Friday, July 25, 2014

Heath wonder goal Blairbeggars belief

Glenurquhart 2 Kingussie 1 (Orion Group Premier League)
It was a game which looked to always be going to proceed in its own unexciting way: it really didn’t matter about the result. Of course you say it’s important but given where the Glen and Kingussie both are in the League it was not all that important. In truth it was a day for half watching a match, blethering to the Kingussie visitors and hoping that none of the Glen players on the field picked up a booking or an injury. There was a little stir of interest amongst the spectators in as much as Ronaldo was back: he has been out for most of the season and his return is probably not unconnected with the fact that Kingussie have made it through to the Camanachd semis.
You would also have to say that despite the lack of a pile of players, Savio Genini and Lee Bain being two notable absentees, Kings  looked lively at the start and had a couple of early chances neither of which fell to big Ron though he looked good enough but not what he used to be back in the day. Glen struggled to get forward and looked a little off the pace in parts but then again that was only to be expected given that Glen were a pile of players short too-Neale Reid and Dixie Maclennan were banned for going over the points level while Euan Lloyd and James Hurwood  were injured or unwell.

That meant a step up for Raymond Robertson and Ross MacAulay but put massive pressure on an already weakened second team due to face Strathglass on the same afternoon.
Then it happened-26 minutes into the match: Fraser Heath picked up a ball just up from the centreline, juggled it up over Kingussie defender Barry Dallas, ran with it bouncing on his stick and then volleyed it into the net. Goal of the Glen season? Pretty much though James “Frosty” Macpherson has also rattled home some beauties but nothing so far like that. The game then continued with the Glen for a period more dominant since Kingussie appeared to be shell-shocked at the outrageous nature of the goal they had just lost.

Just after halftime Glen picked up a second goal when James Hutchison gave Macpherson just too much time and he hit a powerful shot which Kingussie keeper Craig Dawson did get a hand to, but could not keep out of the net. It certainly came through a group of players and the keeper was probably unsighted till late on.

That probably should have been it but Kingussie continued to look lively and they had a series of opportunities to be more accurate than they were. During this short spell the Glen centreline seemed to be ineffective in as much as they could not prevent their Kingussie opponents from knocking the ball back.  Then in 56 minutes after a nice piece of interplay the ball was slipped inside to Ronald Ross and he hit it hard and low from distance through a ruck of players to put Kingussie apparently back in the match and himself apparently back in first team contention. Indeed if Kingussie get past Fort William in the Camanachd semi, which they should since Gary Innes is not going to be playing, it is unthinkable that they would play a Camanachd final without Ronaldo in the squad if he was fit.

 The news now is that he is fit, not as sharp as he was obviously, but then he is just on the way back to fitness – and he still seems to have the ability to score. He also missed a sitter too which is not the sort of thing you would normally expect from him: it will probably not happen again.
Glen rearranged matters in the centreline at this point and the ship stabilised to allow both teams to fight out the rest of the match on even terms: Glen had a number of chances including a number of free hits which they forced out of the usual no compromise Kingussie back line- but that all came to nothing.
 They also showed some nice patches of interplay which set up some half chances- Raymond Robertson showed some skill and fire in this stage of the match - but Dallas and Hutchison were solid and if given a chance to clear they did so efficiently. If they were absent Dawson certainly wasn't.
 At the other end Kingussie forced a number of chances themselves but wayward shooting and equally solid defending from Stuart Reid and Lewis Maclennan kept them at bay. Ross MacAulay who came on late did well and Mike Brady stuck to a difficult task against youngster James Falconer. Falconer is clearly an up and coming talent for Kingussie but though strong, still looks very much a youngster physically though he has a good deal of pace. The problem for a defender against a player of this type is that he is difficult to deal with and if he gets knocked over in a challenge it can easily look like he is being fouled. To Mike Brady’s credit, in what was a frustrating afternoon, he stuck to his task and as the afternoon wore on he came on to a sound game.
In the end Glen held on to win what was a tight game though Kingussie had more missed attempts on goal than the Glen. On the target Glen did better but only marginally- and it is as always in sport all about slight margins.
The other match at Strathglass saw manager Iain Macleod struggle to get a full set of players to make the game. In order to manage things he was required to dig deep into under 17 resources which at holiday time is not an easy task. However, Ryan Porter, Liam Robertson, Finlay Robertson and Lachie Smith all stepped up to the plate while Dan Mackintosh returned and future Camanachd President Jim Barr also pulled on the black and red stripes for an outing. Cameron Maclennan was up front but the absence of the Hosie brothers, Donald Fraser, Raymond Robertson, Ross MacAulay, Duncan Fraser and Bradley Dixon meant that the side struggled to play coherently. The fact that it was a wet afternoon was also not conducive to good shinty. However Strath scored two early goals and three late ones though the stats table does not indicate the times at which the goals were scored which is a pity. However, Strath will be down in Drum for the return fixture this Saturday and it would be good if there were enough players available to give them a more competitive game. After some excellent showings and some narrow defeats in the cups it would be a good note on which to wind down the season.

