Sunday, June 30, 2013

So Far…………………………. so gutted……….!!

What is it about the Glen and MacTavish penalty shoot-outs?  Last year the team lost out on pens in the semi-final to Newtonmore: this year the shoot-out was another heart breaker. The Wing Centre has exercised restraint in as much as he did not rush to print until he had a week or two to master his disappointment and to re- engage his brain. He recommends the procedure to all other commentators.
So what is the verdict? Time has not really healed. His view has not really changed. Glen should have won the game in the first half; Lovat’s Stuart Macdonald is an excellent goal-keeper and BBC Alba need to smarten up their camera work. One is almost tempted to say the real BBC would have done a better job if it was not for the fact that that without Alba the game would probably not have been on the telly at all.
Never mind the pre-match spin that Lovat were favourites. They weren’t really. They are certainly younger but with Glen’s management team and the fact they have a good number of more experienced players the red and blacks really should have had the edge on the big occasion. Never mind the fact that Lovat won both the earlier matches in the season-Glen have had constantly changing personnel and have not seemed to be really focused in the league.
However, for this , the big one, Glen put in a great deal of preparation and effort and it was certainly there to be won in the first half when they had the wind advantage – and a Lovat team without, let’s be fair, both Lorne Mackay and Michael Mackenzie at first gave the impression of being overawed by the big occasion. Glen should have won it then but didn’t.
Glen started well and bossed the early proceedings with the Lovat defenders finding themselves giving away early fouls which allowed the Glen the opportunity on several occasions to put their free hit routines into practice. However though chances were created both David Smart and Fraser Heath were unable to make keeper Stuart Macdonald work.
Eventually in 17 minutes Glen did find the net when Eddie Tembo released Neale Reid out on the right. He slipped the ball across and youngster Fraser Heath was on hand to slam it home for the opener.
At the other end Glen keeper Stuart Mackintosh had to produce a reflex save above his head to deny a powerful strike from Greg Matheson
The Glen were still pushing forward however and eventually referee Deke Cameron pulled up Lovat full back Drew Howie and booked him for persistent fouling on 24 minutes.
Glen youngster Euan Lloyd then came on for Liam Girvan and almost his first action was to force Lovat keeper Macdonald to make a quick save with his feet shot on 26 minutes after Lloyd had latched on to a Fraser Heath knock-down.
Stuart MacDonald was again called into action this time making an excellent save from a Fraser Heath rocket shot on 28 minutes following determined lead up play by Neale Reid.  
Lovat again had to scramble the ball away on the half hour mark after a skilful forward run from Euan Lloyd put their back-line under pressure and then Fraser Heath fired his shot over from a tight angle just before the half drew to a close.
The second half eventually turned out to be a different story though the early part still belonged to the Glen simply because their forwards kept completely on top of the Lovat front men with Greg Matheson being particularly well controlled by Ali Mackintosh. Lewis Maclennan and John Barr were also on top form and then at the other end Fraser Heath found himself being fouled by Craig Mainland as he ran in on goal. Again the chance was missed.
Lovat manager Allan Macrae took off Martin Mainland and replaced him with ex-Glen under 17 player Graeme MacMillan on 57 minutes and ironically he it was who brought Lovat back into the game in 62 minutes. At that point Kevin Bartlett collected the ball wide on the right from Owen Ferguson and though Greg Matheson was unable to get on the end of Bartlett’s cross MacMillan managed to lose his marker and found enough space to fire the ball into the net to make it 1-1.   
Glen then replaced Euan Lloyd with Ruaraidh Cameron and Dave Maclennan with Arran Macdonald but by this stage Lovat were on top, though it appeared they were unable to penetrate the Glen backline with any conviction.
Lovat remained on top as the game entered the final 10 minutes of regulation time but the Glen defence, with Lewis MacLennan in superb form, stayed firm.
For a time Glen were backs to the wall and in that period Andrew Corrigan was booked for bringing down Kevin Bartlett  but at the other end Ewan Brady volleyed a Ruaraidh Cameron corner wide following a late Glen attack.
Four minutes of injury time failed to produce a winning goal so the final went into extra time. Once again the ascendancy went with the wind advantage and Glen had chances to seal the match.
One of the best came when Neale Reid gathered a pass from Ruaraidh Cameron but he pulled his shot wide of the post. Not long afterwards another chance came Glen’s way when Ewan Brady picked out Ruaraidh Cameron with a free hit on 103 minutes but Cameron’s shot went wide.
Lovat had the wind advantage for the second half of extra time and they began to move forward and Glen keeper Stuart Mackintosh was alert enough to save an Owen Ferguson drive on 111 minutes and then tip away a drive from Duncan Davidson which appeared to be dipping in below his crossbar.
At the other end however, Lovat’s Callum Cruden did well to turn a Ruaraidh Cameron cross from the right away for a corner the second minute of injury time.
Then came the penalty lottery which Lovat won thanks to Stuart Macdonald. By way of consolation Glen’s Lewis MacLennan was named the BBC Alba man of the match.
When Glenners sat down at the evening function to break bread with the Lovateers from over the hill, they had a couple of thoughts:
1)    A second goal in the first half would have definitely placed black and red ribbons on the cup.
2)    On the other hand, there are a lot of really nice folk of the Wing Centre’s generation who deserve something more than the annual Lovat Cup to cheer about- so well done to Mary Ann, Ronnie Millican, Finlay Macrae, Ally Macrae, Don Neil and Jimmy Gallagher and heaps more. Linda and Graham Bell should also take a bow: they kept on willingly turning out wee players from Tomnacross over the decades while the ancient sport was merely tolerated in some other communities. Good on them all!
The pictures are courtesy of Neil Paterson. One is of Ewen Brady another of man of the match Lewis Maclennan  while the other is of the lads after the match managing to smile. Funnily enough Neil down sized this one so that even if you try to big it up you can't see the tears in their eyes as they bravely try to smile. Anyway to check his stuff out , have a look at
Of course the final picture is one of G in his Drum strip (he ain't so wee now) and if his Mum would send  a pic with him in action on the big day with a Glen player in the same frame then perhaps this one would be altered. But then again perhaps not. After all, he did play for Drum and he did save Lovat's bacon.

