Monday, March 18, 2013

Glenurquhart too strong for ‘Shiel

Glenurquhart 4 Kinlochshiel 1 (North Division 2)
 A bitterly cold afternoon but a Glen performance to warm up the spectators though you would not have bet that it would turn out that way if you based your judgement on the first 15 minutes of action. In that period visitors Kinlochshiel seemed a smart outfit and they caused no end of panic in the Glen defence and all for no obvious reason. Glen welcomed Garry Mackintosh back between the sticks this week to stand in for the injured Cameron Maclennan who had such a fine game last week – and he was supported by the defensive quartet of Donald Fraser, Calum Smith, David Girvan and Stewart Reid. Yet that group which are as good a back line as a North Division 1 side could muster took a little while to settle on what was admittedly a sticky surface.
A composed finish by Jack Hosie which put Glen into an early lead and then an accurate high dipping attempt by Ewan Lloyd which the ‘Shiel keeper did well to keep an eye on were the only relief for the black and red spectators at that early stage.

Garry Mackintosh then had to work to parry a fierce ‘Shiel drive with his hand before for some strange reason, almost as if someone in the pavilion had thrown the “on” switch ,the Glen sprang to life and began to build up pressure on the ‘Shiel goal.
Key to this success was the unselfish play of full forward Calum Miller who brought the youngsters round him into the game at all times with little flicks and runs off the ball, including one outrageous dummy which caught the visiting full back by surprise.

A fierce drive by James Hurwood flew past the post and the ‘Shiel keeper played well to thwart Jack Hosie as he ran in with the goal at his mercy. Glen pressure continued unabated though with balls coming in from the Ross MacAulay, Arran Macdonald and Ian Macleod in the centreline. Eventually in 30 minutes the breakthrough came when a ball from Hurwood came through to Miller and he glanced it out left to Lloyd who raced inside his marker and kept his head to tuck the ball home with precision into the corner of the net. It was as sweet a piece of shinty science as you could ever see- and at that point it looked as if the Glen would go on to build up a big score. A corner on the left gave Hosie another chance but his shot was smothered at the post and then on 40 minutes some further neat work on the wing saw Miller have a drive at goal from just outside the “D” but his connection was not precise and the ball bounced agonisingly past the post. The first half finished with Lloyd driving narrowly over the bar from about 20 yards and ‘Shiel were grateful to have survived the ordeal without further loss.
‘Shiel are not a team to lie down however, and their energetic running soon had the Glen on the back foot at the start of the second half. Confusion in the defence saw ‘Shiel’s Duncan Macrae get a goal back from a defence which could have cleared its lines simply by putting the ball out of play but fortunately that incident woke up the Red and Blacks – and though the remaining two goals took a little time to come, the tide had definitely turned. Ross MacAulay had come on to an excellent game by this stage and was driving the ball forward  and the defenders, in particular Calum Smith, had begun to get their long hitting going.
The third goal came courtesy of Cairn Urquhart– he replaced the injured Calum Miller - whose determination in the tackle and fierce shot had seen him pose several serious threats to the ‘Shiel defence. Finally in 82 minutes, a through ball from Daniel Mackintosh saw him burst past his marker and finish well from just inside the D. Then with just 5 minutes remaining, Ewan Lloyd was on hand to put his seal on a fine performance with an emphatic finish from all of 15 yards. So there you have it, after a troublesome start, Glen have posted their second victory in a row.
And the other game?
The Wing Centre did not see it- but the guys were not happy with the result and the manner it came about. A goal lost in the last minute and that was after having more than enough of the play to have won comfortably. However, that now means that Glen has lost three games by a single goal which seems more than a little careless to say the least. This also tells the Wing Centre that while the defence is solid enough goals are not going in at the other end; Bute were very much the same last season-very hard to beat but not so good at scoring. It’s all down now to a test of character-but then isn’t it always?
The pictures today are back to the bad old days: there are no professional shots ‘cos neither Tina, Neil nor Donald came to the match-so the old camera phone came out for illustrative purposes.
We have Jack and Calum Miller after the win, Cairn is doing his warm-down, Ross and Ewan also at full time while we have back views of the defence keeping the ball from reaching Garry.
What about a pic of Garry? He was moving too fast. We couldn’t keep him in shot.
tumblr hit counter
hit counter

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Testing Times for Glen at Drum.

