Thursday, February 05, 2015

Shinty’s getting ready to go again

A whole lot of snow has fallen on the Meall (not to mention Balmacaan Road as may be seen from the pic at the top of the page) since the last posting - and perhaps that is just as it should be for the close season held some measure of sadness for supporters of the Glen and its shinty.
 Life goes on certainly and will do so but at the same time the Club remembers other lives which have come to an end.

This last while there were three losses and all of them, it has to be said, were premature. Ronald Robertson formerly of Gartally who played for the second team for a number of years in the early to mid-1970s died after a short illness. Geoffrey Cameron once of Balmacaan Road, a fine youth player who also had a spell with the seconds, passed away at the age of 41. Finally Linda Smart, mum of internationalist and first team regular David Smart, sadly died at the age of 60 after a brief battle with cancer. Linda (nee Duff) had a connection with the club which went of course beyond her son’s commitment to the team for two of her brothers were heavily involved in the Drum sides of the past. Winston (Winkie) was a member of the 1977 Strathdearn winning side while Ali was the fiercely competitive full back who captained the second team for a time during the late 1980s: he had the misfortune to lose out in the Sutherland Cup final to a fine Kyles side at Taynuilt in 1987.  

(Sadly, just as this post was about to be uploaded, word came to the “D” that Mrs Dolly Fraser, Shewglie, has died. Mother to Glen stalwarts Calum, Ken and Ron Fraser, Dolly has been a much loved figure in the club ever since it was reformed in 1948 as her late husband Danny was one of those instrumental in reviving the ancient game in the Glen. A more detailed appreciation will be included in a later posting.)

However, to the new season. Just as the Camanachd Association are preparing for the new season by unveiling a renewed sponsorship deal with Marine Harvest - a six figure sum over three years would appear to the deal - so the Glen are putting matters in hand to collect the more modest three figure sums which accrue from their pitch side display boards.
The C.A. sponsorship is certainly good news though the Wing Centre did feel his heart fall a little when he learned that the deal did not involve a company new to the sport. No Global? No Lifescan? No Tulloch? No Diageo? It is a pity that none of these business folk see shinty as a partner in the commercial journey - and it was a pity to see Orion make a clean break particularly since their name gave a dynamic edge to the title of the Premiership.
Still we live in the real world and there at a local level in late December with the help of the Miller family of Loch Ness Gifts, the Club successfully organised the annual “SwINNdle” at the Loch Ness Inn and the results of that are to be shared with the Glenurquhart Care Centre later this month.
Also in preparation for the new start a goodly number of the Club’s trainers went through a UKCC Level 1 course under the tutelage of the Camanachd Association’s Graham Cormack, Russell Jones and our old friend Jemma Docker. With other coaches in the club having already picked up Level 1 or Foundation certificates it shows that the Glen Shinty club are attempting to put themselves in a good place for the future.

The “D” has banged on for years about some of the problems that shinty faces: at times it feels like you’re walking up a down escalator and just as you start to make progress someone throws a switch to make it speed up. It’s all about Shinty’s place in the community in the narrow sense and about its place in the Highlands and Scotland in a more general sense. This is a theme which one could go on about at some length - but the upshot of it all is that there are not enough shinty players coming through in the peripheral areas and even in some of the traditional heartlands. The clubs mostly do their best but the sport does need some official backing from the institutions of the state and local government - and the bottom line is that it is the job of the Camanachd Association to keep on pushing for that.
Otherwise no matter what the participation figures might seem to say, they mean very little if a team like Lochbroom goes into abeyance and neither Bute nor Lochcarron can carry two teams with one performing at the higher level. Of course there will be individual circumstances which pertain to each community and the scarcity of young children in some small communities especially in the Highlands is disturbing – the pictures of the new P1 intake that are published in local papers tell their own stories. So where does this leave shinty? Certainly having to expand into the cities as the C.A. recognise is a necessity for long term development but the Heartland needs shoring up too. Certainly the issue runs wider than the Glen but here too the trick is to keep working at it in the face of whatever has to be faced.
With that in mind preparation for the new season is now in full swing with two sessions per week under the eye of trainer Gavin Heath. The snow cover on the Astro has however prevented much in the way outside activity taking place and may well play havoc with the friendly fixtures which have been arranged for the next few weeks before we open our season with the Macdonald Cup & Ali Ban matches at home on the 28th February.
In the younger age groups the action has started too: the under 14s travelled to Dalfaber, Aviemore for the 2015 North under-14 indoor championship and did well by making it through to the semi finals in which they were edged out by Kinlochshiel. Meanwhile the P5 and under side took part in the IACC Indoor first shinty 6-a-side tournament at the Craigmonie Centre and put in a sterling performance.
This weekend it is the turn of the P6/7 squad and the “D” wishes them all the best. Indeed the “D” wishes all the best to all shinty players wherever they are to be found: let’s hope this season is one to remember for all the right reasons.   
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