Shinty round up

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Kyles Athletic sealed second place in the Marine Harvest Premiership, Skye Camanachd U17 and Fort William U17 will meet in the London Shield Final and Dunadd Ladies sealed the WCA Marine Harvest South Division 2 title following the shinty action on Saturday October 27.

Marine Harvest Premiership

Kyles Athletic v Glenurquhart – points shared

Kyles Athletic clinched second place in the Marine Harvest Premiership after they agreed to share the points with Glenurquhart from their match at Tighnabruaich.

Kyles Athletic’s goal difference was such that they only needed a point from the match to finish ahead of Kinlochshiel and Lovat and they take the runner-up spot for the fourth successive season.

This counted as Glenurquhart defender Ally MacKintosh’s final match of a three-game suspension.

Kyles now begin the search for a new first team manager after boss James Perlich announced his decision to stand down. James occupied the hot seat for two seasons and had a number of years as first team coach prior to that.

Glenurquhart, who didn’t record a league victory all season, now look forward to life in the Marine Harvest National Division and they too will be under new management next term. Iain MacLeod previously intimated he won’t be in charge next season and the club has already advertised for a new boss.

Marine Harvest North Division 2

Kilmallie walk-over v Beauly

The Kilmallie second team were given a walk-over when the Beauly second team was unable to raise a side for their trip to Canal Parks.

Kilmallie were awarded the points and this completes their season.

The Beauly colts were to travel to Spean Bridge this Saturday to finish their campaign against their Lochaber counterparts but they have conceded that game too, bringing the 2018 league fixtures to an end.

WCA round up

The Women’s Camanachd Association league fixtures are drawing to a close with a couple of matches taking place on Sunday October 28.

Marine Harvest North Division 2

Lochaber 1 Inverness 5

Inverness overcame the Lochaber second team 5-1 in their 1.30pm throw-up at Spean Bridge.

Kira MacDonald scored for Lochaber but five-goal Katie McMillan and a Melissa MacKay strike gave Inverness victory.

Marine Harvest South Division 2 play-off

Ardnamurchan 2 Dunadd 5

Dunadd were crowned Marine Harvest South Division 2 champions following their 5-2 play-off win over the Ardnamurchan second team in their 1pm throw-up at Taynuilt Sports Field.

The sides finished the league campaign joint top of the division and with goal difference not counting, a play-off ensued.

A goal from Grace Drummond and doubles from Eilidh Cameron and Leone Airlie gave Dunadd a title clinching victory.

Hannah MacDonald and Aine O’Rua scored for Ardnamurchan.

WCA Challenge Match

Scotland U18 3 Scotland Development 2

Scotland U18 twice came from behind to overcome the Scotland development squad 3-2 at Braeview Park.

Niamh Donnelly put the development squad ahead after five minutes, however, there was an instant reply from the U18s as Mairi Duncan levelled quickly.

Natalie MacDonald put Scotland Development back in front on 15 minutes and it stayed that way until the break.

The young Scots fought hard to get a leveller but the development squad stayed in front until the closing stages of the game when Leona Falconer made it 2-2 with a goal right at the death.

Referee Steven MacLachlan took the match into extra-time, during which a second Leona Falconer goal put the U18s 3-2 ahead – the first time they had been in front in the match.

The final whistle signalled success for an U18 squad coached by Ardnamurchan’s Lyndsay Bradley.

Scotland development captain Rhona MacIntyre called her squad up for their runner-up medals, whilst Scotland U18 skipper Emma Gordon led her team-mates to receive their medals and the trophy.

Youth shinty

London Shield semi-finals

Skye Camanachd U17 7                                                                                           Kingussie U17 0

Skye Camanachd U17 reached the London Shield Final with a 7-0 win over Kingussie U17 at Blairbeg.

Skye head coach Kenny MacLeod was without injured defender James Morrison, whilst his Kingussie counter-part Russell Jones was minus Dylan Borthwick who was unavailable.

Skye took the lead on six minutes following a flowing move which carved open the Kingussie defence and ended with Ross Gordon hammering the ball over the keeper from the left of the ‘D’ despite Kieran MacPherson’s efforts to block.

