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Scotland U21 boss Alan MacRae could not hide his pride at his squad’s 25-13 victory over Ireland U21.
The games on Irish soil have been notoriously difficult over the years and the Scots knew they were in for another tough contest when the Irish squad was announced.
MacRae said: ‘Ireland always pick a good squad at this level and their pace is phenomenal. They included five All-Star nominees and they always field a strong side at this level. They were able to call on Claire’s Aron Shanagher.
He’s a big name in Ireland and he was a real handful. However. I must say that Blair Morrison got the better of him over the course of the game. Their players were told to take five hurls to the match as they knew they would keep breaking them.’
The game itself was not for the faint-hearted and MacRae said the conditions also played their part.
‘We had the wind advantage in the first half and I was worried that our 7-2 lead at the break might not be enough as you wondered how the strong wind might affect the outcome.
However, Findlay MacDonald scored probably the most important goal of the match a minute into the second half which really gave us a boost. There were a couple of phases in the second half where the Irish came back at us and scored some terrific points. There was little we could do but applaud their scorer but we came fighting back which was great to see.’
It was also an afternoon when the full squad played their part.
‘The boys did all we asked of them and more. It really is a squad game and we used all the players to good effect. They all got a lot of game time. We had to make a couple of early changes. Will Cowie suffered a clatter to the hand/arm area and although he came back on towards the end of the match, there were cuts and a lot of swelling. Alexander MacMillan replaced Will [Cowie] and really impressed.
‘Ross MacMillan also came on early in the match for Craig Ritchie, who suffered a knee knock in training and I didn’t want to push him. Ross [MacMillan] did well and Craig [Ritchie] was able to come back on later in the game.
‘In fact we picked up so many knocks during the game that Lachie Smith had to come on at full forward for the last minute as he was literally the last man standing amongst the substitutes.
‘We also had to make changes to counter the Irish threat, particularly in the second half when they came back at us but pushing Craig Richie into midfield and bringing on Iain Richardson into the middle of the park helped us regain control.’
Before the match, MacRae said that he was excited about the firepower his side had to offer and his forwards didn’t disappoint. ‘We played some good shinty on the ground and Roddy [Young] and Iain [Robinson] did so well and they regularly turned their men and the Irish didn’t like that.
They were well supported by the likes of Calum Shepherd and Innes Blackhall who regularly got the ball up top to the full forwards. Most people are unaware that the goals over in Ireland are lower so it was all the more enjoyable to score six goals. We looked at it before throw-in and Scott [MacLachlan] could get a good reach even without his stick.’
There were also key contributions in other areas of the park including from Oban Camanachd starlet Daniel Sloss. ‘At 16 years of age, Daniel was by far the youngest player in the Scotland squad,’ MacRae said.
‘Daniel [Sloss] broke two sticks early in the contest and I think he was borrowing sticks before the end to keep playing. He did really well and his combative style was so effective that the Irish coaches were asking about him afterwards, especially after hearing he was so young. They were keen to meet him and I think they thought he could have a future as a hurler if he moved over there.
‘Scott MacLachlan in goal made a couple of terrific saves. He saved a penalty and also made a brilliant stop to push away a shot from Aron Shanagher who was right through on goal.
‘Blair [Morrison] played a captain’s role, especially in the second half where he cleared a lot of ball from his buckshee back position.
‘However, they all played their part. Iain Robinson grabbed a dozen points and he chipped in with single points which helped keep the score ticking over and that was important. It’s not easy to find the next Kevin Bartlett as steering the ball between the posts is a difficult skill.’
It’s often asked what the Scots get from these games and MacRae gave an example of how they have to develop their skills. ‘You have to be flexible as this is a very fluid game. You have to be able to play anywhere as the game moves so fast and the players get that.
There’s little time to think where you are going and you have to roll so quickly. It’s not like your regular shinty match where you are able to study the opposition to see where there are any weaknesses and try to capitalise on them. You have to be full on all over the park which is a test and some players struggle to handle that.