The pictures this week are from Neil Paterson and Sheena Lloyd. Best one is the snap of manager Maclean working out the tactics. Look how the position of the tongue shows his total concentration. Bless!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Glen torch Lovat’s title hopes-maybe!

Glenurquhart 1 Lovat 1 (Orion Group Premiership)
If you had said at the beginning of the week that Glenurquhart would go over the hill to Kiltarlity without a pile of players and end up nearly winning the match-in fact they more or less chucked it away-then no one would have believed you. But let’s deal with that a little later.
The real shinty story in the Glen however was about Helen and the Torch. For the last few weeks the Commonwealth Games torch has been wending its way around Scotland giving everyone a wee stake in the sporting extravaganza for which only the lucky few can get any tickets. Some time back it was announced that amongst the local runners the Glen’s own Helen Maclennan was to run with the torch somewhere in Drum. Helen has a long record of service to shinty in the Glen: she is the lady who organises the youth development and training, washes the strips, oversees the café rotas, bakes cakes, serves on the finance committee and takes the minutes for the meetings – and doubtless there are many other things that have been overlooked. To mark Helen’s big day the club organised a wee festival on the field with a bouncy castle, some father and son 6 a side shinty matches – and as a perfect opening touch Helen entered the field and was able to run through an arch of crossed camans-and everyone from the youngest to the oldest had a chance to touch the fabled torch. By good fortune too, the fact that Kingussie had called off their second team match meant that there was a plentiful supply of bacon and rolls to sell to the punters from the pavilion window. The only dark spot on the day was that Police Scotland who made many friends as they escorted the baton through the village and high-fived the kids also contrived to lose them immediately by mounting a wee speed-trap up at the old Free Church Manse on the way to Milton. The decision to have a speed trap there on the day of the Queen’s Baton arrival can have only come from the same strategic genius who thinks it appropriate to arm the police as they patrol the streets of Inverness on Saturday evenings. Where does he think they are? Dodge City?

Despite that cavil, it was a very pleasant start to a day that went on to become even better when the first team went to Balgate and won a point. The Glen went over the hill minus Lewis Maclennan, Ally Mackintosh, Euan Lloyd and David Maclennan. In addition to that James Hurwood who started was carrying an ankle injury while both Fraser Heath and David Smart had been ill earlier in the week and by rights probably should have taken a break. Lovat were without Kevin Bartlett, Michael Mackenzie and Drew Howie but given the fact that the game should have meant something to them they were certainly expected to prove the stronger side.

