Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Name Game

Glenurquhart 1 Skye 4 (North Division 2)
Kinlochshiel 2 Glenurquhart 3 (Premier Division)

It had to come to this. When you give the Treasurer too much of his own way then he starts thinking the primary function of the Club is as a money-making enterprise and not as a sports club to enable the youngsters of the parish to practise the noble though culturally threatened art of shinty. You have to suppose that he’s been put wrong at the thought of the expense of travelling down to Oban for a cup final. Whatever- when the Wing Centre came across him last week he was at his desk surrounded by bits of paper covered with minute, strangely artistic, columns of figures.
“You’re at the Books, I see, Treasurer,” said the Wing Centre, and he spoke with a tone of reverence and respect that had you heard him would have explained why the word starts with a capital. “I thought you would be using a computer spread sheet by now- one of these Excel things”
The look the Treasurer gave was withering-but it was clear that he had something on his mind that he wished to share with a wider audience.
“The only way I can see that we’ll get enough money to get to Oban is if we rename the stadium” “How do you mean?”
“You approach a sponsor- and sell him the right to rename the stadium.”
“You mean like that Ross County guy Macgregor did? He’s calling Victoria Park the Global Energy stadium now.”
“That’s roughly the sort of thing I was thinking about. Though he was pretty stupid about it as far as I can see. He already owns the Club but then he goes and sells the name to himself which seems to me a waste of an asset. He should have sold it to another company and increased the return.”
“But you can’t do that in shinty, Treasurer. It’s not part of the tradition of the sport.”
“Rubbish it’s already happening. Take Skye for instance. They call their ground “The Park of Heroes” and as you know everyone in Shinty thought they were being rather too presumptuous but then Ross Cowie told me they had done a deal with Cadbury’s and they were getting money for the name –they even managed to convince Cadbury’s to let them use the Gaelic form “Pairc nan Laoch” on politically correct grounds in keeping with Highland Council’s Gaelic Plan.”
“You have to hand it to them. They’re pretty glic the Sgiathanaich”
“Not quite so smart as Kingussie. That John Robertson did a fancy deal with Dell Computers and seemingly Kingussie are getting a fortune on a weekly basis. They charge a big price at the gate to get in there but that’s only so they are able to produce a convincing story about where the money is coming from to HMRC, what with Danny Alexander living nearby.”
“So what would we call Blairbeg? The Bellfry, after Alan Bell?” said the Wing Centre not without his tongue in his cheek.
“I doubt if Alan would be willing to pay on his own for all the boys to go to Oban to the MacAulay.” “So what do you think then?”
“I’m not 100% sure yet. We really need the finance committee to meet to consider all the possibilities. If Fraser Campbell would come up with the spondulicks we could go with “The Cobbery” or we could call it “Sustainable Park” after Druim Ba Sustainable Energy who already sponsor us. There’s a big game on today at “The Sustainable”- that has a sort of ring to it or even “The Nodram”…….. And so he chuntered on alive to the possibilities of profit, a true child of the austerity .