Taylor Matheson added a second three minutes later when he went one-on-one with Kingussie keeper George Taylor-Ramsay and slipped the ball home.

A Cameron MacKay shot from distance on 14 minutes made it 3-0 and Ross Gordon got his second a couple of minutes later. There was a melee in which Gordon felt he’d been impeded but when the ball broke to his side, he lashed it home.

William MacKinnon added another following a break from midfield which saw him flick the ball home to make it 5-0 at the break.

Skye’s Ruaraidh MacLeod played well throughout and he added a sixth straight from the restart with a waist-high shot from around the penalty spot.

Ross MacKinnon rounded off the scoring after a surging run forward from midfield saw his waist-high shot flying past the keeper to make it 7-0.

Brian MacKay was the match referee.

Fort William U17 4                                                                                            Glenurquhart U17 1

Fort William U17s came from a goal down to reach the London Shield Final, defeating Glenurquhart U17s 4-1 at Castle Leod.

Donnie MacLennan gave Glenurquhart the lead on 31 minutes.

Davie Duncan equalised seven minutes later, the goal coming from a corner. The ball came into the danger area and came off Lachie Shaw’s stick, dropping to Duncan just in front of the penalty spot and he steered it past the keeper on the goal’s right side.

It was 1-1 at half-time but Marine Harvest National U17 player of the year Lachie Shaw put Fort William ahead four minutes after the re-start. A good Paul Patterson strike produced a good save but, with the ball bouncing off the keeper’s feet, Shaw was quickly on hand to slot the rebound into the net.

Lewis Clark made it 3-1 on 56 minutes. Clark found the net from the left side of the penalty area with a low driven shot into the opposite corner of the net.

Fort William gave themselves a three-goal cushion just a couple of minutes later when Greig Kelly scored from inside the ‘D’.

Referee Archie Ritchie’s final whistle signaled another final for Fort William who have already lifted the MacTavish Juvenile Cup this season.

Skye’s William MacKinnon, left, and Connor Gilpin with Bradley Harvie, Kingussie, during their U17 London Shield semi final at Blairbeg.
2018 London Shield Final preview

The London Shield Final between Fort William U17 and Skye Camanachd U17 takes place at Blairbeg, Drumnadrochit, this Saturday, November 3.

Both sides qualified for the semi-finals without dropping a point in their respective sections.

They have met once already this season, in the MacTavish Juvenile Cup semi-finals at Craigard at the end of May. Skye took the lead in that game through Ruaraidh MacLeod but goals from Victor Smith and Lachie Shaw gave Fort William a 2-1 win, sending them through to the final where they defeated Kingussie 2-1 with Lewis Clark and Victor Smith netting.

Throw-up at Blairbeg is at 1.30pm and Steven MacLachlan is the match referee.

Scotland manager Garry Reid reflects on exciting win

‘It was very exciting and very tense at the end,’ said Scotland manager Garry Reid as he reflected on his side’s thrilling 14-12 win over Ireland in the latest Marine Harvest shinty/hurling international at the Bught Park, Inverness.

The Scots went into the match with a game plan which involved getting the ball up to their forwards rather than them having to come deep but the elements on the day, and in particular a strong wind, meant both sides had to adjust their plans.

‘The wind in the first half hampered us,’ said Reid. ‘Balls forward were falling short and guys were forced to come deep to get possession. I must say their full back line was very good and they started the game well. I had noticed that whereas in the past the Irish have started slowly and allowed the Scots to run up early points, the last few years have been different and they were really swarming our players from the throw-in.

‘It was our preference to play against the wind from the start. We didn’t expect the Irish to be quite so accurate though and there was little we could do about some of their early scores, mainly from deep positions. Our keeper Stuart MacDonald was aware of how difficult it could be in one particular goal during the second half as the sun goes down so we were keen to defend that goal in the first half, even if it meant playing against the wind.

‘It was tough but we stuck in during the first half and quietened them down for a spell. The international game tests our boys to the limit. There’s no game like it. We tried to replicate the pressure the players face in training as we have to adapt to tackling where their players are all over you, holding your stick and playing at a tremendous pace. Some commented afterwards that they had never been tested like that before.