Anyway, that is all good fun but the question is where now?  It can only be the Camanachd-we enter it to win it. Besides the Premier League is beyond everyone except Newtonmore.



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Sunday, June 09, 2013

Anything can happen

The news that a pipe tune, written in the trenches of World War 1 and entitled “The Beauly Shinty Club“ had been rediscovered set the Wing Centre to pondering exactly what musical gem ought to be played on the Blairbeg PA system to greet the heroes as they walk on to the field before the start of a game. Once upon a time it would have been Herb Albert’s “Spanish Flea” in honour of the training stints held under the late Bob Murray in the Borlum Hippodrome. Don’t ask-you had to be there.
The nature of the modern game of course demands an up to date tune and lanky Miss Ellie’s modern jumpy up and down anthem fits the Glen’s recent white knuckle style perfectly.  Let’s hope Rachel at the CA can persuade Torquil or Astie to drop the pipes and get with the people’s tunes. Don’t get him wrong: the Wing Centre quite likes the pipes but they always remind him of a funeral.
However, the pipes would indeed have been appropriate after yesterday’s 3-0 home loss to Glengarry but the 3-1 victory in the Camanachd Cup against Lochaber did help dress the stage for Saturday’s MacTavish Cup final- though at this point it’s too tight to call.
The Lochaber game was a replay which the Glen were lucky to get the chance to participate in but then luck is always required especially in the cups. Against Lochaber there was no need for luck this time because the Spean lads did not really turn up for the match for some reason. They are a good side and showed that in the opening period when they took the lead after Shaun Nicholson slipped the ball inside to Ben Delaney and he knocked it home for the opener in 6 minutes. Thereafter though, they seemed to switch off and Glenurquhart pressed them back and forced them to defend for the majority of the first half . Goals though tend to be a little elusive. Eventually a goal did come after a series of corners when the ball was knocked down and Ewan Brady was on hand to finish well from close range.
Fraser Heath picked up a second after a series of neat passes left him with a clear chance and the match was wrapped up when youngster Euan Lloyd burst through from the wing and fired the ball home. A snap shot a few minutes later from the same youngster also forced keeper Calum Macdonald into a good save.
The 3-1 scoreline was a good margin though as always, the Glen created a good number of chances which they failed to cash in on, while Lochaber maybe felt they had lost their best chance of progress the previous weekend and just could not get going. The Glen centreline had the game by the scruff of the neck and the managers’ rotation of the players kept that area fresh which, given the heat of the afternoon, was a very necessary tactic.
Glen now progress to the next round where they will play Fort William at Drum. That of course lies in the future: of more pressing interest is next week’s MacTavish final.
The Wing Centre was speaking to the guy who wrote the preview in the Sunday Herald to see what he thought about thefinal. He was pretty bland but probably called correctly when he picked out Lovat as favourites.
Here is what he said:

