Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Old Macdonald’s Cup, the Ali Ban, the Maclennan Trophy - surely we don’t have to play Premier League matches as well?

“It’s your own fault,” said herself. “Provoking them like that.”
The Wing Centre was nonplussed for a bit. It was hard to recall whom he had not provoked which meant that there were more than a small number of candidates who might have been irritated by something he had said, done or even worn.
His vacant look prompted some elucidation.

“Kinlochshiel. You’ve annoyed them. They played out of their skin and beat us 4-0 in the first Premier Match of the season all because you annoyed them”
This was difficult for the Wing Centre to accept completely. Certainly his poetic effusion might have been misconstrued but at its heart was merely an attempt to immortalise ‘Shiel by putting them in the same poetic frame as the Glen. He would rather have imagined that they would have been pleased- but then again maybe not. People are strange - and West Coasters stranger than most.
“Well anyway, “said he,” the boys played well enough considering… they kept Clann ‘Ic Rath at bay for the whole first half. The score only got worse in the last few minutes and if we had scored the three early chances we were given then…”

“Stop that nonsense,” said she. “And don’t mention the players who are injured or banned or otherwise absent. That’s what we have to deal with. However, I have read that piece by Alasdair Bruce on the Skye website- and according to him without Smack pulling off a pile of saves then we would have lost even more.”
“What on earth makes you read Alasdair Bruce? For a start he’s from Skye and they see things differently there. It’s a Misty Isle for goodness sake - there’s a Celtic Twilight. You only have to watch them at the goal-judging to realise they all live in a parallel universe - and that the rules of physics which apply to this side of the bridge don’t apply in Portnalong or Portree. However, once they get off the Island and come to live among us they become normal.”
“Have you ever considered - and I know it’s difficult for you to take in - that you might be the one living in the parallel universe,” stated herself - and with that she went back to preparing her begonias.
The Wing Centre didn’t spend much time considering what was clearly a preposterous comment but he let his mind wander a little back to the previous week. It had been a good series of outings against Strathglass-the girls winning the Maclennan Trophy, the seconds winning the Ali Ban and finally the Macdonald Cup. Already the trophy cabinet in the Loch Ness Inn was full - even if the Glen were to win anything there might be trouble with where to keep the spoils. Only the Strathdearn or perhaps at a push, the MacTavish would be low enough to fit into what remained of the space left in the cabinet. No point in going for anything else - there is nowhere left to flaunt it.
The Macdonald Cup day with all its intended circus however was a lovely gala day of old fashioned shinty held on a day that was quite pleasant considering.
The girls were first up and according to the rough notes jotted down in the trusty reporter’s notebook the goals came from the following players -Donna Mackenzie (3), Hazel Hunter (3) and Sarah Fountain. Afterwards the trophy was handed over to captain Siobhan Thompson by Helen Maclennan.

The Ali Ban was also a reasonable contest with the Glen comfortably in front grabbing goals from Brad Sneddon (2) and Ben Hosie. Afterwards Iona Smart, a descendent of Ali Ban handed over the player of the match to Ben Hosie and the cup to captain Duncan Fraser.

The main match between the top sides for the cup of the day was also an excellent affair- and neither side seemed to be fazed that they were missing some players who had been transported away to watch a rugby match in Edinburgh by the local High School. Let’s not get started on rugby and its ability to paralyse and otherwise reduce cognitive capacity - but more importantly consider that the city of Inverness has built state of the art rugby facilities for Highland Rugby Club using as part of the funding sportscotland money to create a supposed multi-sport all weather facility which just happens to be too wee for shinty. One shouldn’t get annoyed but if the Council then build a velodrome on top of that, when you consider that Shinty’s Bught Stadium has been waiting for a refurb since the 1950s then……!!
Incoherence rarely strikes the Wing Centre and this bout soon dissipated at the memory of the fine Fraser Heath hat-trick which sealed the Macdonald Cup. Fraser does a lot of things well and he is in fact at this moment the most effective player the Glen has on the pitch. Fast and focused he makes a difference to how we perform- and any lad called Fraser has to be OK.
And so to the Marine Harvest Premier League where the Glen picked up their first point of the season against an Oban Camanachd  side who have quite often in recent  years been a bit of a bogey side for them. Indeed after last weekend’s near total wipe out of the Marine Harvest Premier League Shinty fixtures, it was good to see four Premier matches go ahead with the tightest of these encounters being at Drum.