‘We had to change things because of how the game went in the first period. We took Greg Matheson, Glen MacKintosh and Evan Menzies off to save them for the second half when they would see more of the ball up top. Andrew MacCuish acquitted himself very well when he came on and he got a good point in the second half. Arran MacPhee also made an impact and  rattled the Irish defence to the extent that the foul they committed on him late in the half allowed Kevin Bartlett to get the two points in the first half that were to be so important to us in the end.’

The half-time interval is often where managers have to do their work and for Garry Reid, the message to his players was clear: ‘At half-time, it was a case of telling the players not to panic, to stay calm and to stay focussed and, importantly, to keep our discipline and not move out of position by chasing balls all over the park. When the game restarted, we took advantage of the two-point opportunities as Kevin Bartlett normally does. We had to work hard for the fouls that gave us the frees. They were not given away easily by the Irish as has happened some years. Our players kept going and that was crucial, as was picking up single points such as the two from Greg Matheson.’

Reid emphasised the role the whole squad played: ‘I said before the game we would need all 20 players to play their part and that’s the way it turned out. I’ve already mentioned Andrew MacCuish and Arran MacPhee and Lorne Dickie is another example. He may have taken five minutes to settle in but when he did he really got into it and set up Greg Matheson for his first point. Lorne has such ability and the heart of a lion and we knew his passing would cause them problems.’

There were also fine performances from the usual stalwarts. ‘Finlay MacRae showed, especially in the second half, what an exceptional player he is. Rory Kennedy also did a real turn, coming back on after injury following Grant Irvine’s head cut and he was excellent at half back. Grant received stitches on the sidelines and was desperate to come back on but there was no need as I always felt we had the squad for the job and I trusted every player.’

With the Scotland U21s still to play in Dublin next week, the shinty/hurling hybrid game is again in the spotlight.

Garry said: ‘There’s always a lot of discussion around the merits of the shinty/hurling international at this time of year. From my point of view, there are two factors which I hope are taken into account. Firstly, I hope there’s recognisance of what a fantastic outlet this is for the 20 players who were selected and what it means to them. We should regard these games as a reward at the end of the season for our game’s best players. For the first time this year, the players were presented with their Scotland shirts at the annual Marine Harvest awards on the Friday evening, which was terrific. They don’t all have the opportunity to win medals each year, so the international is great recognition for what they have achieved over the season. We had 32 players desperate to be selected. I hear folk refer to a drop in standards, but no, not for me. These players’ skill and fitness was not in question.

‘Secondly, the international allows youngsters taking up shinty to set out with the ambition of playing for Scotland. Shinty has to compete with many other activities – sporting or otherwise – so it is important it is an attractive option for youngsters. The pathway is there at international level through development at U17 level to the U21s and then on to the seniors and we’re not far from having it right.’

It’s not all one-way either, as Garry points out: ‘The Irish squad are very keen on the game too. Their players were on their knees in disappointment at the final whistle. They really wanted to win. The international also allows their players to represent their country and, as their manager Conor Phelan pointed out ahead of the game, it provides the opportunity for their second and third tier players to mix and play with the elite players and that’s a chance they wouldn’t otherwise have.

‘There will be discussions, and that’s healthy, but I hope the Camanachd Association and the GAA recognise all of these points.

‘It’s also important that the two associations continue dialogue regarding the rules of the game so they suit both parties. Some of the rules were relaxed this year such as moving feet at frees and that, coupled with the Irish referee who did very well, helped make the match a great spectacle.

‘The international was a fitting end of a good shinty season.’

Scotland U21 look to go one better

Scotland U21 head coach Alan MacRae and his squad are looking to go one better than last year as they get set for their shinty/hurling meeting with Ireland U21 at the GAA National Games Development Centre, Abbotstown, Dublin, this Saturday, November 3.

A strong Irish squad came from 10-6 down at half-time to win 19-15 in Inverness 12 months ago and given the Scots have managed just one previous success on Irish soil – in 2014 – this will be a stern test.

