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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