After an even first half which saw both sides pass up good chances Glen took the lead early in the second half when a nice exchange between Ben Hosie and Mike Fraser saw a shot from the latter blocked by Oban stand-in keeper Cameron Sutherland.

The ball looped up high and first to react was Daniel Mackintosh who improvised an overhead flick which beat the stranded Oban keeper.  Glenurquhart then had further opportunities to extend their lead but were unable to find the net and Oban eventually got on the score sheet after a Malcolm Clark free hit on the left found Lorne Dickie in 83 minutes and his smart angled drive beat Glenurquhart keeper Stuart Mackintosh to give Oban a share of the points which they probably deserved.
Oban moved well and their experience showed in the manner by which they worked nice openings at free hits from which they could certainly have scored. Smack had about four excellent saves as did young Sutherland at the other end. Malcolm Clark topped a penalty too which was another let off, so all in all it was by no means a bad opening day. It was heartening to see a fine display from John Peteranna, Finlay Ralston and especially Cameron Mackintosh who could make a real difference at wing back if he was able to commit. Also excellent were Ally Mackintosh and Mike Fraser but especially so were Fraser Heath and Andrew Corrigan.
 Goodness me, with a bit of good fortune they can all make Glenurquhart Shinty Club great again! Let’s hope so anyway.

Thanks to Neil Paterson for the Macdonald Cup photos and to Sheena Lloyd for the pics v Oban.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Less Poetry ,Please

“This will really have to stop. It’s gone too far, “said the Wing Centre’s brother. He used to play for Kinlochshiel and won some minor medals with them a long time ago. More than that he won a silver medal at a far off Wester Ross Provincial Mod which presumably means that once upon a time he knew what real poetry was. Anyway, all he said was “You must have caught the bug from somewhere.”
“I simply can’t think where I got it
  But it’s really very hard to stop it”    said the compulsive versifier , with a sigh.
“It’s been like this for months till now
  But I’d like to stop it anyhow”
“Were you anywhere near the honorary bard of Kintail Lochalsh and Glenshiel?  I think I saw you speaking to him at the ‘Shiel game over at Balgate in October,” said the brother who tends to notice things.
“The answer is a most definite Yes
  I spoke to him there I must confess”
“Then that must be the explanation simple or otherwise. I fear however, you are going to need specialist help to get over this affliction. There is nothing worse in life than the awful certainty of an obvious rhyme. Even Shakespeare’s characters avoided that.” The brother waited for an answer.
“I know
Even though
they spoke in poetry all the time,
they didn’t feel the need to rhyme
But the thought of rhyming till I drop
Upsets me - so it’s got to stop! “was the answer the brother got, at which he walked away baffled.

So there matters stand for the present; the Wing Centre has been struck with the divine afflatus, the virus having been passed on from another team’s bard and until the illness abates there is nothing for it but to give him time and stick with the rhyme.

Which is easier said than done- and can be very irritating as the Chairman found out when he asked for a brief report on the Inverness friendly which the Glen won 2-1.
“James Cameron put the town ahead
And then I thought the game was dead
Till  Finlay R knocked our first one in
And his second goal gave us the win.” said the Wing Centre not really realising what he was doing. The Chairman looked at him rather strangely but said nothing and moved on to other business.

“How’s our Lotto going so far this year ?” he asked
Not really very well I fear.
When the prize is low
The tickets are slow
To go”
“Are we making anything on it at all?” asked the Chairman
If we are, the sum’s quite small” said the Wing Centre without any forethought as to the consequences.
“It was £20 we made last week
if the jackpot’s high, the takings peak”
The Chairman sighed and went on to talk about the Beauly game. The Wing Centre remained silent until he was asked to comment on that particular clash.
“Usually I would not give a toss
But that was a disappointing loss
Still, Connor’s goal was taken well
After that we went to H…”
He was not permitted the time to finish his sentence-if that was what it was going to be. As he walked slowly up Balmacaan Road  it was clear that his problems with compulsive  rhyme was becoming serious- made more deadly by the poor handling of metre and syllable. Too many years reading about Rupert Bear and Bill the Badger in Nutwood might have set up the initial infection but the disease had only really taken off after that conversation at Balgate.