The squad travel to Dublin on Friday November 2 looking forward to playing at the excellent GAA National Games Development Centre in Abbotstown where the playing surface has been created as an image of Croke Park. The Scotland U17 development squad played there during their last two Ireland tours so the surroundings will be familiar to John Gillies, Ross MacMillan, Iain Robinson, Roddy Young and Daniel Sloss.

With the preparations all but complete, Alan MacRae knows what he wants from his players. He said: ‘The commitment from players is paramount for me. I have to have that and I’m afraid if any players don’t commit then they are not involved. We’ve had good commitment this year and that’s pleased me with players travelling to sessions on Sundays, after their Saturday game from Glasgow, Oban and Skye. It’s the same for the staff. It’s been a big effort from everyone involved.’

The squad has previous experience at this level with only six additions to last year’s 19-player squad. The new caps are Oban Camanachd’s Daniel Sloss, Oban Celtic’s Ross MacMillan, Jonnie MacAskill from Glasgow Mid Argyll, Findlay MacDonald from Lochaber, Newtonmore’s Iain Robinson and Kingussie’s Roddy Young. They come in for Fort William’s Arran MacPhee, who made the step-up to the senior side this year, Skye’s Ally MacLeod, Savio Genini from Kingussie, Glengarry’s Nick Dalgety and Barry MacDonald from Lochaber.

Alan continued: ‘We had a young squad last year which has allowed us a degree of continuation but has also allowed us to add a few players who showed up well in training and our practice matches against the seniors.

‘A few players will have been left disappointed and it’s always difficult to pick the final squad. But I’ve told players that just because I’ve not picked them, it doesn’t mean they are not the best players. It’s just there are others who I think are more suitable to the shinty/hurling game. You have to be able to complete man-to-man over the full game. The game itself is so intense – so full on. I can recall a new cap coming on as a substitute last year and telling them that the game will be really fast from the beginning. Speaking to them afterwards, they said they’d never been involved in anything like that in their lives.

‘We’ve taken six new players in, including forwards Roddy Young, Iain Robinson and Findlay MacDonald who give us plenty of fire-power.

‘It’s also hard to believe Oban Camanachd’s Daniel Sloss is only 16 years old. What a talent he is and whilst, at first, I was wary of taking someone so young, he’s a quality defender and that can’t be ignored. In many ways he’s an old head on young shoulders.

‘Oban Celtic’s Ross MacMillan has also had a cracking season. He’s really knuckled down and been so committed to training. He’s probably Oban Celtic’s main man and sometimes I’m not sure he realises just what a good player he is. It’s also a bonus that he’s one of a number of players in the squad who is versatile.

‘Jonnie MacAskill has done so well do. He joined GMA from Kinlochshiel at the start of the season and has really impressed.

‘There’s a bit of experience in the squad too. Caberfeidh’s Blair Morrison captains the squad and this is his fifth year with the U21s. Skye’s Will Cowie, winning his third cap, has looked sharp and he has been consistent this season.

‘I was also really pleased to see Arran MacPhee make the step up to the seniors from last year’s squad.’

The unknown at this stage is the Irish squad but previous experience supports the theory that they will be nothing but tough opponents.

Alan MacRae agreed: ‘Hurling is so big over there and the Irish have included fine players in recent years. Waterford’s Austin Gleeson and Clare’s Tony Kelly have previously been involved in this fixture, whilst Sean Finn, who was last year’s Ireland U21 captain, was right corner-back last August when Limerick won their first All-Ireland title in 45 years and he was nominated for an All-Star. Waterford pair Patrick Curran and Shane Bennett both also played last year and both have broken into the senior Waterford squad.

‘It’s also at coaching level. Willie Maher, who was previously involved with the Irish U21s and who was co-manager of the seniors this year and last, was very much in the mix for the Tipperary manager’s job before it went to Liam Sheedy.’

Alan MacRae is clear where the international sits in the grand scheme of things. ‘The international is something for the players to aspire to. You really see how big it is and how important it is when you’re involved with it. It’s a massive deal to everyone involved and you see how proud the Scots and Irish are to represent their countries.’

‘It will be hard but we’re all looking forward to it,’ said Alan. ‘The experience from last year will help, as will the experience the players have had playing for Scotland U17.