This past weekend has been a marginally better one for the Wing Centre and the Glen: the loss of two points to Kyles was an unnecessary self-inflicted wound  but at least that was balanced up by two points from the contest against Glengarry. By all accounts that win was a little fortunate. So it all evens out in the end-doesn’t it? Let’s hope so anyway.
The game against Kyles drew a reasonable number of spectators but truth to tell the Treasurer was a little disappointed with the turn out. The thing about some Premier shinty matches is that because of the length of the journey, you don’t really get many visiting spectators. Yes it was cold-yes Lovat were playing Newtonmore over the hill-yes Ross County were playing Celtic over the river after that, but a team like Kyles, Camanachd Cup holders, needs to be a bigger draw in the village. It just wasn’t as big a deal as it should have been. The fault for that doesn’t belong to Kyles :the blame lies in this Glen.
What did the spectators get for their money? Actually a good, competitive game in which both sides more or less nullified each other. It was probably a game for the insider rather than the thrill seeking spectator though a couple of wee flare-ups can probably testify to the closeness of the encounter. Whatever- everything was more or less well handled by ref Innes Wood - and he got the time of the goal right (23 minutes) though the official calculation given implies five minutes more Kyles pressure than there was. 
Kyles maintained their traditional 2-2 formation and it served them well in as much as they mounted a series of attacks at the Glen defence who held them at bay reasonably comfortably because each back stuck to his man and went with the runner. Where the difference lay at this early stage was that the Kyles wing –centres, especially Robbie Macleod, picked up the balls in midfield and played a higher percentage through than did their Glen opposite numbers. For all that early energy Kyles had only two strikes at goal-one a drive by Dunky Kerr from a wide angle and the other a superb strike from Ewan Campbell which was saved by Stuart Mackintosh. At the other end there was less energy- and the Kyles defence gave little away though Neale Reid had a couple of attempts but they did not trouble Kenny Macdonald.
The Kyles goal was nicely taken but before Ewan Campbell laid the ball across for Roddy Macdonald to score from there was more than enough time for the Glen to put it by for a corner. They did not-and so it has to go down as preventable as all three of last week’s were (all five- if you count the Glen goals)
After that goal Kyles’ attacks became fewer either as the Glen players picked up their effort in the middle or the Kyles guys lost their initial focus.
The second half saw much more Glen pressure as they pushed for an equaliser down towards the shop end- and, while some passages of play were neat enough at times, there was little end product in the shape of shots on goal. Kyles offered little in the second half though they picked up their ideas when Roddy Macdonald who had suffered a face injury came back on. In the end nothing much changed and Glen lost both points to a single goal. Frustration was the watchword for Glenners going home at the end of match.
Flare-ups? If you had a look at some of the snaps from the day you might think that but the least said soonest mended. Suffice to say both players- hurt in different incidents - came back on to the field after rest and treatment : there was nothing malicious in either, though everyone is protective of their own as is only natural.
On this showing Kyles are a good side- but Newtonmore are still the side to beat, though it is looking as if the Crofter Kids from beyond Glen Convinth are the ones to bet the “round the field” collection on this year.
Glen? They need to start scoring-but no way is this other than a very competitive league. Then it was like that last year and the sides relegated -Bute and Kilmallie – were good sides too.
In the second team outing, Glen picked up two points at Glengarry thanks to goals by Calum Miller and Iain Macleod.
To be truthful the youngsters, trained on the Drum Astro, found the ‘Garry surface hard to adapt to. It was like playing on cobbles and that affected everybody's hitting right from the off and the boys struggled to get themselves into the game. As the match went on Glengarry created the majority of the chances and if it were not for some good defending and excellent shot stopping from keeper Cameron Maclennan Glen would have been at least a couple of goals behind  by half time.  As it was Glen scored just before half time through Calum Miller who worked hard to create room for himself before hitting the net with a fine shot.
The second half followed much the same pattern as the first with Glengarry creating the better of the chances. The Glenurquhart midfield failed to ignite and the forwards had few shots on target. Eventually Glengarry equalised half way through the second half.
They continued to pressurise the game but Cameron Maclennan pulled off several brilliant saves to keep Glen in it. David Girvan and Stuart Reid both had fine games in defence and were able to use their experience to break down play and clear their lines. James Hurwood also played well as did Ross Macdiarmid and Brad Dickson when they came on in the second half. In the end, victory came through the team’s fighting spirit which brought its reward when Iain MacLeod scored the winner after latching on to a good cross from Ross Macaulay.
The positive aspect of this game is the fact that the spirit of the side is excellent though the absence of the injured Drew Maclennan is a noticeable gap .Three wins from four puts the Glen juniors in a better position than they were last year at the same stage of the season-which cannot be bad.
As the weather improves and the pitches get firmer, performances hopefully will continue to get better. Perhaps this will be the year the Glenners will win that elusive Sutherland Cup. Definitely-maybe!
The pictures here come courtesy of Crofter snapper Neil Paterson whose website can be viewed at