Still it isn’t all bad ,as this little piece of poesy might reveal.

The New Shinty Season-Bring it on

The Shinty season’s almost here;
The nets and goals are up.
Helen’s washed the stripey shirts
and cleaned the Macdonald Cup

Plonker’s lined the Blairbeg sward
In straight, geometric lines
And Billy’s cut the grass quite short
While Iain’s used the tines.

The corner flags are newly sewn
There’s fresh turf on the D.
The edges have been trimmed right back
Just what you want to see.

We’ve cleared the pitch of rubbish
and filled in all the holes
We’ve even purged the lower side
of a herd of hungry moles.

With the AGM behind us
for yet another year
and the Dinner Dance being over,
there’s nothing left to fear.

The training’s already started;
The boys seem keen once more.
Here’s hoping that the black and reds
Can make the home crowd roar.

We wonder why we do it:
no one really knows
But come the opening week of March
Once more we’re on our toes.

Yes, we may win a cup or two
or nothing much at all.
But we’ll keep Glen shinty going
and answer every call

And there it is-though there really ought to be something about the Glen Girls’ match against Kinlochshiel and now thanks to Ishbell’s timely intervention there actually is.
The result went 7-0 in favour of the Glen With the scorers being: Abi Stoddart (3), Hazel Hunter (2) and Claire Hannon (2)

Glen fielded a strong squad of 14 to take on Kinlochshiel in the opening friendly of 2018.It was therefore  a good opportunity for new players Iris Erskine, Julie MacLeod and Kirsty Smith to get some experience ahead of the season 
“Despite having had our initial training hampered by poor weather and icy conditions on the Astro we were intrigued to see how we would perform especially against the new Kinlochshiel side. In the event Abi Stoddart and Claire Hannon were dominant in the midfield. And that eventually told against the inexperienced ‘Shiel girls
Overall the team appeared to enjoy playing together again, with some moments of good passes and well executed basics. There were also moments which showed our rustiness .  The squad is back to training on Tuesday nights 19:30-21:00 on the Astro turf; all are welcome.  
The other pre season friendlies to look forward to are
Lovat Saturday 17th 10:00 in Balgate 
Inverness Tuesday 20th 19:30 On the Astro in Drumnadrochit
Strathglass Saturday 24th 10:30 throw up on the Astro in Drumnadrochit “

The Girls’ season commences for real on 4th March when we are away to Glengarry. Thanks to Ishbell Barr for the words: I am sure that given her connection with the West, next time she could manage it in rhyme

Oh and finally----

Well done to Sheena who did snatch
Some pics from the Inverness match .

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Verse or Worse

“Poetry and Shinty eh? There’s no doubt the two go together just like..like...eh ..like whisky and Irn Bru.”

 No sooner had the Wing Centre come out with that line than herself stopped him.

“You can’t say that,” said she. “The Camanachd Association would get the wrong impression of the Club and bang would go that hard earned Bronze Award. It doesn’t sound like an athletic lifestyle to be drinking all that whisky and Irn Bru.”

Though he had heard of much nastier combinations, on the spot, the Wing Centre decided not to pursue that point but anyhow ,the idea of a shinty/poetry interface (as the great Sorley Maclean would no doubt have said if he were still with us and going to seminars) stuck in his napper.

After all Kinlochshiel were great at the poetry. They wrote poems for their big wins which actually meant that so far they had done two. However, given the sort of season that the Glen had just survived, any win big enough to be the subject of some immortal versifying seemed (and seems)  pretty unlikely. And what on earth can rhyme with either Bronze or Certificate?

However,the Committee, surprisingly, were not in anyway negative about the idea-indeed they had information of their own. ”There is certainly a Bard in Balnain,” said the Chairman, “though he is more inclined to deal with matters of topicality or politics.”