How wrong can you be? Lovat seemed not to be 100% focused on this match- and the Glen had a gilt-edged chance to go ahead early in the match when ref Graham Cameron awarded a penalty for a foul by Lovat keeper Stuart Macdonald. James Macpherson took the hit but did not hit it as cleanly as he ought to and Macdonald was able to get his feet to the strike.
A few minutes later Lovat’s Calum MacAulay out on the left fired a ball in at goal from a narrow angle but though he got his hand to the shot, Glen keeper Stuart Mackintosh was unable to prevent it going into the net.
David Smart who was suffering from a sickness bug was replaced by Billy Urquhart after half an hour. Glen co-managers Billy MacLean and Dave Menzies had to further re-jig the team on 37 minutes when defender James Hurwood had to come off when he went over his ankle again.

Andrew Corrigan, who had started at full centre, dropped back into defence. John Barr left the forward line to take over in midfield whilst attacker Smart returned to the field of play. The fact that Barr took up position against MacTavish man of the match Ryan Ferguson was probably decisive because though not fully fit, the Glen’s international defender has a physical presence that Ferguson struggled to deal with for the rest of the match.

Arran Macdonald in the centreline also gave an impressive performance- and when he plays at full tilt in the centreline as he has been over the past while then he adds an extra dimension to the red and black squad.

Eddie Tembo was replaced for a time by Ewan Menzies at half time and the youngster went on to have a fine match . There were of course chances at both ends just a couple of minutes into the second half. First former Glen under 17 player Graeme MacMillan set up Lorne MacKay and he fired a backhand shot through a ruck of players but keeper Mackintosh was able to deflect the ball for a corner. The corner was quickly cleared and Glen broke forward swiftly at the end of which James MacPherson forced a similar save from Stuart Macdonald who also turned the ball away for a corner.

Crucial to the Glen effectiveness was defender Stuart Reid who managed to contain Lovat’s Lorne Mackay and generally matched him throughout the afternoon though on one occasion late in the match Mackay got clear and might have done better but his shot flew just wide of the target. As the game proceeded the Glen came more into the match and to push for the point the Glen management team pushed Fraser Heath up into the front line and pulled Corrigan back to buckshee. This worked well although Lorne Mackay managed to get one long shot on target which as expected Stuart Mackintosh stopped comfortably. At the other end Glen created chances and eventually Billy Urquhart found the space and time to fire the ball home to make it 1-1.

Glen then had a chance to push for the game and created a number of pressure situations until just before the end of the match Fraser Heath fired a rocket hard and low towards the Lovat goal but Macdonald was once again present to do what he does best - pull off an exceptional stop to deny the Glen the points.   
Lovat can still win the League but however you spin it they could have done with not dropping a point. Still they had the best of the banter. Full back Fraser Gallagher was being harassed by the Drum support about his specially styled mouth guard- a fetching item in black and white which makes his mouth look like its full of sharks teeth with black gaps between them. Scary!
“Come on, Fraser. Give us a smile” shouted the Glen crowd as Fraser ran to clear up an early Drum attack. He fired the ball clear.
“Ok, “he said and duly produced a black and white leer.
Then he added “My Mam says it’s my best feature.”
The Glen crowd liked that piece of banter almost as much as the point - but not quite.

With the exception of the first picture (captured from the BBC)  and the last (captured by the "D") all the pictures are from Sheena Lloyd. Sorry about the "bug eyes" , Cork.  Why this one of Mike Brady sitting down? He had such a good game that he was always too fast to catch in an action shot. Here he is after the match. We could have done with him in the MacTavish. 

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Inveraray get Frosty reception in Drum.

Sometimes you wait for ever to get a story which fits a headline - and then when you finally get the chance to use it you have to say to yourself “Why bother?”  The above is a headline in search of a story - but the game took place in July, both sets of spectators got on well, there was no hassle between the teams - so the only thing that would make it stick , barely, is that James “Frosty” Macpherson had a hand in Inveraray’s
defeat. In fact two glorious strikes and an assist can’t be bad and would carry the story if it were not for the truth that Inveraray actually have every right to think that the two goal margin flattered the Glen.