By that time however the Wing Centre had walked off down the road to the chip shop outside of which he found a stained and crumpled copy of the West Highland Free Press which by that time in the week had already fulfilled its secondary purpose as a receptacle for deep fried oblong pieces of potato. (see the pic)
Therein he read about the Glen’s two most recent games; he had attended one of them but on reading the report he came to the conclusion that he apparently hadn’t. He had to go back to his notebook to check up - and discovered that he had actually been present.
 What did he see?
He saw a Skye team that looked slick and moved the ball about very quickly and they went ahead in 7 minutes with a neatly taken goal from Jordan Murchison. Glen came back into the game but then the Wing Centre thought about it for a sec.
  It was unfortunate that Glen were very short due to guys having other commitments, injuries or first team duties. Drew Maclennan, Calum Smith, Calum Miller, Gary Mackintosh, Ewan Fraser, Duncan Fraser, Ewan Menzies and Kelvin Mackenzie were all unavailable.
Skye came strong with their first team game being postponed due to Inverness first team failing to raise a team. Then it all came clear. Skye had a more experienced team –so the focus had to be on how the Glen boys did. Cameron Maclennan did well in goals and young Euan Lloyd had a difficult task against Jordan Murchison who has a superb first touch. Euan however stuck to the task and actually came through strongly.
 As the first period went on Glen began to post more of a threat up front particularly through excellent touch play from Jack and Ben Hosie. Shots from each of them were on target as was an attempt by Daniel Mackintosh. Then a drive by Iain Macleod fizzed past with the Skye goalie looking more than flustered. Then when a direct strike from Ben Hosie came back out off the keeper two minutes before half time, Calum Fraser was on hand to knock it home to level the score.
  Skye went on to score two quick goals in the second half in 51 and 52 minutes- one by Ally Macdonald and the other a good strike by Murchison – and that convinced the Glen there was nothing to be gained from the match and Manager Iain Macleod took himself off to let young Rory Maclean have a shottie on the field – and so they Glen saw out time though an injury to full back Donald Fraser meant that a late chance fell to Skye forward Will Cowie in 81 minutes.
 This Skye combo were a slick outfit and well deserved their win but to look on the positive side, the Glen youngsters played well. James Hurwood in particular fought hard for the whole game as did Jack Hosie. He never gave up on any ball and worked hard right to the end of the game. He is currently Glen Second’s top scorer and at 16 years old that is impressive. What was pleasing about the whole squad was that all they showed great character and fight even when they knew they were up against it. That has to be a good thing.

Meanwhile up at Kirkton the top side took both points which has to be a good thing since ‘Shiel have proved to be awkward opponents ever since they fluked a Balliemore win against the Glen 5 years ago.
 As usual the black and reds started with five players short of a full squad but when Neale Reid rattled home the opener after a neat pass from David Smart then the Glen text-messages home started to become more positive. Though spirits flagged when Keith Macrae bagged the equaliser, they rose again when Neale Reid got a second.
A Fraser Heath strike at the start of the second half made the Glen secure- but it’s worth underlining how the goal came about. The under-17 international picked up the ball on the left, slipped it into the path of Reid and when his screamer came back off keeper Graham Kennedy, the young man kept his head to ram home the rebound.
 Game over- except for two things-Shiel keeper Graham Kennedy picked up a red card for his part in an incident with one of the Glen forwards. You have to feel for him since he will miss ‘Shiel’s upcoming Camanachd semi against Inveraray.

 The other “thing” was an own goal from Andrew Corrigan who mis-hit a clearance into his own net to give Shiel some false hope that they would pinch a point.

Next match - Glen go up against Kyles. No pressure then! As if. The kids? Versus Fort William. Away. No pictures except the scrunched up WHFP….. . There is one of Mr Reid on his way to Kyles - the headline on his paper might be a hint that a name deal is on the way. The last one ?
Some clown in a lorry drove off the A82 and because he could not be bothered to reverse, he simply did a U-turn on the pitch.Would you believe it! The pictures are proof.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Magic Moment at Fort – but two priceless points gained in Bute

Fort William 2 Glenurquhart 0 (Strathdearn Semi-final)
Bute 1 Glenurquhart 4 (Premier League)

You can look at it either way- a devastatingly disappointing afternoon or an opportunity to see something magical. The Wing Centre isn’t sure but let’s go for the magical angle first. You are two nil down in a semi-final, Fort are pouring forward with every intention of putting a stranglehold on a game they should never have caught by the throat in the first place when something marvellous happens. A ball comes into the D and Fort’s Graham Campbell is less than a yard from goal when he catches it on the shaft of his stick and directs it point blank at the goals. A definite counter- but no, Cameron Maclennan on the goal line , going the wrong way, twists back, gets his hand to the ball somehow and pops it over the bar. Unbelievable save but you’ve just seen it happen. Magic! 

