Angus MacPhail: a great new sporting talent emerges

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With specific regards to playing a musical instrument, people often comment: ‘It must be wonderful to be born with such talent.’
As I always reply, playing a musical instrument for me and for most has very little do to with talent. The primary factor leading to the ability is being given the chance to learn in the first place, closely followed by encouragement at home, the desire to learn and being able to enjoy and focus on the process.
Take any one of these ingredients out of my timeline and I would either not have started playing the accordion, or would have given up when the inevitable obstacles and difficulties visited the journey.
As with music, so with Highland games and one of the rising stars of that discipline is beginning to show the fruits of these same factors.
What Gordon Connell did for me and countless other accordion players from Tiree, Shaun Bate, from Oban, is doing for 18-year-old Highland games athlete Murdo Masterson of Dunbeg.
Similarly, he has strong support from his parents, has the hunger to learn and is putting the time and focus into training and practice. Murdo is naturally a big, strong lad, but remove any of the ingredients above and he would not be able to throw a hammer the length of himself, far less distances that put him among the top of his age group in the country.
Like Gordon, Shaun has never charged a penny for his time and expertise but, along with his good friend Jock Ross, coaches purely because of his passion for the sport and for the pleasure of passing that on to others.
I referred to Murdo and his success at the Lorne Highland Games a few weeks ago, and his achievements deserve further highlighting.
Last weekend at the Stonehaven Highland Games, Murdo threw the light hammer (16lb) 135 feet and one inch.
This broke a ground record in the under-25 age group that had stood since 2004.
Such was the fierce level of competition on the day that 10 minutes later, fellow young star, 24-year-old, James Dawkins broke it again with a huge throw of 137 feet and two inches.
To put Murdo’s throw in perspective, the winning throw in the 2016 Scottish Championships at Crieff – which in the Highland games world is ‘the one to win’ – was 139 feet and one inch’ from championship winner, Scott Rider.
Murdo’s throw of 135 feet and one inch for an teenager who has only been throwing for four years is remarkable and good enough on the right day to win any competition against the best in the world.
His overall performance so far this season has meant that he is almost neck and neck in points with James Dawkins for the Glenfiddich Qualifying Heavy Events Championship for under-25s.
There are many events still to be competed for this year so the end is still a long way off.
Murdo may not win this year, and whether he does or not is of less importance than the great achievements he is destined to attain in his long-term future in the sport if he continues consistently and carefully training towards his goals.
However, already he has broken new ground for someone of his age and this should be recognised along with the generosity and skill of his coaches. There is no greater gift than the gift of time.