Friday, May 03, 2013

Glen return to Oban

Oban Camanachd 0 Glenurquhart 2 (Orion Premier Division)

The last time the Wing Centre was in Oban he got a row; the last time his team were there they won a cup-for people who know shinty it will be clear those two events are not unconnected. This time all was harmonious - and truth to tell the result (2-0 for the Glen v Oban Camanachd) was closer to what it should probably have been on that MacAulay day back in August. On that occasion Oban simply found themselves playing a dud hand at shinty cards while Glen seemed to hold nothing but aces and trumps. The result was Glen scored 6 goals, at least four of which were astounding strikes. Sadly, some of the red and black players have never had another ball on target since.
This time interestingly Glen were kitted out in their change strip – a purple number which makes you glad they don’t have to wear it every week.

By the time the Wing Centre had arrived at Mossfield Glen were apparently leading 1-0 thanks to an early strike from Neale Reid, though no-body he asked at the time seemed to remember it clearly enough to be able to describe it in any detail. By that time too Glen were down a couple of players- Billy Urquhart strained his back in the warm-up while Ruaraidh Cameron tweaked a ham-string in the first ten minutes and was replaced by Liam Girvan , himself back in the community only one day after Raigmore Hospital had attempted to straighten his broken nose.

Whatever else may be said about the game one thing is clear. Mossfield is a wonderful shinty arena: everything about it- the size of the pitch, its position in the town, the hill with the flag and above all the hitting surface -make it to the Wing Centre’s mind a stadium which shinty cannot do without. Because it is enclosed  on three sides-the top side has a fence but it seems more substantial -it gives the impression that it is a real stadium in a built-up area , an impression which is simply not given by An Aird or the Bught , whatever their merits. If the airport was handier the argument for playing the Irish in Oban would be unanswerable.
More’s the pity then that there were so few spectators present: they cannot all have been away watching Oban Celtic. The team is a good enough one –they have not been scoring much though they did beat Kingussie at the start of the season- but the people of Oban don’t seem to follow the shinty the way they should.
The Wing Centre as always rarely focuses on the game-he walks round and watches in a semi- attentive manner except when he is required to write a report- and since this Saturday he had left notebook and pencil in the car and, let’s face it, couldn’t be bothered to go back for it, he walked round the pitch blethering with anybody who would entertain him. That left the Glen folk out of the equation-they’ve been somewhat distant since they realised it was him and not the other fellow who became embroiled in some Camanachd manoeuvrings. He did have a word or two with some of the Oban chaps on the sidelines about the state of shinty-not the structure.
Oban High, it would appear, is now a school of excellence for rugby. One might naively expect such a school to be in the Borders or in one of the major cities: its existence in Oban is presumably due to excellent lobbying by local enthusiasts supported no doubt by the SRU. What this means is that while good work will go ahead in Oban primaries with regard to shinty, when the kids come to Oban High there will be no drive or focus and more than likely little serious interest in the sport. A school of excellence for shinty?  Portree High School perhaps? Plockton High school perhaps? This is something which is not remotely on the cards given that shinty by virtue of its local nature is unable to access elite sports funding, but why don’t council departments with responsibility for education in the shinty playing areas not insist that secondary schools include shinty in the curriculum.
Oban’s shinty situation is of course something for the people of Oban to do something about, if they have a mind to: the Shinty guys probably know that already and if they do want to do something about it and get political, good luck to them.
One excellent sign however was that on the touchline in the Oban camp was Fraser Inglis, the new President of the MacAulay Association. The club must be glad to have him back on the touchline after a wee break. He is one of shinty’s good guys, prepared to coach and to take responsibility. His return can only be a positive step for the club and for sport in the town.
On the day however it was the Glen who, after putting their faithful followers through many moments of despair, finally came away with a second goal. By the time David Smart knocked it over the line - at the second attempt no less - Oban had pressure of their own though they too found it hard to penetrate the Glen backline and Stuart Mackintosh had little to do but nippy tidying up. There was however a penalty scare late in the first half when an Oban forward came down in the box but it was not given. Glen upped the game a little in the second period and Liam Girvan continued to hold on to the ball well up front against an Oban defence who were keen not to concede fouls by pushing in the back. This allowed both David Smart and Neale Reid to get more of the ball in the danger areas and  Reid began to show up more like the player he was last year before he received a horrible arm injury in the under -21 international. He came close with a drive in 55 minutes that shaved Robert Dunnings’ right hand post but it was the refocusing of Fraser Heath who moved into the hole in front of the centreline that made the difference. Heath began to win more of the ball and fire it up to Reid and Smart – and suddenly Oban who were desperate to score themselves at the other end of the massive Mossfield pitch were beginning to become stretched at the back. Ewan Brady who had had a quiet game up to that point began to place accurate balls out to Reid and from one of his passes Smart found himself with only Dunnings to beat- and he did so.
The 2-0 score line in retrospect looked comfortable enough but had Oban knocked in a chance earlier in the match when they had the opportunity, then….. but it didn’t happen.

The result made up for the disappointment of our Sutherland Cup exit in Fort William earlier in the day where an understrength side just let Fort have too much space and they won through 3-1 courtesy of three stunning strikes, two from Josh McGhee and one from Alexander Macmillan. Calum Miller took a nice goal for Glen and had the Glen forwards- admittedly short of Jack Hosie and Cairn Urquhart –kept their composure they would have surely won because they had enough chances. No-one was more missed however than defenders Donald Fraser and Calum Smith the presence of either one of which would have shut out McGhee.
No Sutherland adventure this year sadly: perhaps the side will do better in the Strathdearn.

After the match the Wing Centre walked back to where he parked his car on the waterfront.

There he could watch the boats heading away out of bonnie Oban bay. All of a sudden he found he found himself looking at a bench at the Drum end of the harbour. On the seat there was a plaque which gave him a bit of a start because he knew about two of the lads who were mentioned. Vincent Carnie and Jamie Pearson were Oban Celtic players and Celtic had played up in Drum just a matter of months before the tragic accident noted in the inscription.

 It was nice to think they and the other lad, David MacDougall,  are still remembered in their home town.
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