But that was as good as it got though the appearance of Harry Potter’s Choo-Choo puffing along the embankment by the Black Parks seemed to hold out the promise of more supernatural happenings but it was not to be – and there was nothing left for the Wing Centre to do but to try out the old line that you can always use in Fort William or Mallaig or Aviemore for that matter. You know the one. “I knew you were behind the times here in Fort William or wherever, but I did not know you still had steam trains.”

Of course they smiled but theirs was the smile of folks who knew they were already in a cup-final and they were simply humouring a loser. How true that was.
This was the second time in a few weeks Glen lost in a semi-final, a feat they managed last year as well- and it has to be said that this last weekend it was a particularly disappointing occasion.
Glen opened strongly and in the opening few minutes a number of chances fell to the forwardline which they failed to clinch though to be fair Fort William keeper Cal Brown also had a good save in the air from a drive by Ewan Menzies.

Fort’s first attempt went close enough a drive pulled past by Graham Campbell but the big full forward made amends in 10 minutes when he blasted home the opener from close range. From that point Fort William were in the driving seat as they poured forward into a Glen defence that rather struggled to cope with the action. Cameron Maclennan was on hand to deal with a few difficult shots but Fort were really rather wasteful firing drives high wide and not especially handsome until the Glen faithful almost began to believe that they would survive unscathed until half time. Glen then came back a little and forced a couple of chances which again failed to go home. Escape was not on the cards however  because in 37 minutes Fort’s Jack Fraser rasped home number two from an angle and were it not for Glen keeper Cameron MacLennan’s heroic effort it would have been three before the half-time whistle went to give the Glen a chance to regroup.
Glen made a couple of changes at half time so as to strengthen the midfield and try and provide service for the forwards which was lacking in the first half. This strategy worked  and the red and blacks did get on top creating three chances in a row – for Calum Miller, Jack Hosie and finally for Daniel Mackintosh but all three remained untaken and Fort William held out to win 2 0.
It has to be marked down as a disappointment even although Cameron Maclennan in goals had his magic moment to prevent Fort going 3 nil up. Donald Fraser worked hard, covering for his wing backs who struggled at times against Fort’s  “Opportunity “ Knoxes , Scott and Alan and “Jack the Lad” Fraser who were fed by good hitting up by Sean Cameron and Jamie Cruickshank  on the short pitch. In the second half this was not so evident as Ewan Menzies played well when he went to wing back. Bradley Dixon again worked hard for the team but things did not go as well for him as they have done in earlier matches. Other lads put in effort certainly but sadly things did not click: it might have been so very different if Drew Maclennan   and particularly big Calum Smith had been available but they weren’t- so we lost out on the day. All the best to Fort William in the final.
Doon the watter, the top side did themselves a Premier League favour taking two points off a Bute side that are a fair team. They may not have won much away from home but they don’t give away points or goals easily. Glen scraped past them at Drum via a superb goal from Lewis Maclennan- and the guess is - it may be wrong - that the reason that four goals were scored down there was because Hector Whitelaw had been pushed forward to get a goal.  That is not to downplay the other guys but it is quite simple - Hector is big player and in the collective mind of shinty players everywhere he is synonymous with the Bute defence. When you take him out of there then the opposition feel they have a chance. Rubbish? Perhaps, but he can also get you a goal-so it’s a fine judgement for Barry Martin. Sometimes it will work-sometimes it won’t.
Having talked to some of the players after the match the best that can be said is that the local paper  The Buteman  contained a report of what happened –and here it is :