“The first of the shinty’s major trophies will be decided on Saturday when Lovat face Glenurquhart in the 102nd final of the Co-operative MacTavish Cup. The clash between these near neighbours - there are only nine miles between their home grounds- is keenly anticipated and will surely draw a large crowd to the city’s Bught Park for the showdown.
"The area around Inverness is steeped in shinty, yet our teams have always been overshadowed by sides from Badenoch, Lochaber and Argyll.” says Lovat manager Alan Macrae. “This season things are different, though it’s hard to believe that in over a century of playing shinty this is the first time both clubs have met in a senior final.”
Though this may be the first time the sides have faced each other in a MacTavish final they have each appeared on the big stage before, the most recent being Glenurquhart in 2008 when they lost out 5-1 to Kingussie. Lovat have to go back to 1987 for their last MacTavish final - they were beaten by Newtonmore - but they have at least won it once when their side made a clean sweep of shinty’s trophies back in 1953.
The form book in 2013 also tends to favour Lovat: in the clashes between the sides this season they have been comfortably on top, scoring a total of eight goals and in the process knocking Glenurquhart out of the trophy that symbolised their success last season, the MacAulay Cup. Lovat’s league position is also healthier and they are presently vying with Newtonmore for primacy in the Premier League. Indeed, until their Camanachd Cup loss at Kingussie they had gone through the season unbeaten.
The biggest thing in Lovat’s favour is the youth factor. The oldest player in the team is 25 year old Ryan Ferguson and in 20 year old Greg Matheson they have a forward who has netted 16 times so far this season. The acquisition of internationalist Kevin Bartlett from neighbours Caberfeidh also looks like a good piece of business and has certainly added to Macrae’s options up front.
In contrast Glenurquhart have been inconsistent. Excellent victories over the Badenoch big two of Kingussie and Newtonmore have to be weighed against indifferent performances against Kyles, Inveraray and of course Lovat. Glen co-manager Drew MacNeil, who is also Scotland’s Head Coach, confesses to having had a frustrating season. “We have found it difficult to pick the same side two weeks running. Injuries have hampered us and we have so many lads employed offshore that player availability has become a problem some weeks. We have a more experienced side and we did defeat champions Newtonmore on their home ground in the semi, so we deserve to be where we are.  Our senior players like John Barr, David Smart and keeper Stuart Mackintosh have international experience while in Fraser Heath and Ewan Brady we have two of the best youngsters in the Premier.  We definitely feel we can win but against Lovat anything less than a top performance won’t be good enough”

 Everyone in the Glen knows it will be a close game- and the big trick will be to turn up and put in a performance. The boys in red and black have been guilty of not always doing that. Yet as the season has progressed the team has become more settled.
Perhaps the real Glen anthem should be “Don’t stop believing.” The Wing Centre won’t though he knows from bitter experience that anything can happen.
Pictures?     The posters and a pic of JB and Ewen Lloyd who scored the winner.

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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Lochaber Once More

Lochaber 3 Glenurquhart 3 (Camanachd Cup 1st Round)
If you want to know the truth then the title of this post should have been “Lochaber No More”. Why?  Because  Glenurquhart really ought to have managed to score four times in the first half which ought  to have been enough to finish off the game as a contest. Of course that ignores the simple fact that Lochaber themselves missed a chance at the Ben Nevis end in the first period.
In the second half Glen had chances but then Lochaber missed an open goal which was only outdone in “open-ness” by both Neale Reid and most memorably Eddie Tembo later in the match.  Finally when Glen finally did grab a late, late equaliser with the very last hit of the ball, most Glenners actually felt sorry for the Lochabermen and that, given the appalling behaviour of their ancestors in raiding, harrying and burning the Glen over the centuries, takes a bit of doing.
So what happened then? A lot actually. If this game was an espionage thriller it would be right at the top of best seller list. It had the lot: skilful play, six goals, the lead changing hands, an unusually focused referee who actually applied the rules, and believe it if you can, dry weather in Lochaber.
Lochaber actually started best moving with their young team at high tempo and it is doubtful if the Glen got out of their own half for the first 15 minutes. The Glen back four were fine and kept Shaun Nicholson and Neil Macdonald in check though youngsters Zander Ferguson and Stuart Callinson had a bit more freedom. They may have tested keeper Stuart Mackintosh once but then all of a sudden more ball got down to the other end-and with the wind it really had to- and the first clear shot of the match was a drive from Neale Reid which brought a competent save from youngster Calum Macdonald in the Lochaber goal. David Smart then began to break free from his marker and he had two more shots on target which drew saves from the keeper.

Neale Reid then burst through and fired over the bar when he ought to have buried the ball in the back of the net.  A snap shot at the other end from Shaun Nicholson brought a save out of Mackintosh but Glen continued to pour forward and Liam Girvan brought a super save out of keeper Macdonald with a fierce and accurate drive which would have been goal of the day if the youngster had not got his stick up to it.

