Thursday, August 09, 2012

Smackeroonie! It’s a Gold Medal Performance from Team GU in the Spey Valley

Kingussie 0 Glenurquhart 1 (Premier League)

“Oh ye of little faith.” This was a phrase much uttered during the Wing Centre’s youth before some older Highlander would try something on the face of it quite impossible, like breaking string with his bare hands, starting the engine of an ancient tractor or making a standing  jump into an empty herring  barrel, while wearing his working boots. Of course, the impossible was always achieved and the phrase immediately used in triumph thereafter.
 Such was the case last Saturday when the words of the “D” came back to haunt this writer who suggested that sports scribes all over Scotland should not bother to  hold the back page anticipating thereby a less than favourable trip for the Glen to the High Moors.
 “Oh D of little faith!” 
The result turned out to be a 1-0 away win which remained unseen by the Wing Centre who wasted a lovely afternoon by sitting indoors watching Gary Macpherson and Douglas Dando of Inveraray destroy Kinlochshiel’s hopes of Camanachd glory. His phone was on charge in another room – and so it was not until after half time in the Camanachd semi that he noticed a text had come through.” Glen 1-0. Smack 45” which is code for “The Glen have won by a single goal and the scorer was Stuart Mackintosh”.

Given that Stuart Mackintosh, aka “Smack” ,is a goalie then the chances of this happening in open play are quite remote, though it is fair to say that Smack is pretty much up to fitness in the training sessions- no “goalie wee jogs round the D” for him this session. Yet not even he can overlap at the pace required in modern shinty to get a shot away in open play.

So what happened?
Picture it if you will.  It is a warm sunny day at the Dell and the wind rather unusually is blowing up towards the Kingussie goal. What is usual though is the fact that the pitch is absolutely immaculate; it is a superb surface and something that visiting teams should look forward to every season. It suits the present Glen squad’s passing, running game. It is truly a privilege to play on and the hope before the match is that Glen will use the surface fully and test their fitness to the limit bearing in mind that it is very similar to Mossfield where there is apparently an important fixture quite soon.

For the first half hour both teams are pretty even: the Glen defence hold Kingussie at bay and the same is true at the other end. Some formational reshuffles up front see Glen achieve a more fluid pattern and this leads to Glen being awarded a penalty when Neale Reid is stopped by a one-handed swing from Iain Borthwick. Kingussie think that this is a soft decision and dispute matters somewhat vigorously and Andrew Borthwick in goal is booked for arguing with the ref over the decision. Kingussie Manager Russell Jones comes on to calm the lads down – and up steps Smack to take the penalty.

Now Smack is under pressure-not least because Russ reminds the spectators that the Glen have not scored a penalty (including in a shoot-out) in two years. True or not?  It’s certainly been a while but Smack places the ball on the spot and fires it past Borthwick into the net. Calm under pressure? Who better?
 People forget Smack has been at the top of shinty for much longer than the Glen have been missing penalties. He was only Scotland under-21 keeper for 6 years in a row from the age of 15 - a record without parallel in the modern game. For three out of the last four years he was also part of Scotland’s international squad and picked up the number 1 slot between the sticks for the last season’s senior fixture. Oh – and he was Glenurquhart’s Player of the Year for last season.
Anyway we like him – and as a result this blog will contain as many snaps of Smack as we can get a hold of. Smack with his accordion: Smack in his sunglasses: Smack as a wee lad with the Strathdearn.

The rest of the match?
Remember the wind? Against the Glen at the start, now it is for the red and blacks and with it ,clearing the ball from defence is always going to become an attacking option and Arran Macdonald’s long diagonal balls deep into the Kingussie half become a threat.
Smack as one would have expected is always on hand to serve and he pulls off a few nice saves but it is a match that the Glen should have taken by the scruff of the neck and the opportunity is certainly there to win handsomely. Kingussie are not looking for a physical match as they have given a number of their youthful fringe players a chance and the match emphasis for them is to rely on skill.

With an eye on trying to give Glen players who started on the bench as much time as possible on the pitch Dave Maclennan and Ruaraidh Cameron make way for Andrew Macdonald and Liam Girvan. With the defence on a clean sheet it makes sense not to tinker with it- and so things continue to the final whistle with the Glen in command though unable to add to their lead.

 A tight margin of victory then and one which Kingussie might feel unhappy about, yet Glen who played much better against both Inveraray and Kinlochshiel –and lost- earlier in the season, should have no qualms about picking up both points and moving on to face Lovat despite the fact that this particular derby is now a game of little consequence for both clubs.
Oh there’s one other pic – Smack hands over a commemorative shinty club to Jack the 1st, King of Scotland in November of 2002 at the opening of the new Glen Urquhart High School.

 Smack lasted longer at the top: he’s still there.
That’s one pic that that should be in the new Museum of Shinty that the Camanachd are sure to demand as part of Scotland’s Olympic Legacy.

Scottish Blogs