Thursday, April 24, 2014

Glen lock antlers with Caberfeidh in the MacTavish

Glenurquhart 2 Caberfeidh 0 (R.B.S. MacTavish Cup-quarter final)

This past Saturday , Glen progressed to the semi-finals of the MacTavish Cup with a 2-0 victory over National League challengers Caberfeidh - and now for the third time in a row the club face the prospect of meeting Newtonmore for the privilege of a place in the final at the Bught. Two years ago at Blairbeg, Glen lost out to ‘More on penalties after extra time in the semi; last year Glen sneaked past the Badenoch boys in the semi at the Eilean. However they fell at the final hurdle so to speak when they lost on penalties once again, this time to Lovat.
Interestingly enough in their only previous semi-final appearance of recent times- 2008- if memory serves, Glen beat Kilmallie with the game once more going to penalties. This time the score was a mind boggling 10-9  with both teams hitting the net with monotonous regularity until almost the whole of both teams had taken the lonely walk up to the spot. With the exception of goalkeeper Stuart Mackintosh it is doubtful if a Glen player has actually scored a penalty since. More importantly, the bottom line with all these penalty references is the fact that the Glen forwards also contrived to pass up numerous chances to finish these various games within the regulation 90 minutes. Would that it were not so!
Indeed for a while in the first half of Saturday’s encounter it looked as if the Glen might fail to hit the net against Cabers. That was down to two things: the Cabers defenders playing well and the Glen forwards not taking the chances which they created. Did Cabers create many chances of their own? Not really but the Glen spectators always expected them to do so and the home fans were always on edge because their side had gone into the game without two key defenders-Andrew Corrigan and Ally Mackintosh. However, in the end that fact did not matter too much because the Glen midfield remained in control for most of the match and as a result the red and black front men did get a more than adequate supply of ball to be working with. Work with it they did, and everything went right except the final product. It is no small praise to the Cabers defenders, especially to full back Lee Nichol, to point out that the Glen forwards, at nearly full strength, approached them with respect and attacked them with the usual high tempo game that is required for Premier League progress. For the first half the Cabers defenders matched them in that they were quick to the tackle and did not allow the Glen front men to take more time over their attacking moves. Was the time there to be taken? Probably not.
Not much really happened for the first ten minutes or so except that it was clear that Cabers fresh from putting eight goals past Bute, were certainly up for the game. Both sides looked to be on their toes and the lively pitch was more of a help to the forwards of both sides than it was to the defenders.
Glen’s first chance came in the 10th minute when Fraser Heath, playing up front for the second week in a row, slipped a ball through to Lewis Maclennan but he hit his shot past the post. Heath himself put a shot by a few minutes later and again Maclennan was wasteful when he fired a drive over the bar in 17. Glen had the majority of the pressure by this stage and the forwards were playing the ball about neatly but tenacious Cabers defending always denied them the space for a clean final strike. Heath and Maclennan again combined well in 28 minutes but the ball once more flew past and then from one of the man Glen corners at this stage Maclennan peeled off to the back post but could not get a clean connection. By this stage, though Cabers were digging in and had an occasional foray forward with the powerful Ali Maclennan. For the Glen the return of David Smart to the forwardline was clearly paying off. Smart has an excellent touch and when he is firing on all cylinders his running with the ball and his ability to link up with Fraser Heath, Neale Reid and Lewis Maclennan brings another dimension to the Glen forward play. If you factor in the eventual return from injury of James Macpherson then the Glen will have five front men of Premier League quality.

The test is of course the actual scoring of a goal- and the spectators had to wait until just after the half time break for the Glen to nose ahead. Neale Reid picked up on a pass through from midfield and flicked the ball to Smart. His first strike was blocked by the defence but the ball bounced back to him just enough and this time his strike flew past David Mellis in the Cabers’ goal to give the Glen a well-deserved lead.
Glen maintained their grip on the game through solid midfield play with Eddie Tembo outstanding on his side of the field. His shies in particular were excellent as were those taken by Arran Macdonald on the other side of the park while Ewan Brady in the middle carried on where he left off the previous week, though unfortunately he took a nasty face knock halfway through the second period which held him back for 10 minutes or so. Not that it mattered because by that time David Smart had struck a second fine goal for the Glen and there was no way back for Cabers though Mellis distinguished himself with a number of excellent saves especially a fantastic overhead stop save off a Neale Reid rocket.

