Friday, September 14, 2012

‘More too much for Glen but Mossfield duel too close to call.

Wow! Shinty-politics….politics–shinty. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which and despite having lived in wee villages all his life, the Wing Centre knows that the ups and downs of shinty and life are every bit as convoluted as the realpolitik practised at the UN. In Shintyland however nobody practises anything - the game is for real. Perhaps this will be illuminated later on - perhaps it might be more politic, however, not to do so - we shall see.
So what’s left to come this season? For the Wing Centre the most immediate item is a visit to the Camanachd Cup which is being held at Oban’s Mossfield: for the Glen youngsters there is the little matter of the final of the Sutherland Cup, though for the full back Donald Dunain there is the more pressing question of whether he will get the barley cut before the big day - for sure as fate that will be the only day the rain will stop.

For matters to report on, there is only the game against Newtonmore because the bungee jump never happened.
Let’s just do the game.

Newtonmore 1 Glenurquhart 0 (Premier League)

It has to be said that this result was a disappointment because at the end of it the result means that Newtonmore are guaranteed a third League title in a row. You can’t grudge it to them but on the other hand you kind of do because they have managed to edge out the Glen in both games played this season - and there’s one more to go at Drum which will not mean anything to Glen unless we can beat Newtonmore 7-0 while Inveraray concede an equivalent number to Kyles. Likely? The Wing Centre does not think so either.
Glen did give the match at the Eilean a real go however - and they really went all out to pressure Newtonmore from the off. Playing against the breeze, Glen held territorial advantage for the opening period and forced a run of four corners which, although they worked well did not unfortunately end in a goal. There was a bit of controversy in this period also when Neale Reid forced the ball over the line for a goal but this was overruled by the officials who indicated that it had crossed the by-line before it came to Reid. David Smart then forced keeper Mike Ritchie into a fabulous save from the edge of the D - and at this stage Glen were clearly on top.
 Liam Girvan then picked up an injury and he was replaced by Jack Hosie who settled in well enough up front though robust is the best word to describe the blue and white defence when they want to win.
As the half wore on the Glen front four fell away and could not quite find the fluency of passing which would have let them draw the sting from the Newtonmore side. The Glen centreline however did play well in this half and the Newtonmore centres, when they did fire the ball up, found that the Glen defence were pretty solid. Particularly solid - not to say at times inspiring was keeper Stuart Mackintosh but it was a very bruising match and by halftime full centre Arran Macdonald was beginning to suffer with injury.
The second half belonged to Newtonmore. Why? Glen found themselves in a very competitive physical situation and found themselves pulled into a hitting game rather than their own preferred passing game. It is plain to everyone now that this Newtonmore side like to play to their strengths : they play retro shinty from the midfield onwards - they rely on long hitting into central areas and look for defences or individual players to lose a one on one duel with their powerful front men. Glen defenders were mostly switched on but lost a goal to a soft foul which allowed a long ball into the heart of the defence. Newtonmore were fortunate to get the break of the second phase ball and Evan Menzies was on hand to score what will probably be the title winning goal.

Glen did not capitulate however but as the game wore on an equaliser became less and less likely as Glen play deteriorated. Stuart Mackintosh had in the course of the match two top drawer saves and two others of proven worth. Mike Ritchie had that superb save early in the match as already mentioned: he was also fortunate when a ball came back off the inside of his  post and came back into play - and then of course there was the Neale Reid attempt about which the Glen still feel a little aggrieved.

if you were summing it up you might say that, on the day, Glenurquhart more or less played Newtonmore in a Cup final on the Eilean and were marginally beaten. The Glen boys to their credit kept going right to the end though by the end of the match the guys in the centreline were unable to resist much more.
Newtonmore are now Premier champions and they deserve their third title in three years: from what the Wing Centre saw of the new Orion Trophy it looks pretty indestructible which should at least be a comfort to the Camanachd Association.
They are believed to be holding a rather important match in Oban this weekend - not that you would know much about it from the Strathspey Herald’s paragraph or two about the match. In the absence of both Kingussie and Newtonmore from the final, the “Strathy” devotes about 68 words to Shinty’s biggest day of the year. Badenoch the Heartland of shinty? Hmmm!
The Courier sadly did not do any better preferring instead to fill the space with a hot news story about the winning team being able to take the Camanachd Cup home and being able to keep it in their bedrooms because they are being trusted not to break it. Apparently once upon a time, a bad club broke a cup but now since other teams are good they would not do that - at least that is the way the Wing Centre read the story through mists of rage.

Maybe it’s time to get back to a look at the all south final. Who will win?
The Sunday Herald guy was on the money as usual last week - he certainly doesn’t sit on the fence.

 The omens are looking good for an Inveraray victory in next Saturday’s Scottish Hydro Camanachd Cup final at Oban’s Mossfield Park. At least that’s the opinion of Donald Clark, mine host at the town’s George Hotel and chief sponsor of a Royal Burgh side who are making their fourth final appearance of recent times.
“Last time we won the Camanachd in 2004, the final was also at Oban and we’ve mirrored the same build up as we had that time. After training the team comes back to the George for a bite to eat and to talk tactics. It helps the guys bond and the buzz is coming back into the side at the right time.”
It is fair to say that opponents Kyles Athletic –the pair are contesting the first all-South Camanachd Cup final since 1983-don’t see things quite that way. “We respect Inveraray”, says Kyles coach James Perlich. “They are an experienced side and in the cups at least, they have a winning mentality but, we have been more consistent than them in League terms and we feel we have the game to beat them on the day.”
Perlich is correct about Inveraray’s cup pedigree.  Despite failing to shine in the Premier League -in contrast to Kyles who have been main challengers to Newtonmore for the Premier League title over the past two years -Inveraray managed to knock Kyles out of both the MacAulay and Celtic Society Cups earlier this season.
They were able to do so because in Gary Macpherson, Euan MacMurdo and Chris Crawford, they possess some of the best forwards in the modern game. Add to the mix sharp-shooter Russell Mackinlay now returning to full action after being a bit player for the last three years and you have a winning combination, especially if, as Kinlochshiel found out in the semi-final, the rest of the side have the experience to take the sting out of the game when the front men have put them ahead. In this latter capacity defender Douglas Dando, man of the match in their Camanachd winning side, will play a key role and if he comes on to a game then Kyle’s veteran playmaker Fraser Macdonald may be in for an interesting afternoon.

Kyles, who have a back-story of 20 cup final successes over the generations to spur them on, are a team who will look to make their own luck. However, the most recent of these wins was in 1994, and the present side over the past year or so has earned a reputation as the coming team which has never quite arrived. Yet where Inveraray have experience, they have youth and pace. Much will depend on whether their midfield trio of Robbie Macleod, Duncan Kerr and David Zavaroni will stand up and be counted. They put in the work against Newtonmore in the semi-final and provided a solid platform for Roddy Macdonald and Thomas Whyte to get them the goals that put them within one game of being legends in Tighnabruaich. On Saturday they will need to do it one more time.( SH 8/9/201200)

Yep - you are right - he thinks it could go either way. He doesn’t have an opinion and he’s sticking to it.
The pictures are courtesy of the Camanachd Associations pre-match publicity plus one of the boys lining up at Mossfield on “that day”. Mr Reid ?  Here he is smiling.


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