Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Shinty season is getting closer-thank goodness

Finally, the days are getting longer and though the rain still hasn’t stopped, it is still true that as always at this time of the year if you step into a young Glenner’s mind you will find nothing but thoughts of shinty. Mr Reid, who imagines he’s a young man still, dreams of the resumption of the ancient stick game once more and who is to blame him.
Nevertheless, always the worker Mr Reid keeps himself busy during the close season with the Lotto. Drawn every Wednesday at one of four venues throughout the Glen -the Loch Ness Inn, The Benleva Hotel, The Steading and the West End Garage- the Lotto is one of the main means by which the shinty club manages to fund itself. The secret of the Lotto’s success is that you have to keep at it especially when there are no regular games to rely on as a focal point for selling tickets. The pic here shows Mr Reid shaking up his balls prior to last week’s draw in the Benleva.
During the Festive period the Shinty Club, with the help of Isla Urquhart of the Loch Ness Inn and Ian Miller of Loch Ness Gifts, held what is known as the Loch Ness Swinndle. This took the form of a large raffle with the prizes provided by Loch Ness Gifts and a quiz night with the questions provided by Isla Urquhart, with the insert of a special shinty section created by the Wing Centre himself. This year’s event was held at the Loch Ness Inn on Friday 3rd of January and was very much enjoyed by all who attended. A sum of money in excess of £500 was raised on the night and as happens every year was shared equally with the Glenurquhart Care Centre, a locally run facility which provides day care for elderly Glenners, most of whom are keen supporters of the Glen and avid buyers of Mr Reid’s lottery tickets. The picture shows former Shinty Club Chairman Alan Bell handing over the cheque to Mr Tom Barr who accepted the cheque on behalf of the Centre. Tom is the father of Camanachd Association Director of Coaching Jim Barr and grandfather of Glen’s international full back John Barr.
Since the Glen last lifted up their camans in competitive earnest there has been a huge change at the helm of the playing side of the club, though the committee have kept their shape. First Fraser Mackenzie left then trainer Jemma Docker stepped down and finally Drew MacNeill decided that enough was as good as a Glen feast. Not an easy situation to be dealt with given that some idiot decided that the leagues needed a revamp and that both Glen sides would have to operate in the new season in pretty challenging circumstances. Never mind with the top team playing in a slimmed down Premier League, the second team would have to compete in a league where the standard would obviously be more much more difficult to handle in as much as this season some of the first teams that missed out being promoted to the new National League i.e. Skye, Strathglass and Inverness would be in the same division as the seconds. That is going to be a difficult task for all concerned- and there will be a lot of pressure on manager Iain Macleod and his squad but if they keep their focus- and it’s up to everyone at the club to help out here- then the youngsters who have come in to play at this level should have benefited from the experience. Given that a large number of youngsters will be playing in this League the onus will be on referees and the Camanachd Association to make sure that the kids get adequate protection and it’s to be hoped that some attention is given to this in pre-season briefings to referees.
In the Premier Division there will be no “gimmes”, though to be fair there were very few in the 10 team Premier Division that ran for a number of years. The fear must be that with the fear of relegation quite high on the agenda for a majority of the clubs then the priority will be on defensive security at all costs and as a result clubs will be less willing to risk youngsters in the sides. Time no doubt will tell.
The Glen first team will be managed by Davie Menzies and Billy Maclean which is a return to the management duo of 2009. Training the guys will be Gavin Heath and also helping out across the whole squad will be Steven Henderson and Alan Corrigan with Chris Surtees as back up to Iain Macleod. Stuart Morrison and Davie Stewart come out on the same night to look after the under 17s and while Stuart stood still long enough for a pic, Davie kept on the move. We’ll get him next time.
Personnel changes have been minimal on the playing side with the biggest loss being first teamer Liam Girvan who has returned to Inverness to play alongside his dad Clive and his brother Craig. He will be a miss because not only did he have some nice skills but he was also a willing trainer who was prepared to put in the time required to keep sharp. Inverness will benefit from his return and at Blairbeg we wish him all the best for the new season. Into the squad in his stead have come Michael Brady (Glengarry) and Raymond Robertson (Boleskine) players who familiar with the Glen set up both being former pupils of the High School. Indeed Raymond was born and bred in the Glen up the Pitkerrald Road and it’s only because of his employment as a gamekeeper across the loch that he turned out for Boleskine.
Training started in the first week of January and as can be seen the Wing Centre managed to snap a pic or two on a recent icy evening.
So there we have it then: the empty winter months without shinty are almost done and when February gets underway the Glen will get busy with some friendlies –Skye and Boleskine are lined up for first and second teams respectively and then we will have to face our old rivals in the Macdonald Cup, though with Strath dropping down to one team this season the Wing Centre is unsure at this point whether this will affect the Ali Ban.
A wee stroll down to Blairbeg at the beginning of last week revealed a rather soggy playing surface and surprisingly long grass: the stuff has obviously been growing in some measure over the winter period. Santa, though, has not been reading his letters: the sign still does not seem to be working. Oh well, never mind…..
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