The Glen management rang the changes bringing on Raymond Robertson up front for Maclennan, Calum Smith for Arran Macdonald in the midfield and Ross MacAulay for Euan Lloyd in the back row and although there was a chance or two for further goals near the end, the Cabers defenders were solid to the end.
Cabers as always brought a nice crowd of fans with them though given that it’s been about five years since we last played them, some of the familiar old faces were absent. Such is life.

 Inverness 2 Glenurquhart 2 (Marine Harvest North Division 1)
By the time we got to the last quarter of the Cabers game however word had come through from the Inverness match that forward Cairn Urquhart had sustained a head knock and that Dave Maclennan had been shown a red card in the match so by 4 pm the focus of concern had shifted somewhat from the immediate game at Blairbeg.   
This game had been picked up by the P&J and the Courier as being a special one because the managers on each side were brothers: Alan Macleod for Inverness and of course Iain Macleod for the Glen.

Dougie Rankin gave Inverness an early lead in the fourth minute. Glen came back into the match in the next period and were rewarded when Referee Archie Ritchie penalised the town goalie for charging a forward inside the D and awarded the visitors from the Glen a penalty on 32 minutes. Daniel Mackintosh kept his nerve and fired the spot hit home to level the tie

Glenurquhart went ahead a minute into the second half through a nice strike from Cairn Urquhart but Dougie Rankin brought Inverness back on level terms with a 58 minute strike. By most accounts the game was quite a physical encounter and Mark Sproule from Inverness and Dixie MacLennan from Glenurquhart were both sent off on the hour mark after a scuffle following the accidental injury to Cairn Urquhart. The point apiece means that both sides now climb the table; Glenurquhart to third place, whilst Inverness move up a position to sixth.

The pictures of the Cabers game (2,3,4 & 5) were provided by Neil Paterson ( -and those from Inverness-including the one of the brothers-by Donald Cameron (
 Apart from the picture of Hail keeper Fadgy's balletic behaviour, the snaps that intrigue ,taken by the Glen's own CCTV cameras, are those of Camanachd Assessor Henry MacInnes as he infiltrates the ground in disguise wearing his shades and trying to look like a Cabers official in his blue gear. The first pic right at the top of the article has him mingling with the Glen old guys who are very hospitable to him because they think he’s with Cabers. Finally his disguise rumbled Henry manages a rueful smile. Brad trying to do his giant-killer act against big Marty is also rather unusual as a visual image though it is doubtful if Brad was in any position to appreciate it aesthetically.

The injury to Cairn? A cut above the eye which took a few stitches to close but which was caused when he accidentally slipped just as his opponent swung.

Things like that can happen but the fact that Cairn was wearing a helmet, as all youngsters must, did help matters. Such knocks, despite the way the sport is stereotyped, are extremely rare in shinty and should be kept in perspective. It is however up to all who love the game whether they are players, referees or other officials to make sure that such injuries are kept to a minimum and where they do occur that they are dealt with promptly and efficiently.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Deconstructing the “D” and destructing opponents.

Glenurquhart 4 Inveraray 1 (Orion Group Premiership)
Lovat 3 Glenurquhart 4 (North Division 1)