tumblr hit counter
hit counter

Saturday, March 09, 2013

More or Less

The Wing Centre likes a good quiz. This was one however in which he was a reluctant contestant.
“Do you know what the speed limit is?” said the question master.
“I do indeed, “said the Wing Centre. “It is a zone, defined by signposts, in which the speed of a vehicle should not exceed the numbers indicated on the aforesaid signs”
The quizmaster held up a hairdryer type of gadget: and peered at what seemed to be a screen on the back of it.
“30 miles per hour: that’s the speed limit, Sir”
The sudden formality of tone should have been a warning- but some adults, like some children, don’t always pick up on the social clues implicit in speech.
“I’ll grant you that 30 miles per hour is generally a speed limit in urban areas, “said the Wing Centre, “but here in the Glen the limit is 50 from beyond Dr Douglas’s house up to and beyond the Milton Road end. It is certainly 30 in the village but if you drive up West Lewiston or in front of Balnain School then twenty ‘s plenty.”
“Do you know what speed you were driving at?”
Now that is a clincher.  If you say yes- and give an answer which is not recognised as the one wanted, then you are in trouble.
“Could I have a minute to think about that, constable?”
So then the Wing Centre sat in silence for five minutes or so, then took out his phone to phone a friend to tell him he was held up and would be later than expected.
When he had finished the call he said “Constable, on reflection I was going at 33 maybe at most 34 miles per hour”
This let the quizmaster back into the debate.
“You were going at 42 miles per hour. I cannot ignore that”
“I’ve been at the shinty in Newtonmore, constable, and I’m going round to see some friends. I find it hard to accept your figure.”
Now there was a time when all policemen were Skye supporters and loved shinty - they even had a Gaelic motto on the side of their vehicles. That old Gaelic motto has now been swept away and been replaced by one from a completely dead language. “Semper vigilo”: it must mean “never in the village”. Oh for the happy days when Carl from Kingussie or big Norman from Dunvegan walked the mean streets of Old Balmacaan. Now you cannot even be sure of being stopped by a Leodhasach in a diced cap: the quizmaster sounded to highland ears as if he came from either Inveraray or Dunoon.
“Is this your own car?”
Not wishing to get into the intricacies of vehicle finance and at what point ownership passes from the garage or the hp company to the actual vehicle keeper, it seemed prudent to say yes.
Undergoing an incident debriefing with the Good Lady later, she having found the pink slip in the wallet, the weakness in the Wing Centre’s responses became clear.
“You gave too much information, “said she. “A policeman out working on a Saturday evening wants simple answers – like” yes” or “no”. It means he doesn’t have to write stuff down.  Simplicity in all things - especially to do with the law. In your case “Less really is More”

