and goalie Cameron Maclennan showed good reflexes to stop a powerful Beauly drive. Indeed his play was consistently effective throughout. Ross MacDiarmid too was tidy in what he did and showed an ability to read a game which will stand us in good stead as we progress in what will be, given the retirement of a number of our veterans (not to mention the promotion of others to the top squad) a young team. Big Ross MacAulay did fine in the centre as did Donald Fraser both in defence and up front when he went there late in the game.
The youngsters, who played up front supporting the hard working front man Calum Miller, did well enough too: Jack Hosie, Ewan Menzies and Ewan Lloyd all looked good on what at times on what was for them a difficult and sticky pitch. Daniel Mackintosh had a second half run out up front and fired some good balls forward but by that time the Glen were beginning to wilt and he had to track back too deep to be a genuine threat in front of goal. Of course the difficult conditions are the same for both sides and Beauly had the edge where it came to hitting, and as the match moved into the second half the home side gained the upper hand eventually running out 3-0 winners thanks to strikes from Scott MacLean, Calum Morrison and Jack MacDonald.
While the margin of victory was perhaps a little hard, the Glen really must learn to score when they are on top- but if the positive attitude from the players is maintained then the side should make some progress though make no mistake, it is a hard League to play in with kids. Doubtless we’ll find this out in Skye at the end of the week.

Back over the hill the main point of difference was that Blairbeg had dried out well enough for the surface to be shinty-friendly. On an equally positive note it was good to see both Eddie Tembo and David Girvan getting a little time on the field in competitive conditions after some considerable absence.
Glen opened well enough in the same groove as they had been in during earlier friendlies but they found the Fort William backline a very different proposition from their previous opponents with quality defender Duncan Rodgers in particular two levels above anything they had met earlier. The game was fairly even in the first half, the one difference being that about the 30 minute mark Gary Innes worked himself free at the shop end and fired home the goal that was to be the winner.

Glen certainly pushed and worked hard but were unable to create clear cut chances. Partly that was down to good Fort defending but it was also down to not being effectively aggressive enough. Smarter, faster, harder is the only way without being silly about it-but then the guys should know that already.
Fort William are apparently down a number of quality players but chaps like Alex Duncan and Steven Stewart on this performance will step up to the mark in the course of the season. Niall Macphee had a strong game as had Bryan “Boob” Simpson and if Mr Innes can co-ordinate his lifestyle to turn up regularly then reports of Fort’s demise this season are very much exaggerated.
Glen’s disappointment in the second half was that despite some excellent interplay between the forwards, they failed to adequately test keeper Paul Mackay though it’s a fair bet he would have kept out most direct attempts. Disappointing too was the carelessness in some Glen set plays and basic drills like shies. An injury to Neale Reid occasioned his replacement midway through the half-but Liam Girvan who took his place put in a sound performance-without hitting the net. Best for the Glen on the day were David Smart and Fraser Heath.
The important thing in a friendly is not what the result is but how well it has prepared you for the campaign to be faced in the days and weeks ahead. For the Glen after the heady results of the week or so before, it is a reality check. Premier League teams are in the Premier League because they are the best in the business- as Kilmallie will attempt to prove next Saturday. We had better be ready for them.

Included in the pictures is the Wing Centre’s most favourite ever picture, taken in Beauly in 1991 with the Balliemore and London Shield winners together.The suspicion is that not since 1922 has such a snap been taken in Beauly. For the others taken in Drum thanks must go to Neil Paterson whose generosity helps give the D an occasional touch of photographic class. Many thanks Neil. He is to be found at Have a look!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Glen hit Ten!

