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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