Moans and Groans
the Wing Centre wonders –to himself and quietly- whether the Glen would be
better giving up the shinty altogether and concentrate on the things that they
are really good at like amateur dramatics, dressing up,building bonfires , putting up shelves or cutting
trees. The shinty has finally become a distraction from the core purposes of
the club- at any rate that is what it seems like. For all that anyone else is
“Not true” said the Chairman.
“I read on the Skye website that Hazel Hunter shared the Women’s Camanachd Association Marine Harvest North Div. 2 Player of the Year 2013 trophy along with a lassie from Skye.”
It turned out to be correct- and when Tina Marshall sent through the photo everybody was cheered up because Hazel, even though she plays for Strathglass, did not forget the Glen she comes from. She chose to receive her award wearing the Glenurquhart colours – red and black –so well done to Hazel on every count.
That cheerful thought could not however displace the realisation that Scotland had actually lost to Ireland in the end at the Bught, though fair play to the Glen’s Stuart Reid and his team since they were the only Scotland side to win defeating Dublin’s ladies. The under 21s also lost despite the presence of two Glenners-first teamer Fraser Heath and former Glen under-17 player Graham Macmillan.
And that was the Chairman’s final word on the matter as he went off to put up shelves in the pavilion leaving the Wing Centre to ponder over the fact that Smack had indeed had two shutouts in a row against Ireland though that was hardly the point because Ireland had still won.
A superb display of accurate point scoring by Ireland’s captain Neil McManus saw his side retain the Marine Harvest Quaich for the fifth time in a row yesterday though a determined performance from Scotland gave the home crowd plenty to shout about in a match in which their chances of success were to some extent spoiled by the conditions. For Scotland to succeed a dry fast pitch on which they could work the ball forward on the ground would have been ideal. However Inverness’s Bught Park ,after a week of rain presented Drew McNeil’s side with a heavy surface and grass just a little too long to let the ball run freely in their favour. The result was that by the end of the second half of a match which was never less than entertaining Scotland just did not have enough creativity in front of goals to get on top of an Irish side which had the ability to fire over enough points from distance to see them safely over the line.
Scotland started well as they had to, given they were chasing down an Irish 6 point lead from last week’s encounter at Croke Park, and they went ahead in the first minute when Lovat’s Kevin Bartlett popped over a two pointer from a free hit awarded after a foul on Fraser Mackintosh. MacManus brought Ireland level by the 9 minute mark with two single point strikes and Kilkenny’s all-star forward Ritchie Hogan put them briefly ahead before Bartlett restored Scotland to pole position with another two pointer.
At this stage the competition between the sides was intense and physical particularly because it was clear that Ireland had switched their tactics from the previous encounter where they had allowed Scotland more space to play their passing game. This time, to negate the advantage given by the length of the shinty stick the Irish defenders stuck closely to their opponents giving them no time to move the ball and in the process conceding fouls and hit -ins which Bartlett, Scotland’s top scorer on the day was able to convert regularly. Ireland also added singles from open play from MacManus, Hogan and Laois’s Cahir Healy but with 25 minutes on the clock and leading 10-7, Scotland were just on top and had they taken their chances in the next phase of the game the trophy could have been theirs.
The first disappointment for the home crowd came when Finlay Macrae burst through the Irish defence and laid the ball across but Glen Mackintosh’s shot was superbly saved by keeper Eoin Reilly and the follow up went wide. Next a foul on Scotland half forward Shaun Nicholson by Kilkenny’s Jackie Tyrell set up another chance but the ball again went wide. A flare up between Scotland’s John Macrae and David English was defused by ref Deke Cameron but when the tempo dropped Ireland took the opportunity to equalise with further singles from Gareth “Magic” Johnston, Hogan and Kerry’s Darragh O’Connell and it took a single from Glen Mackintosh just before the interval send Scotland in at half time with an 11-10 lead that really ought to have been larger.
That however was as good as it got.
The Irish half time team talk began to show immediate results when Patrick Maher broke free on the right to fire the ball past Scotland keeper Stuart Macdonald and though Bartlett got Scotland back equal with a two pointer the balance of the game had swung. Ireland began to work little triangles and for the first time run at pace with the ball balanced on their hurleys and gradually they pulled away from Scotland with three further points from McManus, and further strikes from Johnson and Hogan.
Scotland pushed defender John Barr forward in an attempt to rectify matters but a solitary point from new cap Connor Cormack was the best they could muster by way of late consolation.
If you want to be judgemental but still remain positive you could say Scotland played well enough to let Shintyland’s spectators feel proud of their performance. And that was despite the fact that the grass was too long ; the leaves were too thick ; the Irish were too quick -especially as the game went on-and so it was no surprise that out of a vast number of hurley players they could find 14 or so that can run really fast. Of course there might have been other players that Scotland could have picked if they made themselves available for the commando course which selection is claimed to be. Would it have made any difference? Doubtful. The guys who turn out to play Ireland have to be properly athletic-the days of turning up overweight in sandshoes have got to be past. Perhaps there is a place for a debate about how intensive that preparation has to be but there is no hidden pool of players available who did not want to commit to the preparation who would have made much difference to the result last Saturday. Whatever girns come from the sidelines one thing not in doubt is the fact that the guys who actually played gave everything they could.
Does the fixture add anything to shinty? It gives a boost to those who play and to their teams; the guys who are officials (and the Glen had two on duty at the Bught-Bobo Morrison and Billy Macleod) also get a bit of recognition; it also gives an international dimension to shinty which is otherwise missing and thereby generates media input which without it would not exist. The mixed code is certainly not ideal but without it the profile of the sport out with the heartland is diminished.
Hurling also has problems though perhaps the Irish don’t see it. As it is played now it tends to attract at top level anyway guys who are taller than the average though it has not as yet gone freakish like basketball or rugby. Likewise any sport where you can biff the ball over the bar from 50 meters out without creating a clearly defined chance has to be suspect.
More cheery was the photo which came over from Shirley and Sandy Macdonald in New Zealand which shows Sandy displaying his bowling trophy.
He is wearing his Glen top which doubtless will remind him for ever of the happy summer of 2013 which he spent in his native Glen.
Haste ye back, Sandy. See if you can pick out the young Sandy in this picture of a Glen side of 1975 –pic taken at the old Ferry Park in Beauly.
Finally, the £2,000 Lotto prize has been won- and never a man to miss out on a publicity pic - Mr Reid allowed the D to print a snap of himself and winner Anne Cameron at last Friday’s annual Sale in Blairbeg Hall.