Glenurquhart 10 Lochcarron 1

All things considered it was an interesting result at the weekend for Drew’s D-Dodgers. A win in any pre-season practice match is undoubtedly better than a loss and while it is tempting to say you cannot read anything into such a large win over a Lochcarron side who were undoubtedly a player or two short, it is also correct to be fair to the Glen. They popped in 10 goals on top of 5 last week. Something must be going right- and once again Glen were under strength being without Eddie Tembo for a second week. Absent also were Fraser Heath, Liam Girvan and Stuart Reid. Arran Macdonald switched into full back while Ali Mackintosh came back from injury to take up a position at wing back.
The pitch which had seemed to dry out somewhat over the course of the week, softened up considerably under the influence of early morning snow- and while the persistence of white stuff on the upper slopes of the Glen as the afternoon wore on might have caused the Lochcarron lads some concern about their possibilities of getting home via Garve and Achnasheen, it did not materially affect the game. The spectators though -young and old- bitterly complained about the cold and it is to their credit that they stuck things out to the end which was anything but bitter.
If truth be told the Glen front men carrying on from their performance last week combined with each other well , put in a great deal of running and got the goals some of them excellent. It has to be said that their visitors certainly gave them at times too much room. The centreline held well enough with David “Dixon” Maclennan, a new face in the middle, putting in for the second week in a row a tireless and honest performance while the defence, apart from a little spell in the middle of the first half when they let Lochcarron back into the game, were well on top.
Glen opened the scoring within five minutes after full forward John Barr slipped the ball home from close range- and with that early score the pattern of the match was set. A second quickly followed when Ruaraidh Cameron who had been especially influential the previous week sent Neale Reid free and he fired the ball fiercely past Kenny Ross in the Lochcarron goal. Glen’s pace was beginning to tell at this early period in the match especially that of Reid who was just too strong and quick for the Lochcarron defence to hold. However over-elaboration from the front men put a stop for a spell to Glen scoring and then carelessness at the back allowed Lochcarron to notch up a score of their own- and a particularly nice strike it was.
A drive from Lochcarron which was going wide was needlessly blocked by Glen keeper Mackintosh but it slipped over the by-line after he touched it. From the resulting corner Lochcarron full forward Kenny Murray first timed the ball in the air for his side’s only score - and for a time with the Glen midfield and defence a little shocked it looked as if the West Coasters would get back into the match.
It was not to be though and within a few minutes Neale Reid had added two more via fiercely struck drives from relatively near which Ross had no chance of stopping. Reid was on song at this point and his power on the sprint took him away from a Lochcarron defence which was suffering in as much as key defender Angus Mackay clearly had a problem with a hamstring.
Ross was however having a tremendous game in goals and he went on to underline that in the second half with a string of tremendous saves. For all that he was on form however the Glen pushed forward relentlessly with Barr adding a fifth. Billy Urquhart, who had replaced Ruaraidh Cameron as manager drew MacNeill rang the changes, then came close before Reid brought his personal tally to four. Lewis Maclennan then scored with an excellent strike beating Ross for sheer pace.
Reid got his fifth goal and his sides eighth when he whipped the ball home though Ross will be disappointed that he let that particular strike past him. Reid and Barr both came off for the last fifteen minutes as the manager juggled with his line up but by this stage, Lochcarron with the exception of Ross were too demoralised to offer more that token resistance and Andrew Corrigan who had played soundly in the centreline took the chance to push forward and help himself to a goal when he was played in by David Maclennan. The final goal just before full time went to Lewis Maclennan with a trademark drive high into the roof of the net- and that brought the score to double figures - 10-1- a score which has not been hit by a Glen side since a decade or more.
What does it tell us?
Not a lot really although it will have helped the confidence of the Glen forwards. The last time they have moved so freely and hit goals with such profusion was against Kilmallie last season or further back at home against Kyles in bird-flu days. At other times goals have been hard to come by. However while some of the front play was exceptional and creative- and there were patches of that on view last season-on occasions there was a tendency to be over-elaborate and chances to shoot were passed up. However without Kenny Ross between the posts 15 or 16 goals were very much on the cards. Lochcarron will no doubt regroup: it was clear they did not have their top 12 out on the field and the conditions- it was bitterly cold- were not conducive to maintaining morale once the team had slipped behind by a margin.
Glen have trained hard this session and the forwards have had a chance to show what they can do. They have been superb. The rest of the side looks solid-it was good to see Dave Girvan make his first appearance in nearly a year-but so far they have not been tested in the heat of battle. Neither Strathglass nor Lochcarron provided the kind of pressure that will come every week in the Premier.
The complete squad is not yet available: that will come in the fullness of time. The test will of course arrive further down the line and there will be tight games with serious teams. If the Glen are finally to win a serious trophy after having been gallant losers for two decades then there couldn’t be a better time to start than this season for all sorts of reasons.
Can we do it? It will depend on whether the guys have the character. It certainly looks so far as if they have the ability. And then of course there is always luck. Still it looks as if it’s going to be an interesting season.

