Thursday, August 28, 2014

Final? What final?

Wow! It’s pretty easy to imagine Ronald Ross as a latter day Han Solo- and Kingussie mastermind Russell Jones has had the cryogenically frozen shinty superstar defrosted and recycled in his team just in time for the Camanachd Cup Final on September 13th. Well it’s a theory that the Wing Centre heard proposed at the Glenurquhart Gathering on Saturday (or the Drum Games as it is more popularly known in Balmacaan Road and Druimlon) and that’s a thought only marginally more disturbing than the picture carried in Tuesday’s Inverness Courier of Strathglass’s Bruce “Pie” Douglas urging the Drum tug o’war team to tear up the Glen’s hallowed Blairbeg turf. He seemed to be smiling too. To make matters worse the main judge overseeing this was Newtonmore’s own Rab Ritchie. However, the grass will regrow – eventually but presumably not under Pie’s feet.
Anyway there’s been a whole week which has gone past now with the Glen in the Camanachd final- but what could you write about it? Glen simply had to beat Skye given the difference in divisions and where the teams are this season. If not then the whole of Blairbeg shinty pitch might as well be turned into a village camp site - the Italian camper vans are in the car park most of the time anyway-and the proceeds used to help the community buy more flower baskets. In the end the Glen came through relatively clearly, though it has to be said that the first twenty minutes, albeit affected by a strong wind, made for nervous spectating. Skye took an early lead but when Fraser Heath got on to the end of Dixie McLennan’s super shy and first timed a rocket past Jamie Gannon, the Glen’s fortunes began to turn. David Smart made it 2-1 when he fired a shot home through a ruck of players.
A nasty injury to Dixie Maclennan broke up the Glen rhythm for a time - and certainly caused a deterioration in their shy-taking abilities until Eddie Tembo moved across to take responsibility for all hit-ins.
In the second half with the wind now against them, Skye seemed to lose a bit of invention or perhaps it was that the Glen defenders began to dominate more. The Islanders did have attempts at goal but they seemed to be snatching at chances or shooting from too far out to trouble a top class keeper like Stuart Mackintosh. Glen  continued to try to play the passes and create the cleaner chances - John Barr kept forcing forward from buckshee - but the Skye defence played well though Neale Reid should have done better when he was presented with a clean strike just out from goal. Fraser Heath too seemed to fade somewhat in this portion of the game and failed to convert what seemed from the sidelines to be a straightforward chance. However Glen eventually worked a fine final strike when Neale Reid fired a rocket shot in on Gannon: the keeper got his stick to the ball and deflected it wide where it was intercepted by the ever energetic David Smart who worked it back into the path of James Macpherson and he fired it home to make the final score 3-1.

In the end, the Glen were comfortable enough winners though they played well enough as the selection of Mike Brady as man of the match proved. Defensively however, Glen will have to start at a higher tempo than they did since Kingussie are likely to be more sophisticated up front than Skye were on the day - and with Ronald back in the squad they are bound to be dangerous. Fort William handled Ronald well because they had a dominant midfield but the big ace still scored in normal play - and of course you cannot give away a penalty if you want to win against Kings.
There is no point in second guessing what the Glen will do - and there will probably have to be some big calls for the management to make before the game and on the day. The bottom line is however that the players will have to perform - but then again so will Kingussie who were probably fortunate to squeak through on penalties against Fort William in the other semi.

There was however another Glen game on the day - and that was a home tie for the seconds against Inverness. This was a game in which the under-17s had to play a big part given that a full squad was required for the semi at the Fort. However the side was boosted by the return of Calum Scott-Woodhouse to the side after a gap of around a decade.

 Under 14 Finlay Robertson also had to turn out along with youngster Ryan Porter. In the end a 0-0 against Inverness was a reasonable result though much reliance had to be placed on the defensive qualities of Dave MacFadyen and Paul Mackintosh.

What was more disappointing was the fact that so few supporters of the club were able to see the game because they were inclined to head early to Fort William to see the semi and thereby get through the stressful journey down the busy A82 in relative comfort. Given the fact that the first team has no League games left it is arguable that this fixture could have been held over to a later date, just as Kingussie’s might well have been last week.
Sadly the game was Jack Hosie’s last match. He now moves to England as his family have relocated. If he is lost to shinty it will be a great pity; he was an exceptional talent. The guys gave him a strip as a farewell gift. He wore it with distinction. Let’s hope he gets back North as soon as he can.

