Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Finally, Some Shinty Bits and Pieces.

The shintyless days stretch out ahead empty, promising nothing Glen- related for the hapless Blogger to write about. He has to forage in his poorly stocked winter store for little bits and pieces, true criomagan of no consequence and from such minimal material create something worthwhile for the Glen fan to read. The job would have been made easier if the Glen team had performed more effectively during the season: once again there is the prospect of a Camanachd Cup final taking place between two teams from other parishes about which the true Glenner knows little and cares less. But more about ‘More anon.
In the meantime there is a troubling thought at the back of every Glenner’s mind as he sits on the sidelines with just one game in hand and watches while those teams below gradually pick up points which move them up above the Glen and away from the danger zone. Lochaber have managed to escape already-then Kingussie did the same and now that Newtonmore have already won the Premier League then Fort William and Shiel will have a fair wind in their sails to help them up and over the line. A year or two back Lochaber were undone by a late Bute surge.  Best to think of other things entirely!
Like the two snaps that were popped over by Neil Paterson. Taken at the Newtonmore Veterans Sixes recently they feature former manager and fanatical Glenner, Billy Maclean.
Billy has been pretending to us all that he has been playing and watching cricket-not so hard to believe if you bear in mind that when it was first created Blairbeg was known as “The Cricket Ground”, a creation of the Victorian shooting estate days undoubtedly.  Indeed Billy’s  been absent from a few Glen occasions, most recently delegating his son Rory to take the money at the Free Church Coffee Morning , but it seems he’s been at the shinty after all. The suspicion is that after having heard about Davie Stewart, Iain “Balbeg” Macdonald and Drew MacNeill playing in the “black and red” recently he wants to make a come-back but is too shy to practise locally.
The other set of snaps from the Eilean that came to the Wing Centre’s attention involved Glen’s former under 14 and under 17 star Hazel Hunter. Hazel has just won herself a medal and a trophy as part of the Strathglass Ladies side which beat Glasgow Mid Argyll in last week’s Marine Harvest Challenge Cup final. Well done to Hazel: she’s won more this season than both Glen sides put together.
Of course everything this week is focused on the Camanachd Cup final at An Aird. Always at this time of year Glenners have to admit to themselves and to the world that they blew it once again. Last year they were unable to win in Skye; this season they were unable to beat Fort William in the second round despite home advantage. It’s probably time they woke up to the fact that if you boil it down there are only 4 games of shinty worth getting organised for in the whole of the shinty calendar and making sure before the season starts that the top players book their holidays for these weekends. It’s going to have to be next year : otherwise Glen will have to admit to the fact that a golden generation has either underperformed or does not want it enough-just like the silver generations before them.
Like everyone else in the North, Glenners will fancy Newtonmore to win the Camanachd for a record 30th time - a result which will rub it in deeper that there the Glen could have gone too. Newtonmore did however beat Glen twice on their way to retaining their Premier League title. What about Kyles?  Kyles, present  holders of the Camanachd Cup have not enjoyed the best of League form this season but, having claimed a place in this year’s Camanachd Cup final courtesy of an extra time victory over Kingussie, certainly appear to be coming into form at the right time. The recent return from injury of key players like Calum Millar, Andrew King and full back Donald Irvine, who earns his living as a hospital doctor in Dumfries, has given their player pool a robustness it has lacked in league games this season and with the proven goal-getting abilities of Roddie Macdonald - he always grabs late winners when the sides meet in finals- they have proved in the MacAulay final that they have the ability to stand up to a Newtonmore side which has swept away all opposition in this year’s Premier League competition.
Kyles base their game on a high tempo approach from a midfield in which Dunky Kerr and Robbie Macleod are class performers but their chances on the day will depend on whether their defence can cope with the Newtonmore front trio of Fraser Mackintosh, Danny Macrae and Glen Mackintosh. Each of them has scored a pile of goals apiece, a success rate in front of goal unmatched by any other side. Newtonmore also have John Mackenzie as a front man. John is probably best used as an impact player for them to keep on the bench until the defence is tired , then when he comes on he is always liable to get a goal as he has proved in the past. If he does not score his physical presence can certainly make things happen for the other forwards. He did not appear to be as quick over the ground this season as he was last year but then who knows why. He has certainly had a hard year or so and he is a genuine guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. What you see is what you get, which is fine if you like what you get and in John’s case the “D” does like what he brings to the sport.
Newtonmore too have also had other injuries and Rory Kennedy will be a massive miss at An Aird but international full back Norman Campbell has been in fine form alongside wing backs Ackie Macrae and Andy Mackintosh, the Newtonmore defence look impenetrable. Kyles, however, proved otherwise in the MacAulay - and in recent years they have also proved that they have thoroughly absorbed a cup-winning habit. A side that a few years ago struggled to win at Drum have won two ‘MacAulays’, two ‘Celtic Societys’ and having won the Camanachd last year probably believe they can win another. What is more the place won’t be any bigger than Cannich. They inspire admiration in this biaised fan at any rate.
Kyles and Newtonmore used to tussle all through the 1970s over the Camanachd and though Kyles won on occasions the Newtonmore lads ended up with multiple winners medals. Apparently, according to the old guys the Wing Centre spoke to, the 70s teams respected each other and got on well with one another after the matches were finished; doubtless the same will apply now though one detects that Newtonmore feel they have something to atone for having lost 4-3 in a match which had its share of controversy, including disallowed goals and a sending-off.
You cannot get away from the fact Newtonmore who have been far and away the Premier League’s most dominant club over the past four years will be looking to set matters right this time round but the result will be determined on what sort of attitude they bring with them to Fort William. There was a widespread impression rightly or wrongly, that Newtonmore had been more than a little over confident in their approach to their old rivals at Oban and paid the penalty. Given that they can be vulnerable to the speed of the Kyles’ centres and front men, that is not a mistake they will want to make this time round.