The goal scorers are pictured. The other pic? DP chats up the Cheerleaders.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Glass Hearts Broken-Twice

Macdonald Cup
Strathglass 0 Glenurquhart 5
Ali Ban Cup
Strathglass 0 Glenurquhart 0 (Glen retain cup)

What on earth is happening to the Courier, that august organ that Miss Barron used to great effect to shape the consciousness of our town? It used to give a fair do to the indigenous sport of the Gael yet this week when the Wing Centre turned to the sports pages to read about the great Glen Urquhart victories in the Ali Ban and the Macdonald Cups respectively, there was barely a mention of the two great clubs which codified the rules of the sport back in the 1880s. There was of course plenty about Caley Swizzle and while it is interesting to read a page about Terry’s Truaghans (poor wee souls in the language of the Garden, a description now officially brought into the dialect of the Aird) enough can sometimes be too much. It makes you want to speed on the A82, it really does.
And what are they doing writing about Ross County? Much as we like to read about Ikey and his clean sheets, this is Inverness-shire for goodness sake. Next thing you know they will be reporting on Cabers which would be unfair ‘cos you never see anything about the Glen in the “Ross-shire” unless Cabers beat them which now really means never. One can only assume that the scribes at the Scottish Provincial Press have forgotten that the audiences are different.
In the absence of a Courier report of any magnitude, it falls to the Wing Centre to record some thoughts on the games in question and while he will never be impartial it is still possible that credit can be given to ‘Glass.
That the matches went ahead at all is credit to the Glasaich because mid-week it looked that weather wise any contest would have been termed “the Tussle on the Tundra” so cold had it been, but by Saturday the frost had come out of the ground though the turf was left heavy and difficult.
Lack of numbers in recent years has plagued Strathglass and last year their seconds struggled to compete despite the presence of a few decent players. On Saturday in the Ali Ban, they had to dig deep and their defence in particular had to rely on the heroes of yesteryear with Ivor Macleod, Gordy and Raymond Fraser and latterly Roy Mackenzie having to come on to hold the red and black swarm at bay.

Glen totally dominated the contest from start to finish but a combination of poor finishing, bad luck, an uneven pitch and good rear-guard action by ‘Glass meant that they failed to score though they threw everything into the match and have every right to be proud of their efforts.
In 5 minutes Calum Miller had a chance to open the scoring when he was put through on goal by Ewan Menzies but he pulled the shot wide. Shortly after another drive was saved by defender Ivor Macleod while a few moments later Raymond Fraser pulled off a tidy save from Brad Dixon. If the forwards were having no luck in front of goal, the youthful Glen backs and midfield played excellently. Ross Macfarlane looked sound and team captain Drew Maclennan subdued former Strath first teamer Barry John Phimister. Ross MacAulay and Duncan Fraser won more than their share of ball while young James Hurwood in the centreline showed that he has the tenacity and the ability to influence games.
The second half saw more of the same. Calum Smith at wing centre and Daniel Mackintosh continued to move the ball forward and youngster Jack Hosie who starred at the end of last season showed nice touches but was frustrated by the pitch which grew heavier as the morning progressed. Glen manager Iain Macleod rang the changes and to counter the big Strath defence he pushed defender Donald Fraser forward in support of Miller but though the big man won a good share of ball he too was unable to find the net. Liveliest of all the Glen forwards was student Ewan Menzies whose accurate shooting brought two excellent stops out of Strath goalie Fraser while a number of his other shots late in the second half fizzed narrowly past the post or struck the side-netting.
In the end the match finished 0-0 and while the lack of goals was a matter of frustration, Glen at least had the satisfaction of retaining the cup due to the fact that they were present holders having won it last season and so team captain Drew Maclennan was presented with the trophy by Jimmac Mackintosh who, though he has a foot in both camps, is really a Glenner at heart. Ref John Sloggie did well to keep the match flowing in difficult circumstances .The two pics show the young Glen squad with the cup and without the cup.