‘I said to the players a month ago that we should give it a final push and really go for it. They have been training hard and they are keen to go one better than last year.’

Alan MacRae will be assisted by Inverness manager Callum McLeod. Davie McVey is the fitness trainer, whilst Lorna Forsyth is the physio.

Scotland U21 from: Scott MacLachlan, Inveraray; Lachlan Smith, Glenurquhart; Rory MacKeachan, Kingussie; Daniel Sloss, Oban Camanachd; Robert Mabon, Kingussie; Craig Ritchie, Newtonmore; Blair Morrison, Caberfeidh, captain; Iain Richardson, Newtonmore; Ross MacMillan, Oban Celtic; John Gillies, Skye Camanachd; Calum Grant, Kingussie; Danny Kelly, Lovat; Jonnie MacAskill, Glasgow Mid Argyll; Calum Shepherd, Fort William; Innes Blackhall, Kilmallie; Will Cowie, Skye Camanachd; Alexander MacMillan, Fort William; Findlay MacDonald, Lochaber; Iain Robinson, Newtonmore, and Roddy Young, Kingussie.

Throw-in is at 2pm and Camanachd Association Grade One referee Archie Ritchie is the man in the middle.

Ross Brown looks back on Scottish series victory

With a 2-1 series success over Dublin Ladies in the bag, Scotland Ladies co-manager Ross Brown took time to reflect on how the Scotland Ladies team has progressed over the last three years.

Having looked after the squad with Stuart Reid, Ross said: ‘Stuart and I were both over the moon with the team. We knew it would be tough in the first half playing against the wind and with a camogie ball.

‘We were fortunate only to be behind by a couple of points at the break, mainly due to resolute defending, particular from Laura McCafferty.

‘Our use of a shinty ball and the wind in the second half worked really well and we got our rewards late in the second half with some nicely worked goals.

‘We asked to the girls to increase their physicality in the second half and they responded well to that.

‘The Scotland squad has developed nicely over the past three years with most of the squad being involved every year. There have been some nice on-field relationships built up and that’s promising going forward.

‘The oldest player is 27 so time is still on their side to improve even further. I’m sure the WCA will be looking to make arrangements to secure opponents for next year. The Dublin series has been very competitive and they have been kind both as hosts and visitors.’

Ross is stepping down at the end of the series and he added: ‘I have taken a step back now. The timing seemed right with the end of the Dublin matches and it was great to finish with a win. It’s been a pleasure to work with the team and Stuart and I thank them all for the experience.’

WCA annual general meeting

The annual general meeting (AGM) of the Women’s Camanachd Association takes place at the Cairngorm Hotel, Aviemore, on Sunday November 25.

The AGM runs from 2.30pm until around 4pm and all clubs should be represented.

The AGM will be preceded by the development league finals at the Aviemore Astro from 11am.

Bute awards night as club goes national

Bute will mark a successful 2018 shinty season at their annual awards night at their clubhouse on Saturday November 10.

Bute finished the season Marine Harvest South Division 1 champions, edging out Lochside Rovers and the Kyles Athletic seconds in a title race which went down to the last game of the season.

The championship success also means Bute will play National Division shinty next year for the first time since 2014, after which they took a step down to regional shinty with a plan to invest heavily in youth and grassroots shinty. This season has seen their efforts culminate in a title win.

As well as the usual player of the year awards, first team players will be presented with their medals and the South Division 1 trophy.

There will also be a meal, a ‘Deal or No Deal’ game and a disco.

The night is open to all club players and their partners, sponsors and other invited guests.

Tickets are £15 and can be bought from Iain McDonald or John MacCallum.

Kilmallie player of the year awards

The Kilmallie player of the year awards were announced at the club’s annual dinner dance and awards night at the Moorings Hotel on Saturday October 27.

This year the club won the Marine Harvest National Division, marking a return to shinty’s top flight, and the Balliemore Cup.

Mark MacPherson was named Marine Harvest National Division manager of the year with club captain Liam MacDonald collecting the player National Division accolade.