“There is, of course,  another Bard in Balmacaan,” opined the Chieftain ,”and I hear he’s quite good.”

“In my day,”said Mr Reid, proving that he is always right up on the top of whatever curve is fashionable, “the only poetry we came across was a rap on the lug, though I do see that the TV ads are now using poetry and raps to sell their sporting products to the modern audience.”

Everyone looked in awe at Mr Reid after that remark, His grasp of marketing jargon was certainly impressive and working in the Clansman shop had certainly widened his experience of the world view of Chinese tourists to say the least.

On the grounds that TV ads are modern and that a poet in residence would fit in with the ethos of a sport of which the governing body had engaged with four artists who would be working in the most unlikely locations, the Committee decided to get with the idea.

A quick plea was put out on Social Media- and to his and everyone's  surprise- the following verses dropped into the Wing Centre’s e-mail inbox within the week. It appeared to come from the Bard of Balmacaan- and its subject - that epic match between ‘Shiel and the Glen which took place over at Balgate at the end of the 2017 season. It was a game in which the Glen picked up a point when even Bill McAllister had predicted their defeat.

Hurrah for the Thin Red and Black Line

All Hail the conquering boys from Shiel

Who did the Premier title steal

At Mossfield Park on a Saturday.

Long may they enjoy their victor-ay!

But pause a moment by and by,

Take some time to wonder why

All this glorious season through

They stumbled at the number two

“Why so,good sir?” I hear you say

The answer’s here as plain as day.

At Blairbeg ‘Shiel failed to score

And lost two goals. Oh that was sore!

The Glen stood firm and broke their hearts.

Yet a greater blow was on the cards.

Over the hill at Blairbeg pitch

‘Shiel’s frontmen hit another hitch.

The Glen with half their team adrift

Put in another awesome shift

‘Shiel huffed and puffed and cursed and swore

But John just simply Barr-ed the door

And with young Ally at his best

Smack rarely faced a serious test.

Then Frostie’s goals made ‘Shiel upset:

Into the match they could not get.

Poor ‘Shiel were really in a jam

To lose both points would do them harm.

“Right,” said John. “They’ll need some aid.

We’ll have to help them, I’m afraid.”

So Ally was told to give a pen

To get ‘Shiel in the game again.

That 2-2 draw was just enough

To win ‘Shiel all that trophy stuff


That single point was gold indeed.

It was all that ‘Shiel would ever need

To win the Premier League at last

With all the fear and pressure past.


So well done Shiel,but keep in mind

Just how the Glenners were so kind

To let you have one point from four.

You were never getting any more.


There was of course an earlier poem about a win over Kyles written in an Argyllshire accent, harking back to the days when the inhabitants of Tighnabruaich were actually from Argyll.
Then there was of course a famous ditty from the Chieftain about the Sale of Work.
There was also the attempt by the Treasurer to persuade guys to hand in their old sticks by writing in the poetic style of Julia Donaldson

Give us back your stick, Mun!!      

“Stick Man Oh Stick Man just why are you sad?

At the start of the season you ought to be glad.
The teams are delighted and so should you be
To get back into shinty, if not to your tree”

“Alas,” says poor Stickman “that will happen no more
For here I’m abandoned behind the front door.
No longer permitted to take part in the game
Though I’m raring to go. It is such a shame.”

“Stick Man, Oh Stick Man just what can we do
To make use of the energy left inside you?
You do have a future. Still you can play -
But to get you involved just what can we say?”

“Get on to the players who’ve packed up the game
To return me to Sticky without any blame.
I’ll find a new master- and then I’ll be set
To get back to my shinty; there’s goals in me yet.”

    (With half-hearted apologies to Julia Donaldson and none to Axel Scheffler)

So there you go. It was an appeal from the heart. With the price of shinty clubs going through the roof the call went out to all former shinty players of whatever age to give back their unused clubs. The Glen now have more teams than ever - both boys and girls- so we desperately needed sticks so all can play. Most players have more than one shinty stick lying around at home - and while they  might require one to fend off the occasional burglar- the others could  surely be used to help out the Club that provided  them in the first place.
Did it work? Who can say?  We still need clubs - and beyond that,maybe we need to gather up all our shinty verse as well and put it in a book to hand down to future generations, to recoin a phrase the Wing Centre heard recently. Perhaps next week we'll hunt out more poems from the vault. Few would be averse to that.




