Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Oh, What a Perfect Day !

Glenurquhart 6 Oban Camanachd 0   (MacAulay Cup Final)

And it was. The Wing Centre has never had a more beautiful day at the shinty-even when he was playing -though the Strathdearn of ’77 and its aftermath came close. Glorious weather; the team playing fabulously, unbelievably; the first three stunning goals;  the next three happening in some sort of parallel universe- and then young Heathie being made man of the match- and the party afterwards. Rory Mor and all the Macleods in Dunvegan could not ever have had a Cuirm that was any better-it reached  way beyond a ceilidh and hovered just on the edge of orgy.

At one point the Wing Centre was speaking to Mr Mackintosh (senior) one of the genuine folk heroes of Glen shinty when Bobo the referee came and put his arms round them both.

“Oh what a perfect day,” he sang in the tones of Gnarls himself- and off he went.
“He’s probably right” said Mr Mackintosh
And then Bobo came back.
“I never finished that song” he said.
“OK then” said the Wing Centre, wondering what was coming next.

Bobo put both his arms around them again, closed his eyes and got back into character.
“I’m glad I spent it with you”, he sang- and as he did so, you knew that he meant it from the bottom of his heart and at that moment the Wing Centre thought to himself that he had never seen so many Glenners –up and down- so united in sheer joy ever before. It was a whole Olympic effect all on its own.
But what goes up…............
Ma thogair!

Just before the game started, the Wing Centre was pretty nervous about the whole thing but then the Oban High School Pipe Band came out with the teams- and he settled down, thinking to himself he would just enjoy it whatever might happen. Oban were playing at home; they had put out two good teams to get to the final; the Glen might just put up a show since they were not too bad themselves.
Glen started off into the wind and things were looking reasonably even when Oban conceded a free hit just into the Glen half. Arran Macdonald blasted the ball forward deep into the Oban defence but a mishit clearance from the Oban backline fell to Ruaraidh Cameron and he steadied himself for a split second , then fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner of Oban keeper Robert Dunnings’ net. Unbelievable! – and when Arran Macdonald hit a long high ball which just dropped on to the top of the stanchion  then Glen disbelief began a slow process of suspension.

Oban came back into the match though and they had their own kind of pressure but apart from a flashing drive from Aiden Macintyre that flew past the post they did not create much in the way of danger.
Glen struck with another wonder goal in 24 minutes when Eddie Tembo took a hand. Ed, who was having a frustrating game up until that point as ref David Mitchell pulled him up a number of times for challenges that in a run of the mill Premier fixture would have gone unpunished, hit a long ball through from the centreline. David Smart latched on it, slipped it to Neale Reid and he smashed it from distance into the postage stamp above the keeper’s left shoulder.
Glen’s third came in 37 minutes- and if anything was even more spectacular. A wayward Oban shy fell to Ruaraidh Cameron in the midfield and was punished much more severely than the lad at fault could ever have imagined in his wildest dreams.  Cameron steadied himself and bulleted the ball high into the net – and as he did so the Wing Centre put himself into the boots of Oban Camanachd.
He remembers the situation well : how often in the old days did the Glen play well matching Newtonmore stride for stride and yet unaccountably finding themselves two or three behind to fantastic strikes from George and John Fraser or Kenny Mackintosh. At least if Ian Bain scored you knew you had made a mistake.

Oban must have felt the sky had fallen in- what had they done to deserve this?  You know that if it had been Ronald Ross they would have man-marked him tightly-but no one knew about Ruaraidh Cameron though his fabulous strike against the Fort in the semi was a clue.
Just before the break Scott Macmillan got a shot and fired it over-the god that looks after goal scorers had clearly turned his back on Oban for the day.
The second period saw Oban suffer a disastrous collapse in morale while the Glen grew in confidence and if the truth be told Oban keeper Robert Dunnings turned in a display which saved his team from disaster and fair play to him.  First he saved from Liam Girvan, then he made a superb save from a Fraser Heath drive after the Glen youngster had picked up a pass from Reid. Next he made a save from Reid himself but when a long shy by Arran Macdonald was touched across goal by Liam Girvan,  Reid turned on it, hammered it into the net and metamor-posed as Usain Bolt.