Which is when you think of it is not what happened in the game down on the Eilean between the Champs and the Glen. In life, ‘More really are Mor, especially in defence where Norman Campbell, Steven Macdonald and Rory Kennedy kept a tight hold of matters until the very late stages of the game. By that time in their heads they no doubt thought it was won.
The Glen cause was not helped by the absence of five players, especially with Andrew Corrigan and Ally Mackintosh missing from defence. The absence of Dixie Maclennan from the centreline was a late blow while James Macpherson and Ruaraidh Cameron being out, restricted options up front. That having been said Glen opened smartly enough and had their first shot on target within 5 minutes when Billy Urquhart made keeper Mike Ritchie look lively.
However, Newtonmore soon had the edge after that and though the Glen defence played well enough the centreline found difficulty in getting the ball up to the front guys. No sooner had it gone over the centreline than the big hitting Newtonmore defence fired it back downfield. The key man to the Wing Centre’s mind was Steven Macdonald: he is an excellent competitor and formidable hitter of a ball-always he does the simple stuff well. He can possibly be tested on better pitches by players who move the ball quickly and don’t give him a chance to get into the tackle but then again that really didn’t happen on Saturday. Encouragingly in the early stages keeper Stuart Mackintosh had not much serious stuff to do though there was the usual surfeit of clearing up work on hand: he coped with it extremely well.
The ‘More forwards however were wasteful and a number of shots went wide. Most blatantly, Glen Mackintosh blazed his strike high over the bar when he really had time enough to get it on target. To be fair, he got very little change out of Glen wingback Paul Mackintosh who had been due to play for the Drum seconds until the Friday night when his cousin Ally had to pull out with the flu.
‘More opened the scoring in the 31st minute in a simple move that Glen might have thwarted had they kept their focus. A shy by Paul MacArthur, who played soundly all afternoon, found Fraser Mackintosh on the goal side of the Glen buckshee back and he powered through more or less unchallenged to fire a low shot into the net.
At the other end Neale Reid got in a strike but defender Rory Kennedy put his body in the way of the shot. Reid worked hard all day but he found it hard to handle not only the pace but the blocking ability of Rory Kennedy who was smart enough to obstruct his runs for space at every opportunity.
By this stage of the first half Newtonmore looked on top but they failed to find the net- and so the story ran on deep into the second half with by that time Glen under sustained pressure from which they conceded a series of corners. The longer the match went on the more the unease grew within the ‘More fans that Glen might just sneak an equaliser in their few forays up to the other end, especially with Stuart Mackintosh in superb shot stopping form as he turned away strikes from Danny Macrae and  John Mackenzie.
That hope ebbed away however when with only 13 minutes of the match left to go, a free hit from Eddie Tembo failed to penetrate the home defence and was returned into the Glen backline where it was allowed to run through. A neat interchange between John Mackenzie and Fraser Mackintosh followed which culminated in a second goal for the home side.
Minutes later Tembo made amends when this time his free hit-Glen were beginning to penetrate a little more often -cleared the Newtonmore defence and was blasted home by Lewis Maclennan who had been sent forward to rescue something from set-pieces.
Mackenzie however restored the two goal cushion when he battered home the ball from close in but Glen had the determination to nab another goal from yet another free hit when Neale Reid slipped the ball to Ewan Brady who finished well despite pressure from the ‘More defence.
That was the end of the days scoring. Paul John will want to get onto his defence for losing goals to two set pieces. Otherwise it was a game from which Glen just might have taken a point but truthfully, if they had done so it would not have been a deserved one. On this showing ‘More look formidable, though no more so than last year: but then what does the Wing Centre know. He didn’t even know the speed limit.
In the other game, Glen went down 5-0 with four of the strikes being in the first half. Suffice to say that some of the lads played well and some did not do as well as they might have hoped. Newtonmore though, egged on by Cameron Binnie in the centreline and Calum Stewart up front clearly have strength in depth.
The pictures come courtesy of an old friend of the “D”, Dave Fallows of Newtonmore. If you really want to know what happened in the game, it might be a good idea to checkout his stuff in the Strathspey & Badenoch Herald. He also has a website at
The pictures are illustrative of the pressure ‘More put on the Glen defence in the second half, which is just the sort of thing that mischievous Dave would send to the “D”. The one with Glen, Smack and Paul is just one Mackintosh short- why was big Fraser not in the shot. Shinty gold!
Why did the Wing Centre hold on to the post for so long? Well, it was a bad day for Glenners, and not such a great evening for the Wing Centre. But he’s over it now-more or less.
tumblr hit counter
hit counter

Friday, March 01, 2013

Seemingly, it was ever thus.