Friday, September 08, 2017

Travelling on the train facing backwards

If you have ever tried to book seat no 51 on a train and you look it up on the website it can’t really tell you if you’ve got your back to the engine or not because-and here’s the obvious part-they don’t know how the carriage is to be coupled up to the train. It might be this way or that way-there’s no back or front to a railway carriage. Except there is, as you quickly find out if the seat no 51 you have booked happens to have its back to the engine and you prefer to look at the rain whilst facing forward. Anyway travelling on a train facing backwards is just about how it feels to support Glenurquhart in the Premiership this season with the additional delight of realising that the experienced crew have all clocked off their shifts or been sacked sometime in the middle of the journey and left the locomotive heading where….?
We will find out soon enough but some of the kids who have come on to the train are pretty good although they have had to grow up pretty fast. 
At one point earlier in the season this Glen side were good enough to beat Lovat 5-0 and now that same Lovat squad have slipped almost unnoticed into the Camanachd Cup final where, with a bit of improved commitment and self-belief from two more of their forwards, they could almost justify a new pavilion.
If the Wing-Centre was ever a betting man, he would not bet on this game. He won’t have to watch it however because on that very afternoon the Glen will be staging their own big day out when they play in a fixture which predates even the Camanachd Cup- the challenge match with Strathglass and that must always take precedence.
If truth be told the game that disappointed most was the 4-3 away loss to Lovat back in July. Glen rode their luck most of the first half but then thanks to an excellent strike from youngster Oliver Black and two from Frostie Macpherson-the second one is candidate for goal of the season- we were going in to the last 10 minutes ahead. Then John Barr was sent off for a second yellow based on a foul which the referee imagined rather than saw.

With the Glen reduced to 11 men, Lovat pressed on and scored twice, the second coming with the final hit of the game. Apart from making a comment about the over enthusiastic celebrations from some of the tenants of Macshimi there is plenty more which could be written about that game but it’s pointless:
our situation is not due to that occasion but to a number of other matches which we have lost by the odd goal.
There were plenty points to be had but they weren’t picked up when they should have been. A crazy 3-2 loss to Lochaber at home when Glen were 2-0 ahead at one stage was another self-inflicted wound. However as well as self-inflicted wounds there were many others which were not: knee injuries to Jamie Maclennan, John Peteranna and Ewan Carroll played havoc with the second team and so these players were unable to step up.
Then there were suspensions -on the back of some (though not always) dodgy bookings which left the Glen short for crucial games. A serious injury to Euan Lloyd –and other less explainable absences have not helped but it has been the loss of John Barr -as well as the fact that he has at times this season struggled with injury -which has undone the Glen.

With the exception of Ronald Ross, there was hardly a player in the country who could get past him when he was in his prime: he has also been an exceptional servant to the game. Captain of his club and his country John has talked youngsters through matches for a decade-he has been one of the most consistently focused and effective players in the entire sport over that time. Apart from Ronald, perhaps Dannie Macrae and John Stewart are the two other players who had the physical power to stand shoulder to shoulder with John. Of the recent crop of forwards certainly only ‘Shiel’s John Macrae has the physical strength to compete with him throughout the full 90 minutes.

Here we are then- not in a cup final (though both sides did make semis this season) and in a parlous position re points. Yet on the upside there are youngsters coming through despite it all. Despite it all in fact says it all. This is possibly however a debate which can be had at a better time.
There have been downs clearly but there have been ups. Thank goodness for our girls’ squad because both Hazel Hunter and Ishbel Barr have bailed out the second team. Indeed Hazel has also been on hand to bail out the top squad if needed.

Whatever happens by the time the season closes –win or lose, up or down-the Glen will keep on keeping on. Always.

Thanks to Sheena Lloyd for all pics – also thanks to Neil Paterson for the snap of John as winning Scotland captain.

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