Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kyles wear the Smiles while Glen prepare for a surprise Sutherland final

It has taken at least four days for the Wing Centre to get his breath back after another fantastic Cup final at Mossfield. What is it about Oban that brings these big occasions to life? The pitch, large and just a little slidy, was certainly in good nick and the weather, though somewhat breezy, was fine too.  
Mostly however it was the crowd who made the match the good humoured enjoyable occasion it was. The Wing Centre found himself a seat in the stand and was surrounded by Kyles fans of a certain vintage who knew the game thoroughly and who suffered mightily the slings and arrows of their teams varying fortunes throughout the course of the afternoon- so that when it came to the last few minutes of the match, even the neutrals felt themselves drawn into the fold and were almost willing Kyles to win.
When Kyles did win it was as if there was an open invitation to everyone in the stand to come back to Tighnabruaich for a wee ceilidh : natural Highland good manners on our part  meant that we did not go  and impose ourselves though doubtless we would have been given a welcome. Had we sat in the Inveraray section of the stand the welcome would have been just the same, though the mood at the end of this particular game would have had to have been blacker.
You have to feel sorry for Inveraray though-you score five goals in a Cup Final and you lose. You are leading 4-2 at half-time and then 5-3- and then just as you begin to visualise the victory celebrations it’s snatched away forever.  That will be hard to forget especially for the guys who will blame themselves for things they might have done better on the day-but for all that we like to think that shinty has become more “professional” players still play with their hearts on their sleeves – and these two sides were still chasing goals at a point when wiser counsel might have suggested to Inveraray to kill off the game, to pull Garry Macpherson deep and choke off the Kyles midfield. Then again, maybe not. It was a marvellous spectacle and made good telly-no wonder Albert Smith medal winner Roddy Macdonald suggested he would have loved to have watched the game himself.

The Wing Centre took lots of notes while he sat in the stand- and though accounts have appeared of the match in a variety of publications, this is what he saw devoid of the heather and whisky overtones that the mainstream guys are tempted to touch on which comes along with every shinty report as part of the casual racism suffered by Highlanders ever since the Statutes of Iona were enacted in the 15th century. Now that’s a perspective!!

 “A 78th minute goal from man of the match Roddy Macdonald was what it took to win Kyles Athletic the Camanachd Cup for the 21sttime in their history after a contest that turned out to be a classic 11 goal thriller. That strike was MacDonald’s fourth of the afternoon in a game which fully lived up to its pre-match billing as being too tight to call.
The early pressure came from Inveraray who adapted quickly to Mossfield’s blustery conditions and their ability to run with the ball saw them take an early lead when in the ninth minute Chris Crawford evaded his marker and slipped the ball inside to front man Russell Mackinlay who stabbed it past Kyles keeper Kenny Macdonald to put Inveraray 1-0 up.
Kyles equalised almost immediately when a long hit forward from midfield by Dunky Kerr which should have been dealt with by Inveraray keeper Graham Macpherson was tucked home by Macdonald. Macdonald then put Kyles ahead when he ran past Inveraray defenders Scott Robertson and Douglas Dando to slip the ball home.
Kyles at this stage, however, were less than convincing in their lead and Inveraray winger Chris Crawford again escaped his marker and drove the ball forward where it fell to veteran Garry Macpherson to smash home the equaliser. Within a minute Crawford had made it 3-2 when he got on the end of a long shy by David Macpherson and finished with precision.
Inveraray then went 4-2 ahead thanks to a neat Russell Mackinlay finish after Kyles defender Calum Miller had given him too much space at the edge of the box.
Fortified by the wind at their backs Inveraray pressed hard to increase their advantage but veteran keeper Kenny Macdonald managed to stop Russell Mackinlay’s drive and then raised his stick to deflect a fierce shot from Euan MacMurdo- though equally Thomas Whyte was denied by Macpherson at the other end.
Inveraray went in 4-2 at the interval and truthfully they should have been further ahead- and with their front men linking up superbly against a Kyles defence who looked more than a little suspect.
However, soon after the interval Kyles pulled one back when Robbie Macleod, a tireless presence in midfield, scored from the penalty spot after Dunky Kerr had been brought down by clumsy Inveraray defending. The Royal Burgh side however quickly restored the differential when Crawford won yet another tussle with his marker and pushed the ball wide for Garry Macpherson to make it 5-3 for Inveraray.
Then Inveraray simply ran out of steam and the Kyles fight back began. First Fraser Macdonald pounced on a defensive error to make it 5-4 with a fine strike and then Roddy Macdonald fired home the equaliser two minutes later and the stage was set for a thrilling climax.
Inveraray sensed that the match was in the balance and brought on Andrew MacMurdo and Ruaraidh Graham though the latter had to leave the field when he aggravated the groin strain that had kept him out of the starting line-up.  By this time Kyles had total command of the midfield with Zavaroni, Kerr and in particular Macleod in total control. Eventually the Inveraray dam was bound to burst and it finally did when a long shy by Kerr came into the Inveraray defence Macdonald found the space to smash the ball home at the near post for the winner , though the excellent Crawford still had suffer the pain of watching a late try at goal come back off the Kyles post and be cleared.”

So there it was –the young guys won in the end probably because they were fitter- and you would have to guess that this is the end of the road for Inveraray’s finest crop of players since the 1930s. The only sadness for them is that their high-water mark coincided with that of an excellent Fort William side and of course Ronald Ross. They can certainly be proud of their involvement in the 2012 Camanachd Cup final.
Back in what some imagine to be the real world tennis player Andy Murray was suggesting that Scotland should use public money to set up a tennis academy in Scotland. The question has to be why?
Funding elite sport so that a talented and lucky few may become millionaires and live abroad in tax havens has never seemed a sensible use of public funds to the Wing Centre.
Scotland has also won more Olympic gold medals than Sweden, Norway or Demark. Is the average Scandinavian worse off than the average Scot? You can certainly bet that he enjoys better community facilities for sport.
In the end, the Camanachd final made the Wing Centre begin to re-assess what sport is for. These guys from Kyles and Inveraray all represent a community and bring it together: professional sports don’t do that. Local sports of all types certainly do.

Anyway our community mourns the loss of one of its all-time stars  while preparing for a cup final they did not expect to be in. Iain “The Yank” Macdonald one of the important figures in the re-emergence of Glen Shinty in the 1950s and 1960s passed away on Camanachd Cup final day and a more detailed obituary will be posted here in due course. At the same time Iain Macleod’s youngsters are getting ready for the Sutherland Cup final and posted a 5-1 win over an Inverness side that was good enough to help us out with a practice game. Thanks to Donald Cameron of Inverness for the pictures.The Kyles ones came from their own site. Thanks guys

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