Friday, August 16, 2013

Soldiering on.

“That was the saddest story I have ever heard” said the ancient former player when the Wing Centre told him about the Lovat game as he walked up Balmacaan Road after the match.
The ancient former player was working in his garden re-staking dahlias which the wind, that had blown in all the way from Skye, had disturbed.
”Don’t worry” he said. “It’ll all turn out right in the end. As the Brahan Seer said
“Though Lovat caught them on the hop
   the Glen will always be on top”
“When?” said the Wing Centre.
The ancient former player did not reply and turned again to his dahlias.
Of course, the ancient former player had not seen the match: with dahlias to stake he had decided to give the Glen v Lovat game a miss and watch Newtonmore/ Fort semi on the telly instead. He told the Wing Centre this. He was looking forward to it because he thought Fort might win.
“I’m not sure. I really think Fort will be up against it today, “said the Wing Centre.
“I don’t think so,” said the ancient former player, “there’s been a sign that tells me different.
As the Brahan Seer said:
“When the Balavil Estate be sold
  Newtonmore Shinty Club will fold
….and I see the Macphersons have put it up for sale, so Newtonmore are finished.”
“The Brahan Seer never said that”
“Oh yes, he did. If you want to, you can go and look it up in Rosemary Gibson’s book. It’s in one of those songs that Davy Holt sings- except he never sings that verse when he’s in Newtonmore for obvious reasons – and since he never gets gigs anywhere else, no one ever hears the verse. Smack’s in the business and he told me himself.”

The Wing Centre went up the road and had a cup of tea - then he switched on the telly: it was clear from the score that Newtonmore were very far from finished, so that rather undermined his opinion of the Brahan Seer’s prophecies in general and his shinty ones in particular. That night he did not sleep well. He kept going over the Lovat game in his head. It made for a restless night. He kept wondering what Glen might have done.
The game started off well enough when Neale Reid fired the Glenners ahead midway through the first half. They were going well and the Lovat attackers kept bouncing off the Glen defenders and then about 30 minutes in - disaster John Barr pulled a hamstring and he had to come off. From that moment on it was always going to be
difficult. In Lovat terms, it would be as if they had lost Stuart Macdonald. Lovat can lose anyone from their team except Stuart Macdonald –though they might pretend otherwise. If they were to lose Stuart Macdonald, they would begin to fail. Not that the other players would suddenly be rubbish-they were missing Calum Cruden and Greg Matheson which was probably the reason that the Glen looked so dominant early in the game- but without Macdonald the side’s self-confidence would begin to slip- and players that would normally be solid would begin to have doubts. Without John Barr, Glen are half a team, like Bute without Hector- and that’s the reason other sides - Kingussie in particular - pressurise refs to get John booked or sent off. No particular malice: it’s just the way. Lewis Maclennan and Neale Reid kept up the attacks: Macdonald had a series of good stops and the Lovat backline especially Drew Howie remained cool and kept the ball out and notwithstanding a little bit of pushing in the back which always goes unnoticed  they kept the Glen safely at bay.
Glen by that time had suffered their second disaster –the loss of “Dixie” Maclennan who received a swipe in the ribs. There is no more whole-hearted player than Dixie-what you see is what you get but despite his absence the Glen carried on in command. Then, out of the blue, with the last hit of the first half, Lovat were gifted a goal back which Kevin Bartlett was happy to accept.
Glen came out in the second half and in the 49th minute Lewis Maclennan through persistence and close control put then Glen into a 2-1 lead which was well deserved, and even the Crofting patriarchs in the crowd were now beginning to feel that the Glen merited a win.
However, at about the 74th minute mark Owen Ferguson found himself presented with an equaliser. Lovat seemed to be very pleased to get a point and Glen though they kept on pressing really should have been content to settle for a point. However,they continued to push forward and two minutes from the end were denied a goal when James Macpherson took a ball in the air but it bounced back off the bar. It should have sealed the match-instead what we got was Lorne Mackay out on the left with the ball, unmarked and he popped in an unremarkable shot which somehow found the net. It was the last hit of the game. Fair play to Lorne-he had taken a knock early on in the match and he had the guts to come back on and score the winner. He above all had a right to feel chuffed.
For the Glen though, it has to be put down as at least one point chucked away- and when you add in silly points dropped earlier in the season especially a crazy last minute loss at Kinlochshiel which was hotly disputed at the time, then it’s no wonder that the Glen now find themselves potentially in a bit of bother at the bottom of the Orion Premiership. We all like Lovat’s Mary Ann but it probably wasn’t wise to mark her birthday by presenting her team with both points.
The second team match against Kingussie was a disappointment also. Glen had a reasonable side but an inability to convert chances made the difference. Bob Macgregor and Savio Genini were the Kingussie scorers and while Kings played a young team, with the exception of Lee Bain at full back, the fact that five of them had been good enough to play the previous weekend in the Camanachd semi v Kyles is testament to the fact that they have a good squad for the future. As for the Glen, Ewan Menzies, James Hurwood and Cairn Urquhart all played well.  A particular word has to be said about youngster Lachlan Smith who went into wing back and did well. It was especially good to see him matched up to a player of similar size and age and he handled himself well, as did Liam Robertson who went on up front. Liam has just about got over a broken finger and he has shown himself to be a promising player. Their final Marine Harvest Division 2 match is against Aberdeen University- and that will be the end of the season. Shinty finished a whole week before the Games?
The first team-those who are left standing that is- are up against Lochaber, a side that have come back like Lazarus in the second half of the season. Since Glen put them out of the Camanachd they have not lost a match: in any other sport we would be calling for their players to take a drugs test.
Seriously though, Lochaber did not suddenly become a good side: they always were one and their young forwards were always liable to score if given the chance. They showed that right at the start of the season when they were unlucky to merely draw with Lovat. Glen will have to be a bit luckier than they were last week to get even a point out of them- and at the same time Fort William have a pile of games in hand and will be facing up to sides with nothing to play for and who will be giving “youth a chance” which everyone knows is code for playing a weakened team.  Ho-Hum!
The darkest hour is just before the dawn- trouble is there might just be more than an hour or so to go before the dawn. There is nothing for it but to be good and soldier on in spite of everything, secure in the knowledge that Newtonmore will win everything and that next year Lovat too will get injuries.
Three pictures from Tina Marshall this week-thank goodness she went into town before the end of the game and thus pics of the Lovat goals were avoided. The player in the second team in pic 3- probably young Lachie Smith and probably his Mam will know but then again with these helmets you can never tell.
Tina's stuff can be found at

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