This Saturday the Glen seconds have to play Skye - the same Skye team which the Glen firsts beat in the big game - so it’s going to be a big ask for Iain Macleod’s side especially given the fact that they are going to have to face up to the Islanders without any senior help since the seniors are having a “friendly” with Kinlochshiel.
Anyway the thing which pleased the Wing Centre almost as much as the Camanachd semi result was the fact that the Shinty tribes in the Glen came together on the night before the Games to take part in the annual Zandra Mackintosh Memorial 6s on the Astroturf. Six teams competed with the usual mix of veterans, ladies and real players taking part in what was a very enjoyable pre games jamboree.

The eventual winners were the Town- and the player of the tournament was Ruth Forbes who played a strong part in that winning combo which is pictured. Also pictured is Donald Paul as he welcomes everyone to the tournament and of course winning captain Liam Girvan receives the trophy from Anna Macdonald
The main pics from both games are from Sheena Lloyd but the one that lifts the heart is from Drew MacNeil and it’s of wee Isla and the rainbow. The rainbow appeared when we beat Inveraray and there it was again at Fort William. Let’s hope it comes back at the Bught.

tumblr hit counter

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Kicking our heels , waiting for the day……

Glenurquhart 7 Kingussie 0 (Marine Harvest North Division 1)
It’s now getting near to the business end of the season for the Glen. No need to dwell on what that might entail but it is certainly appropriate to deal with the most recent match-the North Division 1 home game against Kingussie. The main problem confronting Manager Iain Macleod’s selection plans was Belladrum and quite frankly it looks like that is going to be an on-going problem for shinty in the Inverness area. The majority of the young lads in the second time opted to go to Belladrum, so Iain Macleod’s team had to pull in a number of players from the first team which fortunately enough had no fixture.

There was no other alternative though certainly included in the side were three younger lads who have not really featured much in the side so far this season- and they were probably too young to head to Belladrum without adult supervision. Whatever - the team which turned out was an extremely strong side and it faced up to a Kingussie side which with the exceptions of Russell Menzies, Scott Macintyre, Rory Mackeachan and Chris Hollysong was their current under-17 squad. The old guys whom we have faced in the past were absent for various reasons and none was missed more than Kevin Thain, though Ronald Ross could probably have just squeaked into the team if he had not been needed elsewhere.

Given Glen’s experienced side - the main top teamers were Arran Macdonald and Lewis Maclennan - there was only ever going to be one result so the interest lay in how the game was played. It was, despite the final score, very interesting not to say entertaining at least as far as the first half went. Indeed Kingussie started strongly because they have some lovely young shinty players in their side and the experienced Glen defenders - lack of personnel meant that Drew MacNeil had to fill in at full back and with Stuart Reid and Paul Mackintosh also in the defence - had to look lively to keep up with the willing running of Jack and Ruaraidh Anderson as well as that of James Falconer who has already played at Drum this season in the Kings’ first team despite his tender years. It is always tricky for an experienced senior player to play against a much smaller player because physical challenges are so unequal they are bound to look unfair and so the only thing that can be done is to use one’s experience to read the game better and move the ball quickly.
 Glen took a little while to adapt to this and for the first ten minutes they were all over the place - and in that period Kingussie had a chance to go ahead but hit the bar with a drive.
After this period Glen’s strong centre line took control of the game and from this point on it became one way traffic. In 15 minutes Glen pressure forced a penalty which Lewis Maclennan struck home superbly.

The Glen’s second goal came in 24 minutes when a corner out on the right evaded the Kingussie defence and Maclennan glanced the ball past Kingussie keeper Russell Menzies from a narrow angle. Two minutes later Bradley Dickson, whose pace was proving a problem for the visiting defence, picked up a through ball from the Glen centreline and turned it out to Raymond Robertson and his low shot found its way into the corner of the Kingussie net for Glen’s third goal of the afternoon. Then the game from a Glen perspective went flat – though Kingussie continued to perform well in attack whenever the ball came through while their defence especially Macintyre and the increasingly acrobatic Menzies stood firm and kept the score at half-time down to 3-0.