“Well,” said the co-manager to the Treasurer. “I’ve experienced losing 4-1 and I’ve also experienced winning 4-1 and I know which I prefer”
The co-manager was speaking just after the 4-1 victory over Inveraray at Blairbeg last Saturday and he looked reasonably pleased.
“Mind you,” said the other co-manager,”thon Inveraray are not a bad side and we rode our luck for the first 20 minutes. If they were not so wasteful in front of goals it might have been a different story altogether.”
And so it very well might, thought the Treasurer to himself, but out of respect to the two managers he actually said nothing about the game but wondered how the Wing Centre would see the game in the D, so he said that to the managers.
They looked at each other and shook their heads.
“Half the time I wonder what game he has actually been to or if he has even been to the match at all?  How he can write what he does some weeks is beyond me. And if we are saying that from a Glen point of view what on earth can other teams think? He’ll only be firing them up to go against us- and you can tell him that when you see him, because I didn’t see him here today”
And so the Treasurer passed on this information to the Wing Centre (which is why the above exchange is included here at all) and the Wing Centre duly sighed.
“It depends on what they think the D is... or what it is for. Is it reporting or is it comment?”
“I think they feel it is fiction- and what is more fiction told by the classic unreliable narrator, “said the Treasurer.
“Rubbish,” said the Wing Centre. “Like who?”
“Like the guy in Chuck Palahniuk’s book ‘Fight Club’ or Patrick Bateman in ‘American Psycho’ “
The Wing Centre shook his head, “I’ve never read any of that stuff.”
“All right then- Forest Gump in the film. Do you get it now?”
“You mean someone who is telling something but their perception is limited through their point of view.”
“If you are wanting an example of that, all you need to do is listen to Charlie Bannerman’s interview with the Newtonmore manager after the Lovat game; you don’t need to be showing off about films and books”
“That was just a one-off interview given in the heat of the moment. That wasn’t a whole blog written from a biased perspective.” …    and with that the Treasurer left to count the money from the Inveraray game which is how the Wing Centre found himself with a little pondering to do before he completed the report on the match.

It certainly had been a dodgy start-and the co-manager was wrong about him not being at the game. He had been though he did spend much of it in the tea-room keeping out of the strong wind which the Glen played against in the first half.
The start of the game however was all Inveraray, and for the first 20 minutes they dominated the game, showing impressive skill and smart thinking to open up the Glen defence on a number of occasions and the red and blacks were indebted to John Barr, Smack the musical goalie  and some wayward finishing that they did not go behind.  Gradually the defence got on top of their men, Ally Mackintosh moved to play in front of his man, while Mike Brady  and  Ewan Lloyd both gradually came on to their game. Inveraray also had the upper hand in the midfield at this stage though Glen should have grabbed a goal when Fraser Heath, who had taken a while to adjust to his forward role, set Neale Reid through clear on goal with only Graham Macpherson to beat but disappointingly the chance was missed.
Just before the halftime break however, the Glen struck twice. The first came in the 40th minute when Fraser Heath slipped a neat ball to David Smart and he laid it on to the stick of Lewis Maclennan who smashed it home with the visitors defence all at seas. Three minutes later Eddie Tembo fired a ball forward from midfield; Lewis Maclennan knocked it across the goals and Fraser Heath finished powerfully from close range. It was another trademark Glen move and it made it look at that stage as if the Glen were well on their way to a comfortable win.
However, just when it looked like the Glen could actually enjoy the 2nd half, Inveraray scored just 3 minutes after the break. This was a goal that was good to watch if you were from Inveraray but very poor from a Glen perspective as the Argyll lads played a pre-arranged short corner- Ewan MacMurdo to Gary Macpherson and back to MacMurdo in a   move which caught the Glen defence sleeping and was expertly fired into the roof of the net.
After this point the Glen started to take control of the game and through some excellent interplay from the forwards, created a number of good chances.  The 3rd goal came from a penalty, after a hack on the edge of the box on 65 minutes and was dispatched firmly by goalkeeper Stuart Mackintosh the designated penalty taker. Three minutes later we scored the 4th which effectively killed the game and this was a goal of high quality, with the ball being moved in the air through the forwards from Lewis Maclennan to Neal Reid before being volleyed first time by Fraser Heath high into the net. In conclusion, this was a game the Glen needed to win and actually won well in the end.  The management had targeted movement and pace up front and that is what the spectators got.  Fraser Heath and the returning David Smart bring an extra dimension to the forward play, but the bosses had specifically asked Neale Reid to move the ball quicker and he delivered on almost every occasion and had a very good game.  Lewis Maclennan also played well.
In the centre line, Eddie Tembo had one of his best games of the season and Ewan Brady playing in the crucial role of full centre had an impressively effective game against Inveraray’s experienced David Robertson though he like the rest of the squad took about 20 minutes to get focused. That slow start won’t work every week. As Steve “Stato” Henderson pointed out to the Wing Centre after the game “Inveraray had 15 corners but they wasted them all but one”.
The only other down side was that the Glen’s Ally Mackintosh was booked for persistent fouling, a decision one could not argue with , though to be fair he has been playing all season through an injury which hampers his mobility.