Manager Mark MacPherson has recently stepped down and his service to the club over the last four seasons was marked as he was given a black presentation caman and a team photograph, whilst his wife Lynsey received well-deserved flowers.

The Kilmallie player of the year winners were: First Team Player of the Year – Robbie McFadyen; Second Team Player of the Year – Connor McAlister; U17 Player of the Year – Cam Clark; U17 Most Improved Player-of the Year – Connor McAlister; U14 Player of the Year – Aidan Love and U14 Most Improved Player of the Year – Kyle Nolan.

Skye Camanachd bonfire and fireworks display

Skye Camanachd host their fifth annual bonfire and fireworks display at Pairc nan Laoch, Portree, on Saturday November 3.

The fun starts at 6.30pm and there will be the usual refreshments and food in the Skye Camanachd Clubhouse. Admission is £5 for adults and £3 for under 16s. Everyone welcome.

2018 Camanachd Association AGM

The 2018 Camanachd Association annual general meeting will take place in the Muthu West End Hotel, Fort William, on Friday November 30, from 7.30pm.

The agenda will be sent to all voting members by Friday November 16.

Shinty’s Heroes

A showing of the acclaimed Shinty’s Heroes takes place at Newtonmore Village Hall on Friday November 2.

The show features photos and music to remember the men who fought in WW1 from shinty playing communities.

Narrated by shinty historian Hugh Dan MacLennan, the line-up features award winning musicians Gary Innes, Ingrid Henderson, Iain MacFarlane, Ewen Henderson and Duncan MacGillvray, who plays the pipes from The Battle of Festubert.

The show starts at 7.30pm and admission is £15 for adults and £10 for under 16s and over 65s. Tickets available at the door.

Stromeferry No Ferry win Craig Morrison Sixes

Stromeferry No Ferry United won the eighth 2018 Craig Morrison Stornoway Sixes.

Five teams took part in inclement weather in the annual memorial for Lewis Camanachd’s Craig Morrison who died in 2009 when the club was in its infancy.

Stromeferry No Ferry United finished second in the league competition and went on to face league toppers Lewis B in the final. A goal from Rannal Finlayson, who was also the joint top scorer in the competition with Donald Lamont, took the trophy back across the Minch.

The trophy was presented to winning captain James ‘Ach’ MacRae by Craig Morrison’s father Graham Morrison.

Later in the evening, Lewis Camanachd announced their Player of the Year awards at the Caladh Inn with Scott MacLeod collecting senior player of the year.

Donald Lamont was captain Peter Gomez’s choice as captain’s player of the year and Callum MacRitchie was youth player of the year.

John MacAskill awarded the Shaw Caman for manager’s player of the year to Ronan Sinclair.

Ally Lamont will captain the side in 2019.

Highland Council and Camanachd Association

Highland Councillor John Finlayson, who is also a Camanachd Association director, spoke at the recent Highland Council committee.

He said: ‘On behalf of the Camanachd Association, I would like to thank The Highland Council and members for the ongoing support you show to shinty as was demonstrated at Saturday’s exciting shinty/hurling international and at the reception in the Town House afterwards.

‘As many of you will know, 2018 is the 125th anniversary of shinty’s ruling body the Camanachd Association and I would like to ask that this chamber congratulates the Camanachd Association, the governing body of shinty, or Iomain in Gaelic, on reaching its 125th anniversary, having been constituted in the Victoria Hall, Kingussie, on October 10 1893.

‘I would also ask that Highland Council members wish the Camanachd Association well in meeting its strategic objectives going forward – namely those of fostering, encouraging, promoting and developing Scotland’s most iconic team sport, including its primary objective of growing the game at primary, youth, women and senior men’s levels, while at the same time supporting the national agenda of getting people of all ages more active.

‘I would also ask that as a council we endorse the objective of continuing to support shinty in our rural communities and also expanding the game in urban areas whilst at the same time strengthening the game’s already strong links with the language and culture of the Highlands.

‘Shinty is of cultural and sporting significance to the Highlands and I would ask that this chamber congratulates the players, clubs, volunteers, administrators, supporters and sponsors who continue to develop shinty across the Highlands and across Scotland.’