The second half was a big improvement in that the side showed a more positive approach to their shinty. The introduction of James Macpherson and the fact that the side went 2-2 up front helped spread the Kingussie defence a little more effectively which in the end created chances which eventually were taken. Lewis Maclennan completed his hat trick in 60 minutes with a well taken strike and then the Glen’s fifth came when Kingussie keeper Menzies stopped a high ball from Maclennan with his chest but failed to clear it decisively and James Macpherson fired it home from a narrow angle. Youngster Ryan Porter got the next goal for Glen when he followed up a strike to poke the ball home from close range in 69 minutes and Macpherson smashed home the seventh goal of the afternoon two minutes later.
By this stage Glen had introduced their two remaining youngsters Jon Bremner and Jamie Maclennan and the latter was denied a goal by a fine save from Russell Menzies who, despite a slip or two, played well all afternoon.
He seemed very keen on entertaining the crowd on one occasion by firing a loose ball out of the field, across the A82, over Alistair the Baker’s house and into the wood. This probably puts him up on that small list of the Glen all-time greats because it’s hard to think of many apart from Donald Paul Mackintosh and Arran Macdonald who can comfortably hit the ball right over that house. Lewis Maclennan once put the ball down a chimney in St Drostan’s but that is another story.
In the end Glen won 7-0 convincingly and it is always hard to pat yourself on the back after a match like this because Kingussie had a much less experienced team on the field. However the performance of the Glen’s youngest players - Ryan Porter, Jamie Maclennan and Jon Bremner - gives cause for optimism for the future. Drew Maclennan at full centre was however the best Glenner on the day : he is always an intense and committed player and the only disappointment is that he took a nasty blow on the foot in the last two minutes of the match which means he must now must be a doubt for next Saturday.
Elsewhere Ronald Ross won the other Camanachd semi for Kingussie with a goal in real time and two penalties in the shootout at the end. He kept his technique and his nerve and got both balls on target out of what was basically a mini-bunker. Credit too must also go to Kings goalie Craig Dawson who made the saves that mattered - the Wing Centre should have been more generous to the big fellow when describing goalies last week. He kept the Glen out in the Premier League game in Kingussie and he did the same with the Fort penalties on Saturday. We have no snaps of Mr Dawson but we do of the King’s keeper who came to Drum this past week. That is why the focus this week in the pictures will be on visiting keeper Russell Menzies. He did struggle a bit, for obvious reasons, when the rain started to get heavier. There is also a snap of the Kingussie old guys on the sidelines.
Apparently the Glen face up to Skye in the other Camanachd Semi this weekend. The Wing Centre will not go to the game because seeing it will obviously prejudice his opinion when he comes to write about it next week -or not- as the case may be. Instead he will watch it on TV- Gilleasbuig should be required to commentate rather than play- but he will switch off the sound and listen to Ally Bruce on Cuillin FM.    Why? Just because.
Thanks to Sheena Lloyd for most of the pictures and to Donald Cameron for his help too, His picture is number 7.

tumblr hit counter


Friday, August 08, 2014

Glen are love-bombed by the English Shinty Association-but not by Kinlochshiel.

A disappointing 3-3 draw away against Kinlochshiel - though not upsetting to Shiel since the Glen’s lack of concentration has allowed their opponents another year in the top flight. Fair enough. Truthfully there is not a lot between the sides in the Premier and for that matter some of the sides in the National are fair enough too especially Fort William. Skye who are in North 1 are good too - too good apparently for their lowly division - though perhaps more of that later.
This last game at Kirkton perhaps encapsulates all that is good and not good about the Glen.
Fraser Heath started up front for the Glen and put the red and blacks ahead in 6 minutes with a superb strike when he picked up a through ball on the left, ran through the Shiel defence and fired an unstoppable shot past opposing keeper Scott Kennedy for the opener. Shiel also had their chances in this early part of the match but the best of their strikes which came from front man Gordy Macdonald was comfortably saved by Glen’s keeper Stuart Mackintosh. 
To the uninitiated of the Western world it probably looked like a superb save but “Smack” does that sort of thing every week – and if he didn’t he would find his place under pressure from Glen’s No 2 David MacFadyen who would be a first choicer in every other Premier outfit except Lovat and Inveraray. Kyles? Time Kenny was packing it in: he’s now older than all the managers and some of the referees. 
Glen scored a second goal in 25 minutes when Arran Macdonald and Fraser Heath combined neatly to put Neale Reid into a shooting situation and his drive deflected off the caman of Finlay Macrae into the net. It seemed a pity to credit Macrae with an own goal and deprive Reid of a goal to add to his tally. However just before half time the Glen should have gone 3 up when Reid was presented with a 1on1 situation with keeper Kennedy but this time he fired the ball wide.

It was a rejuvenated Shiel which came out in the second half with Keith Macrae reintroduced to the fray after starting the game on the bench due to a groin strain. He did make a difference but that was after Glen had to rejig their side due to a nasty head knock suffered by Fraser Heath caused by a careless piece of caman control from Shiel full back Paul Macrae who was rightly yellow carded for the offence.