The news from over the hill where the young boys were visiting the Croft was even better. For the first time in a good number of years the Glen came away with a win 4-3 with Callum “Smudger” Smith grabbing a hat-trick. That means he has scored more goals than Neale Reid and as many as Lewis.
As in Drum, the match was played in a very strong wind so the Glen decided to take the wind at their backs and get off to a good start. Unfortunately the side did not get into the game in the first twenty minutes, losing the midfield battle. Defensively Glen were shaky too and deservedly lost a goal about 15 minutes in. This woke the team up thankfully and they started to get on top. Callum Smith looked a threat every time he got the ball at full forward. Jack Hosie equalised in 20 minutes with a good finish inside the box and then Callum Smith scored a great goal a few minutes before half time to give the Glen the lead. Smith who was outstanding  showed great strength and skill to win the ball, then had the composure to create space and score.
 Unfortunately at half time Glen lost Paul Mackintosh due to his ongoing injury problems so Ross MacAulay was  dropped back into defence. Youngster Liam Robertson then moved into wing centre and Lachie Smith came on at wing forward while Ewan Menzies came on for Rory Maclean. 
These second half changes were able to transform the Glen’s performance  despite the fact that the team were now playing against the  strong and persistent wind.
The centre line continued to be dominant creating chance after chance, with Ewan Menzies making immediate impact. Unfortunately, the Glen were unable to kill the game off and because of that they were punished when Lovat scored a soft goal against the run of play.
After this setback the Glen remained on the back foot for a short period but the strong leaders on the park, Donald Fraser and ‘Dixie’ Maclennan, got the team back on top and again they dominated play scoring two more fine goals through Callum “Smudger” Smith. Smudger had to be the Glen man of the match. He was very strong in the tackle and showed an excellent first touch as well as good balance and control. His distribution to the players around him ,including that to his younger brother Lachie, was excellent too.

Disappointingly the Glen then gifted Lovat another easy goal and that brought in its train a nervous ending to the game with Lovat hitting the post in the last minute. Indeed Glen even had to pull Callum Smith back to defence to make sure of retaining both points though any other result would surely have been a travesty. In conclusion it is only fair to point out that as well as “Smudger” Smith doing the biz up front, “Dixie” Maclennan also came onto an excellent game at full centre too. Beyond his actual playing skills, his positive attitude the whole time helped to inspire the team especially in the latter stages when things were looking tough.
In addition, full back Donald Fraser, solid and strong, was also an inspiration in the heart of the defence and although the hope is that the injured Paul Mackintosh can still  play some part in the games to come, the basis is clearly there of a good competitive side albeit in a ridiculously imbalanced league. Finally and most certainly worthy of mention is Cairn Urquhart  who is a fine example of a hard working club man. A regular attender at training, Cairn always puts in unstinting effort and he is now getting his reward: he will undoubtedly be a key player throughout the rest of the season.
Nearly all of the pictures of the Inveraray match come courtesy of Sheena Lloyd: the very first snap was taken by former manager and forever Glenner Drew MacNeill. Let’s hope the rainbow really is an omen of good things to come.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