With the game well and truly won Glen brought on Dixie Maclennan and James Macpherson and Macpherson almost made it number five when he had the chance to punish a poor hit out from Dunnings. A last gasp tackle by James Macmillan prevented Lewis Maclennan from bagging another when he fired the ball high over the bar-and Dunnings was then on hand to save from David Smart and Maclennan yet again, the save from Maclennan right on the line was a real piece of good fortune for the beleaguered keeper who knew little about it.
James Macpherson then picked up a ball from Reid but his drive just flew wide.
Oban’s Andrew MacCuish  was then booked for tripping up Fraser Heath as he burst though on the wing : the old Glenners though he was hard done by for a non-malicious trip but perhaps in the modern shinty context a booking was given.
James Macmillan then lost it and bounced the ball off ref Mitchell’s head, which was a shame because you could see Oban desperately trying to be good for the whole match. Mitchell to be fair to him let the player stay on the park because as a shintyman himself he knows what it means to a player to play in a final. As for young Macmillan, he would be well advised not to put the videocap on his Facebook page.
Fraser Heath then rapped home number 5 having burst through in the left to fire his shot in off keeper Dunnings. David Smart then went in the book for a wild lash as things began to get a little tetchy but the big Glen support were rewarded with a goal in the 87th minute from Lewis Maclennan who sprinted on to a through ball from Tembo as the Oban defence began to disintegrate completely.
Oban looked thoroughly demoralised by this stage a fact underlined by the booking for Scott Macmillan when he lashed out at Dixie Maclennan.
Then the whistle blew and the Glen went up to receive their first senior cup- and those who merely watch felt so proud that kids you saw growing up had won a trophy in front of the nation on television – and won it in such a superb fashion.
The only pity was the Ikey Fraser could not be with his mates in Oban as he undoubtedly would have been in any other Glen generation. But then he had to work on Saturday playing in goals for County against Celtic in the Premier League. Pity.
Then came the next day as it has to and things began to look different. Ah such is hubris!  It has turned out a true Greek tragedy- and now the Shinty Club is to blame for everything that has gone wrong in the Glen from hens going off the lay to the council not keeping the grass short. Why -there was even trouble in Milton at the weekend, a place where they wouldn’t know a caman from a kindler and the shinty club got the blame. The next thing you know the club will be blamed for supporting wind farms.
The Wing Centre was walking glumly down the road mulling over the wreckage in his mind when he met the pensioners.
“These young ones. What are they like? You’ll never be up to them. But they’ll learn”
The remark was true enough but what will they learn?
That there are no Facebook friends only Facebook enemies.
That the phrase “Don’t shoot the messenger” is nonsense- some messengers require to be shot. 

 Donald Paul came round the corner in his plumber’s van.
“What do you think about the whole thing, Dan?” asked the    Wing Centre.
“I wish it never happened,” said Donald. “But just imagine the hassle if we’d gone and damaged the Ally Ban! Still it was a perfect day though-it’s just the rest of the week we could have done without.
Not to worry. 5,000,000 people know all about Glen Shinty Club now. Hopefully the sponsors won’t ask why Billy wasn’t wearing a club jersey when he posed for ‘that ‘picture.”

The Wing Centre went on up the road with a slow step and a heavy heart- and there he learned all about Prince Harry being naked and playing billiards with a woman in Las Vegas.
He was pleased because that meant that after Thursday’s local papers the Glen would finally be out of the headlines. It made him fully appreciate the virtues of monarchy.

The D pictures?  If they look decent they are by Neil Paterson. Otherwise someone else took them.  The red fez? A Glen tradition. Yep it’s that sort of Glen.

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