‘It was exciting, physical and very skilful and it’s just a shame the match wasn’t filmed so everyone could see it.’
The squad transition was such that the Scots had a level of continuity with only six new caps this time around and MacRae expects it to be similar next year. ‘I expect we’ll lose six or seven players next season so it’s a similar turnover meaning the continuity should still be there.
‘Especially when you consider the players who can come in who have all had experience playing shinty/hurling at U17 level. Kingussie’s Ruaridh Anderson and Alexander Michie weren’t considered this time around as they were abroad on holiday and missed the practise sessions.
They could help compensate for the losses next year as could the likes of Calum MacDougall from Kilmallie, who I’ve been keeping an eye on; Bute’s Ryan Craig, who really impresses; Fort William boys Lachie Shaw and Ryan Boyle and Oban Camanachd players Daniel MacVicar and Daniel MacCuish.
They are amongst several good players who can stake a claim for a place next year.
‘Ireland don’t have the same consistency in selection but they tend to pick players at the upper end of the age group so their squad will be aged 20 and 21 years whilst our guys will often be younger which marries things up.’
Just as a full squad was required on the pitch, the backroom team also played its role ahead of and during the international as MacRae confirmed.
‘I received a lot of help from Davie McVey and our physio Lorna Forsyth, who even had the players doing stretching exercises in the hotel beforehand. Callum McLeod also did a power of work in the lead up to the game and he was unable to travel because of family reasons.’
As thoughts turn to the future, there are encouraging signs. ‘The Irish were complimentary about our performance afterwards which is always nice to hear but they gave us a thorough test.
‘I hope they keep the internationals going. The Irish were very positive about it and Pat Daly, who is very influential within the GAA, was very certain in his hope to keep it going. Some folk don’t understand how big a deal this game is to the players.
‘They take so much from it and they become better players from aged 17 upwards thanks to the experience. There is much to gain from seeing at close quarters the professional the hurlers show. These guys are either training or playing five nights a week, 10 months of the year and that rubs off on our guys.
‘There was also an interesting discussion after the game around the potential benefits of taking the games to different venues throughout Ireland and Scotland. There would be huge interest if these internationals took place in say Kilkenny or Cork in Ireland or Oban or Skye in Scotland.’
With three wins this year at senior, U21 and ladies’ levels, it has been a good year for Scotland in the shinty/hurling/camogie series and indeed a positive ending to the 2018 competitive shinty season.
Taynuilt Player of the Year awards
Taynuilt Shinty Club held its end of season prize giving in the Golf Clubhouse, Taynuilt.
Players, their partners and sponsors enjoyed a meal provided by the ladies of the committee. The trophies were presented by John Keeney from Dawnfresh Seafoods Ltd, the club’s main sponsor.
Caberfeidh Player of the Year awards
Caberfeidh announced their player of the year winners at the awards dinner dance at Strathpeffer Golf Club on Saturday 10 November 2018.
Scotland U21 captain Blair Morrison, who was also Marine Harvest National U21 player of the year, was the big winner, scooping three prizes.
The winners were: U14 Players of the Year – Arran Grant and Logan Beaton; U17 Players of the Year – Connor MacGregor and Russell MacKenzie; Trainer of the Year – Blair Morrison.
Second team Player of the Year- Declan Wilson; First team Player – Blair Morrison; Players’ Player of the Year – Blair Morrison.
Aberdour hosted their annual awards night at Aberdour Community Centre on Friday 9 November.
The evening also included a meal and a ceilidh dance and provided a much-needed fund raising opportunity.