Next Liam Girvan fumbled a chance and then finally Glen made the breakthrough when a shot by Liam Girvan was saved but not cleared by Macdonald and the ball popped back to the edge of the D. With the Glen forwards getting themselves in a tangle it was left to Ewan Brady to prod the ball into the net for the opener.  
Girvan continued to find room on the Glen left but from his cross Reid managed to miss from close range. More Glen misses followed first from goal hero Brady and then from Reid to the extent that when the teams went in 1-0 at half-time most Glen supporters felt that old familiar “here we go again” feeling come over them. A pile of chances wasted- and now we face Lochaber and the wind and what is more Lochaber actually will believe they can win the game since the Glen clearly don’t want it.
Then the unthinkable happened right at the start of the second period. Glen gave away a silly foul then conceded another twenty yards out from goal-the marking was slack and Nicholson slipped the ball to Callinson who hit a quick bouncing shot home through a ruck of players past the unsighted Stuart Mackintosh.
Glen pushed on and with Eddie Tembo coming on in the midfield appeared to take a better grip of the game, a judgement that was backed up when Neale Reid got on the end of a shy and rammed the ball home to restore the Glen lead. Glen then seemed to lie back a little and Lochaber equalised after some poor defensive play.
Glen pushed forward once again but when Liam Girvan slipped a through ball to put Reid one on one with the keeper, he hit Macdonald’s body with the ball just feet from the line. Seconds later, from a corner Reid turned his man and fired in a tremendous shot but Macdonald got enough of his stick on to it to pop it over the bar-it was a fabulous save and one that made the Glenners in the crowd begin to believe that it was never going to be quite their day.
Then the unthinkable happened; the Lochaber front men worked a move that left Zander Ferguson free wide on the right and he casually shot the ball past  Mackintosh to let Lochaber take the lead- and then it really began to look as if time would run out for the red and blacks.
Glen redoubled their efforts to get back on terms: Reid again missed from close range but Lochaber also had a good opportunity and all they probably had to do was run the clock down legitimately by holding the ball in the corners. However they picked up knocks and went down using up time that ref Graham Cameron judged should be added on.  The clock was running down and when Eddie Tembo had a glaring miss in front of an empty goal with the Lochaber defence stranded, it looked all over. The saviour of the Glen bacon was Ewan Brady. Once, back in 2009 he wrapped up the third division title for the Glen with a timely goal against Caberfeidh:now after a so-so first half he had begun to perform at the highest level in the second period. He began to make long runs forward; he switched a number of times with Tembo and always looked a class act costing a booking to one of the Lochaber lads who put in a late challenge.
Fraser Heath was moved up to full forward and youngster Ewan Lloyd came on at the back to release Lewis Maclennan into the centre line where his accurate stick work might make a difference.  It certainly did.
Maclennan who had earlier fired a half chance feet over the bar, picked out Brady perfectly with a free hit  and the young man turned , gained space and from all of 15 yards he fired home a controlled and much welcomed equaliser in what must have been the 94th minute. Talk about a close shave!!
The ball went back to the centre, ref Cameron threw it up then blew the final whistle. Were Lochaber disappointed? You could certainly say so- but then, on the other hand, the Glen were pleased.
The sides meet again at Drum this Saturday. If the replay is half as exciting as the first game it will be worth watching- and then the winners get a home tie with Fort William which is certainly better than the away visit to Kyles which Beauly drew as a thank you for beating Oban Camanachd.

Newtonmore 4 Glenurquhart 3 (North Division 2)
Like last week’s encounter with Aberdeen this encounter was a classic game of two halves- and if Glen got off with it last week, they simply did not this time. For whatever reason the first half was poor and Newtonmore, on their day the best side in the Division, romped away to a 3-0 lead in 20 minutes. Position changes then made a difference and the game stabilised though the loss of James Hurwood to an injury in the first half was a disappointment.
The second half was a turn around and the Glen began to play more effectively. Ruaraidh Cameron went to full forward while Jack and Ben Hosie on the wings and Billy Urquhart at half forward began to get some change out of the Newtonmore defence. Cameron was at the top of his game and his movement, control and distribution were excellent and this allowed the forwards around him to shine and play well. Glen scored two excellent goals in this period through Cameron and Urquhart. Being well on top, confidence began to grow in the side that they could go on and win the game.
Then, disaster!  Totally against the run of play through a defensive mistake Newtonmore were gifted a goal. However that did not push Glen heads down. The side continued to fight as a unit and once again scored to get back into the game through Ben Hosie. Unfortunately they were unable to equalise despite having several good chances to do so in the closing period in the game- and Newtonmore were lucky enough to hold on to both points.

A disappointment then but given that the other team got out of jail at Lochaber Glen can’t be too greedy.
Thanks to Tina Marshall for the pictures of the Newtonmore match. The others are of the lads after their great escape: Ewan Brady has pride of place.

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