Wednesday, May 22, 2013

If it’s not caught on camera, did it ever happen?

A picture’s worth a thousand words! Maybe so but this week Glenners will have to do without a picture ‘cos there was no one at the Eilean to take it- so the thousand words will have to do on their own. Last time the Glen made it to the MacTavish final back in 2008, Phil Downie gave us the iconic image of the shinty season: this year with both Badenoch snappers Dave Fallows and Stevie Tunstall not on duty no one was there to record the moment when the Glen managed to beat Newtonmore 2-1 to set up a confrontation with Lovat at the Bught. Pity but there it is. What is worse, the Wing Centre didn’t even see the game: he was back at Blairbeg running the line and taking a collection at the Strathdearn game v Kingussie. Thankfully, this also turned out to have a happy ending in the shape of a 4-2 scoreline. Certainly, that was a little unexpected since the second team have been having a bumpy time of late. However, the news of a win on the Eilean did prompt the Wing Centre to a sharp intake of breath because Newtonmore had been winning quite convincingly up until that juncture.
Though there was no photographer there to record the great day, there were most certainly many pairs of Glen eyes there to note the action and carry back a report. The trouble is that every person you ask gives a slightly different take on the game: the only thing which is consistent is the fact that Glen won. This might alert us to the fact that is no such thing as truth only the moody accounts of witnesses.  The trick is to put these accounts together and weave from them a story that appears possible.
Glen fielded a fairly good side with the only absentee from the first game of the season being Ruaraidh Cameron: Newtonmore were without Paul MacArthur and Rory Kennedy and you would have to say these are players you cannot replace especially easily.
The Glen started the match with the south formation but soon found that they could not get close enough to the goals to worry Mike Ritchie and gradually Newtonmore began to come to the fore. Glen then switched their formation and pushed Fraser Heath up to full forward with Neale Reid and David Smart as wing forwards and this worked well enough except that both sides went in at half-time 0-0. Newtonmore had their chances and Stuart Mackintosh was on hand, and on foot, to make good saves when required but the real secret to beating Newtonmore is that there is no secret. You have to work hard and the most positive thing to come out of this first half was that thanks to hard work and tackling back from the forwards the Newtonmore defence were having to work to clear their lines.
Glen had a slight wind advantage in the second half and for whatever reason the players began both to grow in self-belief and simply realise that hard work will pay off in the end. With every players doing what they could to influence a positive outcome and the centreline of Arran Macdonald, Eddie Tembo and Dave “Dixon” Maclennan able to stand up to their Newtonmore counterparts the game began to turn in Glen’s favour. In 60 minutes Fraser Heath latched onto a ball that had stuck up in the ‘More back line and cut it back for David Smart to lash it into the net to open the scoring. Newtonmore fought back and having been awarded a free hit, fired a long ball forward which should have been cleared but eventually found the stick of Glen Mackintosh who scored from the edge of the box.
At this point Newtonmore attempted to raise their game physically but Glen have been here before, most memorably in last year’s semi at Blairbeg when the result was decided on penalties. The red and blacks stuck to the task and when Liam Girvan went on up front to replace Neale Reid, Glen picked up the winning goal. Girvan got to the ball ahead of Norman Campbell, played a nice pass to Ewan Brady and he dribbled past three defenders to score.
The Glen midfielders then had to pick up their game as Newtonmore tried to power through them to get back into the contest: they could not manage to do so, though the last ten minutes were reported by all to have been a difficult experience.
In the end Glen went deservedly through to the final but only just – and deservedly especially because all the players who were on the park put in the effort when asked to do so. Newtonmore certainly fired in more shots at goal, though many sailed past the post. Glenurquhart however hit the two that mattered- and so having  been put out of the MacAulay Cup as holders, Glen have now by way of revenge claimed the scalp of MacTavish holders Newtonmore.

In the Strathdearn Cup-tie at Blairbeg, the Wing Centre was a little wary of Kings given the fact that they had no first team game on Saturday and could have filled up the side with players from the top squad. They did not do this however though it is true that there were probably a couple of youngsters on show who would otherwise have been in the top squad. Despite the presence of Kevin Thain and John Gibson, Kingussie had at least eight youngsters on display and in the opening exchanges they certainly looked sharp with Thain bringing out an excellent save from Glen keeper David MacFadyen inside 10 minutes. Glen’s James Macpherson quickly forced a corner –and his ball across was moved on by Jack Hosie and Calum Miller to Euan Lloyd but the ball went by. The Glen now appeared to be in charge thanks to the midfield in particular Ross MacAulay and Calum Smith who got a firm grip on their opponents and this dominance was amply demonstrated when a nice move saw Jack Hosie with space free on the left and his shot from a narrow angle somehow squeezed past the Kingussie keeper into the net for the opener.
As Glen pressed on to add to their advantage, Euan Lloyd was next to try his luck when he burst through the defence only to fire his shot over the bar. However the same player doubled the Glen’s advantage just before half-time when he finished off a fine move which started from the Glen centreline as Iain Macleod touched the ball forward. James Macpherson juggled it up and flicked it on to Calum Miller who played it into the path of Lloyd who made no mistake from the edge of the “D”
In the second period Glen continued to press and were awarded a penalty when a careless Kingussie swing brought down Lloyd in the box as he was about to score. Penalties have long been a bugbear for Glenners but this time James Macpherson stepped up to be counted and drilled the ball home with precision to make it 3-0. Macpherson who has not played much this season for either team was showing a relish for the competition which was heartening. His tackling and movement gave the side a dimension it lacked in previous encounters and if he had not been so rusty his tally of goals in the game could have been as high as four. As it was apart from his devastatingly accurate penalty, his shots were either slightly mishit or just flew wide of the target by a narrow margin.
The final Glen goal was an excellent one-a worked corner out on the right hand side was first timed home by Duncan Fraser to make the scoreline a convincing 4-0 at the 80 minute mark.
Unfortunately after playing what could have been their best shinty of the season, the Glen then went to sleep, switched off the defendometer and allowed Kingussie back into the game where they lost two late goals to Chris Holley-Song both strikes that could have been avoided with more focused defending. These took a little of the gloss off  yet another overall fine team performance with good individual performances from Stuart Reid, Calum Smith, Bradley Dickson, James Hurwood, Ross Macaulay, Euan Lloyd, Jack Hosie and James Macpherson.

Preparations are therefore under way for the MacTavish final against Lovat. It must be the biggest shinty match in the Aird District since -quite frankly-ever because no two teams from the area have ever got through to face each other in a senior final before. Even guys from Beauly will want to see that.
What is more-as a reward for getting through against Kingussie, the Glen second team were privileged to be drawn against ……?  Yep you’ve guessed it-Lovat away. Who said you make your own luck? The next game for the top team, a Premier match, is also against Lovat. The Wing Centre predicts the two teams will be sick of the sight of each other before much longer. Never mind-we’ll see some good shinty played before then. Some of it might even be photographed.
The pictures ? Phil Downie's classic from 2008 ; a snap from the Sutherland final v Kyles in 1987 ; Kenny Maclennan (dad of Dixon) holds up a cup-and from the early pages of the album a team that beat Lovat 3-1 in 1978. You can see Mr Reid enjoyed the win.

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