The setback unsettled the Glen - Heath unusually had been playing up front to avoid confrontations of this sort before the Camanachd semi-final - and that allied to poor defending allowed Keith Macrae to win and then convert a free hit in the 60th minute. The momentum was now with Shiel and they equalised soon after through Duncan Macrae.The Glen management then reluctantly reintroduced Heath – heavily bandaged and also pushed defender Lewis Maclennan up front. John Barr who had also sat the game out with an eye on the semi, made an appearance late on and consequently the Glen once again took the lead with a superb goal from Neale Reid created once again by Heath.

That should have been enough for the Glen given that the clock was rapidly running down.  Shiel however had other ideas which given their League situation they certainly ought to have had and by dint of a mighty effort Gordy MacDonald managed to create an equaliser more or less all by himself.
Any lessons from this experience? Certainly. Take your chances and don’t give away silly goals. There is no doubt that the Glen went into this match with more than an eye on the Camanachd semi - the League competition at this stage is meaningless. Conventional wisdom says that Shiel wanted it more: what was disappointing though was that the Glen defenders lost three goals. One notable fixture apart the Glen defence has usually been miserly over giving away goals; they will have to be so once again. Best Glenner on the day? Probably Eddie Tembo who worked right to the end.
Anyway that was the season that was! No more home games for the top team and all those tourists won’t get charged a thing. Actually we should turn Blairbeg into a campsite for the next month or two.
Elsewhere, Kingussie did not hain the squad in their match against Newtonmore: it was a match which Newtonmore needed to win to clinch the League for themselves before Lovat, no doubt looking forward to a sesh at Belladrum, gifted it to them on Saturday. The difference? The return of the master. Ronald Ross is back with no doubt an eye to yet another Camanachd Cup win. Quite right too. Ronald is a top player; he could score goals with a walking stick and the prospect of playing Fort William in a semi and no Addie Robertson marking him will seem like a skoosh. He will probably even have done some training. Add to that the fact that Fort William do not look to have a defence capable of holding out both Ronald and Savio for a full 90 minutes. The one good thing is that Ronald certainly won’t be up against the Glen second team at Drum though with all their children most probably at Belladrum Blairbeg can look forward to hosting the mad old Uncles- Kevin, Michael and Rory. It’ll be a treat for the tourists to see these old monsters on Loch Ness side.

Last week too the Glen hosted the English Shinty Association which was nice, though it was sad to see that nearer home Lochbroom could not even manage to get a side together for a home game.  Our visitors were very friendly though one poor lassie had been very badly bitten by the midgies in Glenfinnan- and will probably not want to come back up to Pictland ever again. People should really be told to keep away from Glenfinnan (and Invergarry for that matter) for the whole of July and August on account of midgies and gartans both of which leave marks on everybody not just the summer visitors. No one would go to India in the monsoon or to Florida in the hurricane season so why do we give the impression that the West Highlands are a tourist attraction in July/August. Better to come to Loch Ness-side and the East Highland coast where the midge is an endangered species.

The English visitors trained with the Glen – and it has to be said that some of them had a clearer idea of what training actually meant than some Glenners –though when it came to sampling the hospitality in the Loch Ness Inn the Glenners usually have a fair idea of what that entails. There was the presentation of a ball and a shirt and the crack in the pub was how it used to be before teams got all professional and cleared off back home to play a round of golf before sunset. In the winter, in the old days, that wasn’t an option.

The decent pictures as always are from Neil Paterson. Thanks to him – again as always. The other pictures are from somebody else. The most symbolic picture is of English captain Matt Mossop receiving a replica shirt from Davie and Billy though the Treasurer wonders why we did not give them an old Glen shirt with Gleesons on it since they were an English company and we have heaps of them that we no longer wear. On the TV in the background is the Commonwealth Games. No it’s not a political statement ;nor is it ironic: it’s just what happened.

tumblr hit counter

Friday, August 01, 2014

Is the season over already?

Glenurquhart 2 Strathglass 0 (Marine Harvest North Division 1)
Inveraray 0 Glenurquhart 2 (Orion Premier League)

The Queen, who is well informed about all matters in her realm, must have wondered if the little hiccup with the Commonwealth Baton had its origins in the Glen.

The ceremonial piece of hardware had after all been in the Glen not much more than a fortnight before – and given the enduring reputation of the Glen with regard to its handling of trophies, Her Majesty must have wondered whether the baton had received a wee knock on the napper during its sojourn at Blairbeg. In Glasgow it would not unscrew to reveal the message she had hidden in it months earlier. Had it been dropped or bashed in any way whilst in the custody of the Glenurquhart shinty team?