Bute Shinty Club’s senior side were forced a step nearer to relegation from the Orion Group Premiership on Saturday after Glenurquhart scored three times without reply in the second half to complete a 4-1 win at the Meadows.
Bute had got off to the perfect start with just six minutes on the clock when John Beattie met Roberto Zavaroni’s cutback with a neat finish at the near post.
But the visitors levelled matters in the day’s only Premiership fixture when Neale Reid sent a low drive into the bottom corner of the net midway through the first half.
Glenurquhart had three good chances to extend their lead just before the interval; all went unconverted, but that all changed less than a minute into the second half when Reid held off the attentions of Bute’s Hector Whitelaw before laying the ball off for David Smart, whose low strike gave the visitors the lead.
Glenurquhart keeper Stuart Mackintosh pulled off a superb stop to prevent Roberto Zavaroni netting an equaliser in 57 minutes - and Mackintosh then recovered brilliantly to deny Robert Ferguson from the rebound.
The visitors made the most of that narrow escape when Reid drilled home Fraser Heath’s lay-off to make it 3-1 midway through the second half.
The loss of a third goal knocked the stuffing out of a Bute team already low on confidence,
 Glenurquhart had several chances to put the icing on the cake before Smart added a fourth in injury time after he was picked out in acres of space at the back post.

After the match, as can be seen from the snap taken at the ferry terminal the lads were in party mood. Still the Glen are not out of the woods yet. We shall see if they can escape this week.

Monday, July 16, 2012

MacAulay: All the Way - so far.

Fort William 0 Glenurquhart 3 (MacAulay semi-final)

Bunnets in the air!! Up flies the Curachd Ruadh. Glen make it through to the MacAulay final with a 3-0 victory over Fort William at a rain-soaked Bught. Trouble was the Wing Centre missed the match and everyone in Drum was too wasted to tell him what the score was until the next day by which time he had lost the urge to euphoria.
Not that everyone was pleased. The Treasurer was especially down beat. Why so?
“Well, they’ll want a bus next. They’ll be needing new jerseys and sticks. Some of them will no doubt be wanting their names on the shirts for the telly, though at the speed the camera goes on these Youtube videos you’ll never be able to read them anyway. The way I look at it, an appearance in a cup final is just an unwarranted drain on club funds. Why couldn’t they just go and win the league -game by game, quietly and then by the time they’d won it, it would be too late to spend money.”
The Wing Centre couldn’t believe the Treasurer had said that. Twice before in the long, very long history of Glenurquhart Shinty Club, back in the days when Glenurquhart was two words even, the Glen made it through to two MacAulay finals.

In the first one in 1972 Kyles Athletic won 4-0-it was the era of Barney Crawford, Chic Jamieson, Tommy Nicholson, Neil Blair and of course goalie Billy Patterson: winning that one was too big an ask. By the time Kyles won the second one in 1977 by two goals to nil the gap had narrowed somewhat and that particular match was closely contested. A thirty-five year gap between finals is of course ridiculous –indeed there will be no-one in the Glen team who was even born when we were in the last one – and it is to be hoped that this second chance at Glen immortality will lift the side to long overdue victory.  Whatever happens on the pitch on the day, it is to be hoped that we are spared the rain that put paid to what ought to have been our last appearance in an Oban Cup final-the Balliemore of 2007. It rained as only it can rain in Argyll – and the game was transferred to be played the next weekend in Newtonmore where because of the thin air up on the high moors, the lads were unable to perform to their maximum potential and thus lost to a solitary goal scored by a Fraser. The irony of it all!

Having missed the game in real life, the Wing Centre was forced to watch it in reel life (an image which in this digital age appears to have lost much of its force) and since he was using free wi-fi  in an Edmonton  coffee house but was determined to invoke   a minimal expenditure on caffeine substances, he  was obliged to fast forward through much of the first half.
Key to the first half equilibrium seemed to be a tight rein kept on Gary Innes by Lewis Maclennan ably backed up by John Barr and Andrew Corrigan. David Smart put in a solid shift at lightning speed as far as could be made out but the rain seemed to have reduced the crowd somewhat.
The second half was- and the Fort guys will admit it- a bit of a triumph for the Glen- payback for all those centuries of reiving good Glen cattle and leaving us with Cameron and Macmillan markers in our DNA which has been a sore trial at times. But it was one of their own that got them back when Glen’s Ruaraidh Cameron caught the ball from going out for a bye down the right, kept it in play and whipped it back into the path of David Smart who opened the scoring with a neat strike.