Reporting on what happened in shinty matches is easy stuff; the ball went in the net - it was a goal. Not too much of a mystery there except of course for the fact that occasionally the goal judge mis-reads the situation and takes action. The other stuff - the commentating, opinion stuff  is more tricky - not least because the shinty world is a small one and everybody involved in it wants to be there and has the good of the game at heart.
The Wing Centre firmly believes that to be true - and having grown up in and lived in small villages for almost all of his life, he knows that though people occasionally don’t see eye to eye and hold firmly to different opinions about how things should be done, fundamentally they all  in the same pro-shinty boat. The thing is that in these days of immediate communication, as was pointed out at the recent EGM in Fort William, what is said stays said - and it can hang like an albatross round the neck of the sayer both in and out of context. In the end the plus point might be  that as we become aware of that , in the future we’ll all become more sophisticated in communicating-either that or more  careful.
That being the case there are two issues that have popped up in shinty recently which have the potential to cause hassle. The first of these is the impending changes to the league structure. Glen have been unambiguous on this subject. You can check the club website. The Wing Centre was taken by what the Sunday Herald guy said last weekend :
“For the last three years shinty’s top tier has provided an intense level of competition for the sport’s leading clubs with the destination of the trophy not secure until the final Saturday of the season. However an imbalance elsewhere in the sports league structures has prompted shinty’s governing body, the Camanachd Association to ring the changes for next season. Not surprisingly, the Association’s decision to reduce numbers in the present Premier League from 10 clubs to 8 and to introduce a further tier of national league shinty at the level below the elite grade has not met with universal approval. Such is the concern in some quarters that moves are afoot to have the decision challenged at the Camanachd Association’s AGM in April.”
Like everyone else the Wing Centre will have to await developments, if any.
Has this caused the second of these issues - the movement of an undoubtedly class player-Caberfeidh’s Kevin Bartlett- from a regional club to a club in a higher division? Maybe or maybe not. Only the individual affected can tell because ,like it or not, the restructure might mean that the player in question would run the risk of playing in shinty’s third tier next season if his side did not make it up to the new national league.
Generally speaking many people feel that this sort of thing should not happen in shinty- though it has done for some considerable time. Glen lost keeper Tommy Mackenna to Kingussie way back in the dark ages: Glen then profited from Boleskine’s Billy Mackay and “Toots” Fraser and nearly pulled off a major in the process losing out in the MacAulay final of ’77 to a Kyles super team.
Kingussie picked up Fort’s Eck Sutherland: Kincraig players of ability have always been tempted to turn out for both Badenoch big teams. Fort William have profited at the expense of both Lochaber and Ballachulish while Invergarry have provided a range of class players to sides throughout the Great Glen over the years. Why- long before Davie Glass moved, ‘Shiel had picked up boys from Lochbroom.
Before the Bartlett move, the most recent high profile transfer - and this perhaps is the most directly comparable move - was the signing of Fraser Inglis by Kingussie from Oban Camanachd earlier in the decade. You cannot blame any player for wanting to win trophies  because that is really what it’s all about. In most cases after a season or two, the lads go back to their former clubs and help in the development of the game but the real problem is not the ambition of an individual no matter how disappointing that is for a club.
It’s down to a lack of players in the heartland which is caused by- who can really tell? If we were talking about a decline in puffins or grey seals, the first thing that would happen would be that we would get some serious research into the decline. Why has shinty not expanded into areas next to its obvious heartland? For the whole of the last century up until present Cabers have been the only shinty side to survive in Easter Ross. Why? The population of the Black Isle and the Alness /Invergordon area has rocketed over the past half century but Shinty has failed to colonise the area? Why?
Everyone knows that as the population of villages changes incoming families with kids over the age of P5 or P6 hardly ever embrace the indigenous sport. What is it about the perception of shinty that makes newcomers shy away from it?
The truth is we don’t know the answer to any of these questions- and unless some social science dept. in a University makes an effort to find out we will never actually know.
We could have a guess though - we might guess that the public and business community have bought into the football con; we might point to the fact that, apart from in a very few places, shinty is given low status in the school curriculum and that fact is regarded with complacency.
We might also guess that at certain times, parents look to encourage their kids into sports out of which they might make a future career however long a shot that might be.
One of the main challenges to shinty is the seemingly unstoppable rise of football which has strengthened in the north just as it has declined elsewhere in the country.
Indeed such is the appalling state of Scottish football that within half an hour of where the Wing Centre lives there are two Premier League football clubs (second and third behind Celtic at the moment) pretending to be community friendly, hoovering up youngsters and discarding them at 14, 15 ,16, 17, 18 or occasionally 20. There are to all intents and purposes with one or two exceptions, few genuine Highlanders playing in either first team: nor do many Highlanders have a prospect of playing. These clubs are businesses run for the benefit of shareholders though perhaps for the sake of community relations it is time that Roy Macgregor used some of his cash to give his players some media training. Why so?
Nothing is more irritating than the words “Up here”?  These are the guaranteed opening words of any interview given by a Caley or County player. It would help if they could learn to edit them out. Perhaps these guys ought to realise where their employment is coming from and be a little less patronising to their new communities. However, that is by the by.
Where though does all this leave us? As always with too few shinty players at the grass roots level. That has to be true if the movement of one quality player can destabilise a whole club.
How do we fix that?
Perhaps if some community minded businessman could fund three shinty development coaches in Easter Ross for the same buttons that the football coaches get, then things might improve. The Highlands would certainly be a better more authentic place.
In the meantime, though one feels for the predicament of Cabers, good luck to Kevin Bartlett with his shinty career. If he had the guts to make the move - and that would have been the hardest thing - he’ll have the guts to play at the top level. Cabers shouldn’t be too hard on him ; he is a talented fellow and this Glen over here and the Strath beside it  are full of guys who were also  talented and won next to nothing of note in long shinty careers. Who can blame him? Then when he’s finished his playing career he’ll be able to put something back and help with the kids. Hopefully, back at Cabers.
The pictures of Kevin in his international strip are courtesy of Neil Paterson (

tumblr hit counter
hit counter

Scottish Blogs