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 http://www.neilgpaterson.com/) 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.