Fort came roaring back and Gary Innes , now being closely marked by John Barr, managed to connect and was perhaps unlucky not to give Glen keeper Mackintosh more to do. At the other end Neale Reid was in superb form troubling the Fort backline with his pace, strength and close control every time he got the ball.
Glen had to dig in deep in the midfield during this period and the contribution of Fraser Heath in the centreline, where he helped to nullify Fort’s Niall Macphee, was exceptional and the overall performance of the side laid the foundation for Ruaraidh Cameron’s excellent second goal. Having picked up the ball deep in the middle after it had broken to him he ran forward a couple of yards and fired a shot from distance which caught Fort keeper Paul Mackay off guard and flew high into the net. Goal of the Glen season? Pretty much.
 Fort tried hard to come back but the speed of Reid and the craft of Cameron up front and the determination of Ali Mackintosh, Corrigan, Lewis Maclennan, Arran Macdonald and Dixie Maclennan further back seemed to sap their will.  Glen iced the cake when Reid picked out James Macpherson just at the edge of the D: he stunned the ball with his stick and fired a left handed screamer past Mackay to make it 3-0.

Fort were beaten but they were saved embarrassment when Billy Urquhart was deprived of a counter soon afterwards and both he and Neale Reid were unable to finish off relatively straightforward chances. Not that it mattered-Glen were through and  there was dancing in the streets of Balnain, in East and West Lewiston, Coilty Crescent,Cuilanlon , Druimlon and of course Balmacaan Road. Milton, reportedly, remained unmoved.

Kinlochshiel 1 Glenurquhart 1 (North Division 2)

At the same time as the old boys were dancing in the rain at the Bught, the youngsters  were hanging on to a draw at Balmacara where the tone of the game was marred by an unfortunate injury to full centre Drew Maclennan who took a nasty blow in the face from a caman.
Glen started the match without Calum Smith, Ross Macdiarmid, Jack Hosie and Kelvin Mackenzie but the strength of the squad to hand meant that Manager Iain Macleod was not particularly concerned  and as expected the red and blacks  dominated the first 20 minutes of  shinty going 1- 0 up after 10 minutes through a fantastic strike from Ewan Menzies. We were better than Kinlochshiel in every area of the field and it looked at this stage like we were going to run away easy winners. Then on 20 minutes Drew Maclennan mis-timed a tackle and took a terrible blow to the face. An ambulance was called to take him to hospital.

This injury shook up the whole team and put the Glen players particularly the youngsters on the back foot and the rest of the first half was very flat.
As a consequence the second half saw Kinlochshiel get on top of the game. Being older and more experienced and with their first team playing at home that day too they had the capacity to put on strong players up front to try and equalise. They did equalise with 10 minutes to go for a share of the points.

Goalie Cameron Maclennan had another excellent game, particularly in the second half. Donald Fraser too was solid and strong and he is indispensable in defence. James Hurwood and Duncan Fraser both worked extremely hard at wing back for the team. Ross Macaulay, Euan Lloyd and Calum Miller all had good games and Drew Maclennan was a different class until his injury. Two players that stood out over the whole game however were Calum Fraser and Bradley Dixon. After Drew’s injury Calum went into full centre and had a fantastic game. He was a great leader and drove the team right to the end. Bradley Dixon at half back was again excellent as he has been all season. He worked tirelessly, tackled well, and with his clean hitting, allied to his ability to read the game, he has been outstanding  this season.
The first picture of Ruaraidh's stunning goal is provided courtesy  Donald Cameron of Inverness while the rest of this week’s main pictures are from Neil Paterson (his portfolio may be viewed at   Many thanks Neil.
The picture of Drew was taken when the Glen seconds played Lovat recently. The Wing Centre took it on his cell phone- well you can't have everything.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