The big match was a pleasant watch for a Glenner but not if you were a Strathglasser which in some ways is a shame because when the matches are closer then the banter is better. But it was not to be- and Strathglass despite the sterling efforts of George Phimister and Donald Fraser at the back- and they are two lads who are fair players-Strathglass were unable to cope with the fitness and penetration provided by the Glen front men. Strath have fallen some way short of their level in 2009 when they were Balliemore winners in Bute. Since these glory days they have not only lost Lee Bain but Gary Reid, Mark MacLauchlan and Scott Douglas have come off the roster and though youngsters have stepped in to fill the gaps, the lack of quality showed.
Once again Glen dominated this match from the moment ref Duncan Kelly threw up the ball to start the contest and from the moment an early drive by Ruaraidh Cameron was tipped over the bar for a corner by Strath keeper MacLauchlan the scene was set for an afternoon of red and black dominance. Glen continued to push in the early phase, moving the ball about freely in the sort of sticky conditions that had thwarted their junior colleagues. The opening goal came in 10 minutes when Neale Reid whose powerful running was being barely kept in check by Strath broke through on the left and fired an unstoppable shot past MacLauchlan. A few minutes later and the Glen went two up. Once again Reid found himself with time to fire a shot on target and while the Strath keeper was able to keep the ball out the rebound fell kindly to internationalist Andrew Corrigan who made sure from close range.
The Glen’s third goal was probably the best worked of the day with Cameron sending a defence splitting pass into the path of John Barr up front and he finished clinically. Barr’s front play at this stage was well-nigh perfect-he has the physical presence to give any back a tough time but his touch play and ability to link up with quick running forwards gave the Glen a dimension they tended to miss out on in earlier seasons. Equally influential for the Glen were the two Davids- Smart and Maclennan: both lads performed excellently and ran themselves into the ground on a pitch which was far from simple to play on.
In defence the Glen did not have a great deal to do if truth be told, but what was required to be done was done well especially by full-back Stuart Reid and Strath did not really get many opportunities to test out Glen keeper and team captain Stuart Mackintosh. When they did so, he was up to the mark, which let’s face it, is what he always is.
The second period saw two more Glen goals the first of which came at the end of a piece of quality play. A ball through from David Smart found John Barr. He played on to Lewis Maclennan who sought out Ruaraidh Cameron and when Cameron’s attempt was blocked, Maclennan was quickly on hand to send the ball into the net for number four.
Shortly afterwards another scramble around the Strath goal saw Cameron underline his claim for man of the match when he made the score 5-0 with a finish from close in, this time after an attempt from Lewis Maclennan had been blocked by the home defence.
That was the end of the scoring and while Glen pushed forward for the final quarter they were unable to add more to what was an already substantial lead. A good result then – and one which was achieved with a less than full strength team. Absent through injury were Ali Mackintosh ,Eddie Tembo and David Girvan while Arran Macdonald came off at half time as a precautionary measure against a leg strain.
After the match Glen captain Stuart Mackintosh was presented with the Macdonald Cup by former Camanachd Association President Ken Thompson, a Strathglass stalwart from the good old days. Ken’s been away from the sport for a wee while and it’s good to see him back among shinty people who remember him not only as a former President but as a pretty fair goalie as well.
Newtonmore’s Rab Ritchie was charged with the task of choosing the man of the match- and his pick fell upon the Glen’s Ruaraidh Cameron. A hard decision to choose one from amongst the Glen’s centres and front men but Cameron’s tireless running, allied in particular to his thoughtful and creative play tipped the balance in his favour. Well done indeed.

The pictures explain themselves but you might like to read the snap of the top team as a work of Art allied to Social History. As such, you should note the pylon on the right hand side symbolising the link that Strathglass has with hydropower. The large break in the tree cover might also draw your mind to Strath’s forestry connection-it might be a firebreak or it might hint at modern tree cutting to allow the Beauly/Denny line to go through( symbolically of course because it’s not actually going through here.) On the other hand if you prefer not to see it as Art perhaps you should regard it simply as a badly framed photograph of what is, after all, a winning team.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Glen shinty mourns the loss of Vice-Chieftain John Alick Mackenzie (1937-2012)