Perhaps the Glen started a little flat given that the second team had just suffered a disappointing exit from the Strathdearn Cup after extra time and actually leading for a spell- but more of that later. In the Camanachd match, Glen’s defence got off to a very shaky start - but then they were up against some wily forwards who have mastered the technique of getting to the ball first and then falling over. Result- a foul but then again the Glen defenders have to learn to get to the ball first and failing that try not to knock the man over. Whether that is worth the bother depends on how you read the ref but generally nowadays if the forward goes down under the slightest of touches it is a foul. It is hard to believe though that at this stage of the season the Glen are playing without three of the back four which began the season against ‘Shiel - Ally Mackintosh, John Barr and Andrew Corrigan - so the fact that the guys actually playing knitted together so well eventually in this match was a blessing.
The first minute was a disaster - an Inveraray free hit after a back push. The ever lively Euan MacMurdo played the ball across the D and Lewis MacNicol was allowed too much space on the left to finish easily from close range. Inveraray high-fives all round and the Lovat players watching from the sidelines must have thought it was going to be another day of disaster for the Glen - and looking at them and speaking to them the Wing Centre thought they counterfeited genuine concern for the fate of the Glen. Truly. Nobody likes to see their neighbour burgled unless they are carrying out the burglary themselves - if you catch the drift.

Anyway Inveraray had a very good spell at the start of the match when they seemed to have the Glen centreline under control and the Glen defence chasing and only just catching shadows while Stuart Mackintosh in the Glen goals had at least one excellent stop. Other Inveraray chances went wide and high.
Glen began to gather a little more self-belief and the centreline especially Arran Macdonald began to get more into the game until in the 39th minute a free hit taken by Callum Smith on the right was slipped across by David Smart and out of some broken play James Macpherson pounced on a loose ball to smash it past ‘Rary keeper Graham Macpherson to level the match.

A much better Glen performance developed in the second half and Neale Reid began to look dangerous though the pick of the front men at this stage had to be David Smart whose tireless running meant that Inveraray always had to be alert when Glen attacked. In the Glen defence as the game went on the Inveraray threat began to ease as full back Lewis Maclennan and in particular buckshee back Fraser Heath began to dominate. John Barr who had come on midway through the first half moved to full centre to put some bite into matters. Inveraray were hampered too by the fact that the excellent Grant Griffin had to come off with a twisted ankle and their front line never totally refocused after his departure.
 Both sides had chances and Neale Reid in particular fired over the bar when he might have worked the keeper but late in the match a long clearance from Glen keeper Mackintosh skipped right through the centreline and fell to Reid; he patted the ball sideways and James Macpherson as always got his shot on target. The ball skipped up off the hard turf and back off ’Rary keeper Macpherson and back into the path of Reid who made no mistake from close range. That might have been enough to do the business but a tiring Inveraray defence let a through ball from Smart run across the D out to the left where Macpherson fired an unstoppable drive past Macpherson to make it 3-1.

A comfortable victory then - perhaps it looked that way in hindsight. It was however hard fought for: Arran Macdonald and EJ Tembo worked hard in the middle to make it happen and their shies plus those of youngster Callum Smith are exceptional and in some cases cause more hassle for defences than a free hit. Neale Reid battled hard all day and is now showing glimpses of his 2012 pre-arm break form and David Smart ran himself into the ground. “Frosty” Macpherson smashed home the chance which is what he is there to do.
The result is that the Glen is in a Camanachd semi-final for the first time in a wee while which can’t be bad for the village. Just a final thought : one other team in red and black made it into an actual final the other night- and the name of the team begins with a “G”. Of course the Germans play football but it might just be an omen.