What’s with the pictures of the Cup at the top of the Aonach Mor though? Rachel at the Camanachd Association gave the “D” permission to use Jeff Holmes’ snaps. Caledonia stern and wild indeed- and we’re not talking James Perlich and PJ. Where was the stag, the old copper still and the tartan rug?
The Kyles guys should have asked for a separate shoot on Para Handy’s puffer.
However, the questions for future Ph.D. students of sports photography to consider are:
1)    Was the pic prompted by Paul MacArthur’s famous shot of 2011 when he went up the top of Creag Dubh having forgotten his kegs?
2)    What story is the picture telling us about shinty?
3)    Could any other shinty shot match that of Billy Urquhart with the MacAulay?
Mention of that distressing incident leads on to a recent reunion in St Mungo’s own dear green place when the Wing Centre’s good lady just happened to take him into the Argyll Arcade on what was apparently a treasure hunt.
By good fortune ‘Yours Truly’ managed to nip up the stairs to meet up with two genuine heroes in the Glen - Colin and George of Morrison-Ignatieff Silversmiths. These are the guys (yes , guys plural -it was a two man job) who got Billy out of a fix and they should be guests of honour at the Glen Dinner Dance, if we can ever afford to have one. The guys were certainly good crack- and to save the two Camanachd Final managers or any of their boys any Sunday morning stress, the “D” prints Colin’s card complete with contact details.

The really good thing was that the lads kept the Wing Centre blethering so long that when he got outside, herself had got fed up and nipped round the corner to Prince’s Square for a coffee which is as good a result as any other Glenner –except wee Hazel- has got this year.
The photographs are the Wing Centres except for those which obviously cannot be. A special thank you to Neil Paterson for the pictures of Billy Maclean while John Fullerton took the picture of Hazel Hunter in action. Thanks to Tina Marshall for helping the "D" to source it.

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