With the death of John Alick Mackenzie on the 27th January yet another link with the successful side of the 1960s has been severed. In recent years John Alick has been an ever present at home matches in the “stand”. His generous smile and cheerful disposition will be much missed by the regulars over the course of the season to come and far beyond.
Though born in Morvern, Argyll, John Alick spent his school years at Torgoyle in Invermoriston where his father worked with the Forestry Commission and in due course he took up his place at Glenurquhart Secondary School , though such was the state of communications at the time that in order to do so he had to take up lodgings in Lewiston. Though he had doubtless become acquainted with shinty before he arrived in the Glen, it was at Secondary School in the Glen that he honed the skills and made the lifelong contacts which were to be of lasting importance to him in the world of shinty. That this was so may be seen in the picture of the school team of 1952 which lost out in the semi- final of the Macpherson Cup to the eventual winners Kingussie.

After leaving school John Alick went on to Aberdeen University where he became a key member of the Varsity side of the late 50’s, winning three Littlejohn Vases including with the side pictured in season 1956-7.

He then returned to play for the Glen as part of the all-conquering side of 1963 which saw victory in the Sutherland Cup (3-2 against Kyles at Spean Bridge) and the McGillivray Junior League. A versatile player whose height and long reach gave him an edge over many opponents, John Alick played up front and in the centreline not just for the Glen and Aberdeen University but over the course of his career for Lochcarron, Glasgow Mid Argyll and Oban Camanachd also. The Lochcarron appearances were a particular source of amusement to him because he became part of a side that at the time included 11 Mackenzies, which even to John Alick would have seemed somewhat excessive.

When John Alick left the north in 1964 to take up employment in another shinty area in Argyll it meant that his playing days in the Glen, though not his shinty career, had come to an end. However, he was to pull on the black and red jersey once again as part of a Glen veterans’ squad which came together on 15th August , 1987 to play a team of Inverness veterans to mark the centenary of the Inverness Club. The Glenners are pictured above and of course there is delight as well as sadness evoked by the picture taken to mark the Centenary of the “Town” club. One can say “Town “ rather than “City” of course because back in 1987 Inverness still had to achieve city status while the Glen had yet to reach a Camanachd Cup Final.
The Wing Centre was present at the game and while the score has slipped from his memory he can remember the silky skills of Bob Macdonald on one wing and Jocky Macdonald on the other. Both Macs were on target that day, Bob’s strike being a first time drive from a ball slipped across from Jocky. Of course supplying the midfield power were John Alick, Peter English, Geordie Stewart and a tireless Jimmy Burnett who was guesting for the day. Jimmy was the player with pedigree on the park having captained Kilmallie to Camanachd Cup glory in 1964. Sadly including John Alick, six of these Bught veterans are no longer with us. Don Cumming, Bob Macdonald, Peter English, Jocky Macdonald and of course Jimmy Burnett himself have all passed away and shinty in the Glen is the poorer for their passing.
It was a wonderful day of shinty at the Bught not only because the old Glenners triumphed over the old Invernessians by 4 goals to 0 but also because for the afternoon the years seemed to roll away.

In more recent times sadly John Alick suffered both from health problems and from the personal tragedy of losing his son John in a car accident. His spirit however remained strong and over the years accompanied by his good friend Jocky Macdonald he took up his regular place in the stand- and on Jocky’s death in 2008 he maintained his regular attendance at matches accompanied now by his brother Davie who was also a member of that schoolboy team of 1952. He was made Vice-chieftain of the club in 2000
The pictures are as follows:
The Aberdeen University side of 1957. For some reason they are pictured without the Littlejohn. With John in the picture are Brian Denoon and the late Peter English.
Also pictured is the Glen trophy winning side of 1963 with John Alick to be seen.
The final snap is of the Glen Vets who played at the Bught to mark the centenary of Inverness Shinty Club
For those who are curious the players are as follows:
(Back) : Andrew Ian Macdonald, Peter Macdonald, Geordie Stewart, Jocky Macdonald, Tommy McKenna, Peter English, John Alick Mackenzie, Bob English
(Front) Don Cumming, Jimmy Burnett, Alan Bell, Iain Macdonald, Bob Macdonald, Calum Fraser.

See how many you can spot in the team of 1963.
Thanks to Brian Denoon for the Aberdeen Uni picture: the other b/w images came from Peter English's book on Glen Shinty (1985)

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