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.

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