'More are the merrier

If you think about it the biggest disappointment last weekend in Glen Shinty was not the defeat by Newtonmore; it was actually the fact that with the cancellation of the GMA visit to play the Sutherland Cup match, the Glen seconds will now have gone nearly a month without a game in which young players can be used. Why is that a big deal?  Simply because of the fact that the Glen youngsters are playing “out of their league” in the sense that at least six of their matches are against what would be have been seen as first team sides last season – Strathglass, Skye and Inverness- and manager Iain Macleod is concerned at risking 14 and 15 year olds against these teams filled with experienced players. The GMA match would have allowed him to play these young lads- certainly Lachie Smith, Liam Robertson and Jamie Maclennan would have featured-against at least some players in their own age group.
Last year when the League consisted of genuine second teams there is no doubt these young lads would have played every week-indeed some of them more or less did- : this year these same young lads and one or two just behind them must be getting frustrated with their lack of involvement and truthfully the situation is just not quite good enough and the Glen management must hope that these and other youngsters have the patience to stick with the sport until their chance can come.
GMA weren’t the only side to be unable to field a team in the Sutherland: Aberdour also found they were unable to get enough guys to go to Lochbroom while in the Balliemore, Strachur were unable to get a quorum big enough to justify a pile of money traveling to Skye.
All three games involved huge journeys for the visiting side– and the Wing Centre guesses that player availability was compromised not only by the prospect of a long day’s journey lasting into night but also by the fact that in some areas of the country schools had shut for the Easter break and youngsters were probably not available for the games due to being on holiday.
Can this be fixed? Maybe not perfectly but when you ask the kids they will tell you they want to play games and they want to do so every week- and if shinty can’t provide them with that then other sports perhaps will.

Perhaps it can be fixed if we can make the early rounds regional in nature which will ensure that teams do not have to spend the whole day away from home. It may also be that we need to look at being more flexible over when these games should be played, though with many youngsters due to be sitting exams in the next month or so that may be easier to think about than do.
The Glen being the Glen of course many of the second team lads actually did not miss out on a game at all. They got a call up for the first team to face Newtonmore. Glen started this game missing 8 players whom they would normally expect to participate in a first team squad. Gone through injury or other availability problems  were James Macpherson Andrew Corrigan, and David Smart . Added to that Arran Macdonald and Neale Reid were unavailable and to make matters worse Fraser Heath came down with flu on the morning of the match while Billy Urquhart suffered another flare up of his back injury To make matters worse Dave “Dixon” Maclennan was delayed and missed the start of the match.
As far as the game itself was concerned, it went pretty well as might be expected against the Champions given Glen’s understrength team.  Newtonmore had the bulk of the early pressure and struck a couple of decent chances wide; the Glen  then settled down and looked quite comfortable in defence until Fraser Mackintosh fired in from a corner after 20 minutes.The match continued in a similar vein until half time with ‘More having plenty of the ball but despite that they managed no further scoring. Newtonmore continued to dominate in the second half and the game was effectively lost in a ten minute spell when Fraser Mackintosh scored his 2nd after 50 minutes and then Danny MacRae added 2 more in 55 and 60 minutes.

There was a real danger that the red and blacks could have been heading for a very heavy defeat, however the managers took Ewan Brady back to full centre where he played very well and Glen actually came more into the game, culminating in an excellent strike from Lewis around the 80 minute mark to make the final score 4 -1.
In conclusion, if the Glen had to be extremely understrength, then this was probably not the worst game for it to have happened.  The 2nd team boys who came in all put in a very good shift against top players.
John Barr and Mike Brady were again solid at the back while Ewan Brady did well when brought back to the centre line.
The unexpected re-appearance of the excellent Danny MacRae from injury pretty well summed up the Glen’s day.
Some of the side’s more experienced players did not have their greatest day in the red and black, but as they spent most of the match under pressure and on the back foot, one could not be over critical.

To conclude on a more positive note there was nothing in the Newtonmore team to dissuade any Glenner from the point of view that given a full Glen team, they are beatable. The real trick for the Glen will be to get the squad that put 4 past ‘Shiel back fit and ready to face them though-not an easy ask.
As for Newtonmore they played as well as they needed to. They are side that do the simple things simply-all are good hitters and all are strong players who are very hard to shift off the ball once they are on it. Remember when you were wee and you used to get fruit cocktail with condensed milk for Sunday pudding; that’s what you get with this Newtonmore team. Good old fashioned hearty, even retro shinty-maybe that’s what all shinty should be- not patting the ball about as if the pitch was some new-fangled Astro turf.  On the other hand it might be good if the Glen could manage that more often too. It will be interesting to see how Lovat cope with them this weekend.

Thanks to Sheena Lloyd for all the pictures. Good to see Cork up to take in the match.     

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