More too strong for Glen in Sutherland Semi

Glenurquhart 1  Newtonmore 4

Given that the Wing Centre has been absent on the Prairies for the last while, he has found it somewhat hard to keep the blog up to date. Out here the debate is about whether physical contact should be allowed in kids ice-hockey a debate fuelled by the fact that the best outfielder of his day the Nova Scotian Sidney Crosbie has just missed a season and a half as a result of suffering serious concussion from being deliberately fouled in a match. Of course the guy who did it got a ban but not a life ban because over the years the culture of ice hockey has been too accepting of the fact that big strong guys can deliberately foul more skilful guys out of the game.
Fortunately these days are behind us in shinty - and as a result we have a contact sport which ought not to put off parents as ice hockey is clearly beginning to do in Canada.
The report on the match was provided by Glen Manager Iain Macleod - and as such it consists of his own view of matters as they occurred in the game. Should further info come in over the course of the next day or two the "D" will be amended as and when.

"I was pleased this semi final was at the Bught because it gave the whole squad the experience of a big match played at a good venue. Glen were without Bradley Dixon who has been one of our best players this season and also Calum Smith who would have made a big difference in a game  of this type. Ewan Fraser was also unavailable. We all knew that Newtonmore would be a very strong side and we would have to be at our very best to win.

In fact the game was won by Newtonmore in the first half hour. They were strong, physical and played very well as a team. Glen went 3-0 down in this period in the game through pressure and good finishing from Evan Menzies and Calum Stewart . They were fast up front and we did struggle to control them. The end of the first half saw us fight to get back into the game however and we had a really good spell with Jack Hosie scoring to make it 3-1. Their keeper also had an excellent save from Euan Lloyd which would have made it a far better half time score for us but  it was not to be. We went in at half time 3-1 down but we felt that for that final period in the first half we played well.

 We spoke at half time how important it was to score early in the half to get ourselves back into the game but despite everyone fighting for every ball at all times we were unable to score. They scored again unfortunately and that won the game for them. We had periods in the second half where we were on top but they defended well and soon pressed up the pitch again. They were strong throughout their whole team and I struggled to see a weakness to work against. 
Cameron Maclennan throughout the game played well with some good saves and he will be disappointed as keepers always are to lose goals We are delighted with his progress this season and the work he puts in at training. Donald Fraser, Drew Maclennan and Ross Macdiarmid all played well against a strong and fast forward line and gave their very best the whole game.
 Duncan Fraser  found himself up against a very fast opponent but he gave his all as did James Hurwood  who is just back from injury. 
Euan Lloyd and Ross Macaulay both played well at wing centre with Euan pushing up into attack quite a lot too. There was a very high work rate from all the centre line for the whole game. All the forwards fought hard too trying to make use of the service they were getting but the Newtonmore defence were very strong and so kept us from scoring to get back into the game. Jack Hosie though took his chance well, once again showing good composure in front of goal and he finished well.

We are all disappointed to have lost this game and not proceeded into the Sutherland final but as much as it hurts me to admit we were beaten by a better team. Everyone fought hard for the whole game and never gave up right to the end which pleased me. We will learn from this experience and keep going in the positive direction in which we are going. Everyone was positive throughout and after the game and it pleased me also how everyone supported each other on and off the field. 
Drew Maclennan picked up a yellow card for a late swing but he was against a physical player so had to be strong in all his challenges against him. Despite Newtonmore being older, more experienced and physical I felt we stood up to them and challenged them for every ball. A lot of work still needed to be put into this squad like I said at the start of the season but I am delighted so far with progress.
We wish Newtonmore all the best in the final."

A positive response to a disappointing day certainly ,but having seen this Newtonmore side at Drum a few weeks or so ago then getting past them was always going to be a big ask.
Let's hope for better luck next week for the seniors against Fort .

 Special thanks are due to  Donald Cameron of Inverness for the pictures. .

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