Disappointing though was the Strathdearn result: 1-1 at full time, 1-3 after extra time. As the result indicates for the regulation 90 minutes there was very little between the teams with truthfully at either end very little being created. Glen would have been more effective perhaps if Ross MacAulay had been present and the use of Callum Smith in the senior team- where he ought by rights to be - meant that Glen were a little light in the middle of the field. Newtonmore had a good number of youngsters on show and if their sturdy display on Saturday was anything to go by they are going to have an excellent future.
They were also bolstered by the experienced Kenny Ross in the middle while fullback John Mackenzie never did seem very much under pressure despite the fact that Glen had a fair amount of play coming through Drew Maclennan at full centre. Glen too were not especially troubled at the back with Drew MacNeill preventing Brett Munro from being able to do much with the ball and Lachie Smith at wing back was on top of his opponent throughout .
Cairn Urquhart tested ‘More keeper Owen Fraser in 25 minutes but, sadly from a Glen point of view, he was up to the job. The other Glen attacks however seemed more unfocused and petered out at too great a distance to cause the blue and whites much bother.

The teams went in 0-0 at half time and despite the fact that Glen boss Iain Macleod strove to drive his men forward ,there was not much of note until the 68th minute when a slip by ‘More’s Mackenzie allowed Glen forward Cairn Urquhart to hammer home the ball from close range to put the Glen 1-0 ahead. 
Hardly had the dust settled and the cheering subsided in the stand when youngster Ian Robinson equalised.

That is the way it remained until the end of normal time with the only real excitement being the home spectators trying to annoy Glen Tonkin the ‘More manager over a disputed shy. Not that the shy ever was disputed because the guys couldn’t see the line properly from the stand but Glen got roused because at times he does. Memo to Glen: when this happens –the Sgiathanachs will do it in the final- just look at them, smile broadly and give them the thumbs up and they will either slag you off more or laugh. Either way you will have won.
Extra time though was a disappointment for the Glen: Ian Robinson twice beat Glen keeper David Macfadyen , once in either half but by that time the Glen just were not able to reply not least because forward Jack Hosie had taken a nasty blow to the back of his hand which reduced his effectiveness.
Newtonmore too had just too much energy for a Glen side which struggled to compete in the later stages. Good luck to Newtonmore in the final where they will be up against a Skye side which put out new side Strathspey.

Pictures are from Neil Paterson (1,2,3 & 4 Inveraray  + 1 , 3, 4 & 7 Newtonmore ) and Sheena Lloyd ( 5, 6 & 7 Inveraray   2, 4 , 5 & 6 Newtonmore game)

Thanks to Sheena for shot of Gary Mac showing Newtonmore’s Mr T how to smile. Thanks to Neil for nice shot of Glen’s Mr T looking through his visor as he contemplates fatherhood (Wee E J came into the world on the Monday after the match. All the best to himself and Sian).  Meanwhile have a look at the size of the Newtonmore men-children who surround poor Jack  in Pic 5 (Newtonmore game).
They will grow up into  Camanachd Cup winning beasts.

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Friday, July 04, 2014

Just another Summer Saturday

Newtonmore 2 Glenurquhart 2 (Orion Group Premiership)
Beauly 1 Glenurquhart 3 (N Marine Harvest North Division 1)

A point off the League leaders away from home!  As bounce backs go it wasn’t a bad return to some sort of form from the Glen especially when compared to the dismal performance the week before in the MacTavish final. Now Lovat must be loving us because the door has been slightly left ajar for them to pick up a first ever Premier Trophy though to be fair to them and to everyone else Lovat still have it all to do- and how well they do will really depend on injuries and suspensions which as we all know are starting to catch up soon. Lovat also have to beat the Glen which we all know they can do- but they cannot afford any slips ups.

Saturday’s 2-2 draw at the Eilean, it has to be said, was somewhat unexpected but when the lads came back they said that they could have won the game. One of the Newtonmore penalties was dubious while the Glen forwards also felt they should have had one at the other end. Further questioning however elicited the information that Newtonmore had wasted a number of good chances early on- and there is a lesson in that for as all. Sometimes you can waste a few early chances in shinty and in life and get away with it: other times you will regret that and the chances will run out. Obviously in life that is a serious business so it’s best not to waste any chances at all- if only you could get that through to youngsters who are profligate with their talent and don’t take it seriously but we’ll will not go down that route. In shinty you are best not to waste chances either; sometimes as Kyles found out in the Celtic Society Cup more will come along and you don’t need to live with your regrets. Other times as Newtonmore discovered against the Glen on Saturday, more chances don’t come along and all the good work of a complete season is put in jeopardy.