Whether it had or not, the said baton was eventually opened up and the nation and the Glen breathed a collective sigh of relief and was then permitted to carry on with its number one non Commonwealth sport - the ancient game of Caledonia.

In Drum that meant facing up to ancient rivals Strathglass in a Marine Harvest North Division League fixture. Glen had a stronger team than they had put out the week before – though the Hosie brothers were still sadly absent - but the return of the previous week’s draftees for the Kingussie game, Raymond Robertson and Ross MacAulay, boosted the side considerable. The calm presence of Drew MacNeil at full back also helped and the fact that referee John Macgregor of Oban was in charge was also a plus. Macgregor who is in the early stages of his career as a ref, was a superb senior shinty player in his day and this writer for one judged that his presence on the field would ensure that the Glen youngsters – and the Strath ones for that matter- would receive competent oversight for the whole 90 minutes.

Strathglass opened up in lively fashion and for a good part of the early play seemed to be the dominant force. They took up a fair few good positions but the Glen defence held firm with Ewan Menzies in particular providing top class cover. Youngster Lachie Smith on one side and not so youngster Paul Mackintosh on the other played well against lively opposition with Lewis Douglas and youngster Jono Price showing lively skills. Gary Reid however was unable to get past MacNeill with any conviction and when shots went through, -there were a fair number- Glen keeper David MacFadyen was in excellent form though his tendency to come off his line, while comparable to German soccer keeper Manuel Neuer, was a bit scary to the faithful though perhaps explicable because of his origins.  David was you see, brought up in south shinty and with a role model locally in Inveraray’s flying keeper Graham Macpherson, a man who thinks a line is never for toeing, it’s no wonder the lad takes off after balls that are only vaguely in the same postcode as he is.
Gradually the Glen began to mount more sustained attacks and Cairn Urquhart and Robertson began to trouble the Strath defence who were missing one or two of their more experienced defenders as well as the most ancient of their front men, Robert Geddes. Finally just before half time, Glen took a lead which they more or less deserved : Ross MacAulay drove the ball forward, Cameron Maclennan dummied it and player/manager Iain Macleod was on hand to ram it into the net from close range.
The second half saw the Glen dominate the game more – and captain Bradley Dickson sealed the win when he picked up a cross field ball, dribbled it into the “D” and tapped it home from a couple of feet. Strath tried hard to come back but were unable to do so while Glen rang the changes bringing on youngster Rory Maclean who almost snatched a third goal in the dying moments. Other youngsters like Jamie Maclennan and finally Finlay Robertson were given a run out and all performed well against what has been a side which has posted some decent results this season, boasts good players like Josh Fraser and the Reid brothers but somehow seems to have lost its way.

The other result at the Winterton was equally welcome. After what seemed like an age with no-one daring to phone down to find out how the game was going the text came through that Glen were leading thanks to a David Smart goal. By Glen accounts on a crackly line - the raindrops were louder than gunshots on Herd’s Hill - the guys played well especially in the first 25 minutes when they were on top though the conditions, as the papers would have said if they could have been bothered reporting it, were very difficult for both sides. Inveraray then dug in with their well-practised techniques of last ditch defending and the score remained unchanged until Lewis Maclennan bagged a second 8 minutes from time.

Before that of course Glen had balls in the net ruled off and Inveraray also had one chalked off and as usually happens everyone became irate. But they all made up and they were fine about it because let’s face it, it did not matter. What mattered for the Glen was that no one was injured or booked and ref Lachie Wood kept a handle on the game well -  a difficult thing to do when the park was as the west coasters would say “dampish”.  
Possibly the Campbell weather gods might look down favourably from the clouds if the Canaries renamed their pitch “The Summerton” rather than stuck with the old estate name “The Winterton”. Even a Gaelic name might help - but then the hospitality afterwards was good and the lads even reported that in “The George” they keep the vodka in the fridge which was more sophisticated than was necessary for the Glenners present but they appreciated it just the same.

Of more interest than the actual game was the fact that Mr Reid puts his money where his mouth is. This was obvious from his appearance. Clearly the Drum dental practice had supplied Mr Reid with shiny new teeth - and apparently Dr Dodo had fixed up the mouths of a number of other Glen residents with gleaming gnashers too as these snaps will testify.

The last Premier League game is now upon us - and we face a gameless wait until the Camanachd semi. The full English tourist season has not even started properly in the Glen yet we have no games left at home for the top team - not a happy situation for club income reports the Treasurer.
The photos of the Inveraray match are from Sheena Lloyd: the teeth ones are from Meg Mackintosh. The ones of the baton are from the Wing Centre’s phone - where else?

tumblr hit counter


Scottish Blogs