James Macpherson grabbed an early goal for the Glen - he is always liable to do that and that will be about the 5th vital goal he has scored for the Glen this season - and then Norman Campbell got back with two penalties. The last penalty Norman took against the Glen he hit the Drum shop: this time, with no shop to distract him as a target he sank them both. But should they have been given?
One was for a kick by youngster Euan Lloyd who looked to have dragged the ball with his feet so that was fair enough: the second was against defender Lewis Maclennan who flicked the ball away with his stick as he was on the ground. Some refs will give this as a penalty if they feel the player on the ground is putting himself and his opponent in danger.


Others give it every time - and with any rule which has some leeway for interpretation the beholder is the decider. The squad did feel however that a penalty up the other end was merited on one occasion when keeper Mike Ritchie had lost his stick but still appeared to participate in the game. Equally Glen might have lost Dixie Maclennan to a red early on in the match when he injured Fraser Mackintosh with a careless swing for which he received a yellow only but Fraser Heath picked up a nonsense booking for apparently stopping a ball within five yards when the ball actually struck his stick due to a mishit Newtonmore free as he was running away to get back in position with his back to the player. He was well over five yards away but the ref went with the shout. In the end things might even themselves out but it’s human nature to remember the ones that go against you - and to accept without comment those that go for you.

Anyway Neale Reid who has had a lean time of it in front of goal recently grabbed an equaliser in 84 minutes – and Newtonmore probably felt it was coming because for whatever reason the Glen are able to give Newtonmore a closer game than most other sides, Kyles excepted, at the moment. Why? They all just seem to be up for it. It has to be said though that Newtonmore have struggled with injuries this season: Rory Kennedy has yet to lift a stick while Danny Macrae is not replaceable however much you put a brave face on it. Add to that a number of other lads who have suffered injuries and have come back: it takes a few weeks to get back on top of things and clearly ‘More are not quite there yet.

Lovat?  They had a bit of a struggle getting past Lochaber and had to rely on two strikes from ex-Glen under 17 player Graham Macmillan but given that they have a run of home games to win if they are to pip Newtonmore they will have to score more goals in matches like the above if they are to do the biz. They are a capable side but they cannot afford any more injuries or silly cards and while they cannot do much about the injuries they certainly have boys who could pick up cards and wreck it all. Let’s hope they don’t.

The Glen second squad picked up a nice 3-1 win away in Beauly on that same afternoon.

Paul Mackintosh taking a break from his normal full back berth nabbed his first goal of the season for the Glen, Raymond Robertson nabbed a second while Dunc Fraser scored another of his trademark brilliant finishes.
A rebound came back off the Beauly keeper and Dunc first timed the ball past him to win the match comfortably. James Cameron marked his return to the Beauly side with a goal.

This weekend sees the visit of Newtonmore second side to Blairbeg for the Strathdearn Showdown, while Inveraray, if they can make it through the traffic on the A82 should appear for the Camanachd Cup Quarter final. No predictions or previews. Let’s hope, as the Camanachd Association’s  new President elect, the Glen’s Jim Barr is required to say , that “Shinty will be the Winner” Suppose!

The pictures are from Sheena Lloyd (Newtonmore game) and Donald Cameron (Beauly game) Thanks to both for their stuff. The opening picture shows 'More's Tarzan and the Glen's Ali Mac at the Eilean -for some reason they were not playing but in Beauly , Drew MacNeill and “Storky” Maclennan were still defying Old Father Time at Braeview. They  played well too.

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