The winners were: U8 Most Endeavour – Ethan Latimer; U8 Coaches’ Player – Caleb Curry; U10 Most Endeavour – Lewis Thorington; U10 Players’ Player – Sean Paul Burns; U10 Coaches’ Player – Cieràn Burns; U12 Most Endeavour – Rebecca Thorington; U12 Players’ player – Tom Shenfield; U12 Coaches’ Player – Joe Burns; U14 Players’ Player – Eòin Burns; U14 Coaches’ Player – Eòin Burns; U17 Players’ Player – David McDougall; U17 Coaches’ Player – Tom Aitchison; Women’s Second (Development) Team Coaches’ Player – Lorna Cooper; Men’s Second Team Coaches’ Player – Sean Burns; Women’s Players’ Player – Katie Booth Women’s First team Coaches’ Player – Katie Booth; Men’s Players’ Player – Kieran Burns and Cammy McCue Eddie Norman Memorial Trophy for Men’s First team Coaches’ Player – Cammy McCue.
Inveraray’s annual awards dinner takes place at the Inveraray Inn on Saturday 17 November 2018.
The club will present their player of the year awards and reflect on a season in which they achieved promotion back to the Marine Harvest Premiership after a three-year gap.
Shinty at Mossfield this weekend
The Oban Camanachd end of season fun day takes place at Mossfield on Saturday 17 November 2018.
The fun starts at 12.30pm with the first games at 1pm and there are eight teams taking part, split into two groups to play in an initial round-robin format.
The club’s end of season prize giving takes place at Glencruitten Golf Club afterwards.
Oban Camanachd AGM
Oban Camanachd’s annual general meeting takes place at The Rockfield Centre on Thursday November 22.
The AGM starts at 7pm and all supporters and friends of the club are welcome.
Scotland Squads confirmed for Iomain Cholmcille XI
The Scotland squads have been confirmed for Iomain Cholmcille XI which takes place in Derrybeg, County Donegal, Ireland on Saturday November 17.
Glasgow Mid Argyll’s Angus MacInnes and Lewis Camanachd’s Sean MacLeod will look after the Scots men’s side for this Gaelic speaking shinty/hurling contest.
Thuirt Sean: ‘Tha mi gu math riaraichte a bhith ag obair cuide ri Aonghas a tha gu math eòlach air stiùireadh sgiobaidhean.
‘Tha sguad math againn le eòlas, òige agus cluicheadairean a bhios a’ dèanamh oidhirp mhath Gàidhlig a bhruidhinn. Tha sinn a’ coimhead air adhart ris agus tha sinn an dòchas gun toir sinn Còrn Cholmcille air ais a dh’ Alba.’
Alba men from: John Angus MacInnes – Skye Camanachd; David MacInnes – Skye Camanachd;Ally MacLeod – Skye Camanachd; Jamie Gillies – Skye Camanachd; Ryan Morrison – Skye Camanachd; Calum Gibb – Skye Camanachd; Crisdean MacRae – Lewis Cam-anachd; Paul Duke –Lewis Cam-anachd; Sean MacLeod – Lewis Camanachd; Stuart Campbell – Lewis Camanachd; Rhuairaidh MacDonald – Glengarry; Graham Black – Aberdeen University Camanachd; Mark Fraser – Fort William; Jack Fraser – Fort William; Padraig McNeil – Fort William; William MacKinnon – Boleskine; Eoghan Stewart – Strathglass; Alex Dunnings – Taynuilt; Angus MacInnes – Glasgow Mid Argyll; Angus MacInnes (junior) – Glasgow Mid Argyll; Somhairle MacDonald – Inverness; Joseph MacInnes – Uist Camanachd/English Shinty Association.
The ladies’ squad has also been confirmed for the shinty/camogie clash.
Catriona Gibb is in charge and she said: ‘Tha sguad beag againn agus tha cuid a chluich roimhe a dhith, ach tha an cothrom againn cluicheadairean ùra a thoirt an lùib a’ ghnothaich airson a’ chiad uair.’
Alba ladies from: Catriona Gibb – Skye Camanachd; Emma Gordon – Skye Camanachd; Isabelle Law – Skye Camanachd; Kate Bradley – Ardnamurchan; Claire Ford – Ardnamurchan; Rachel Ford – Ardnamurchan; Joanne Ford – Ardnamurchan; Karen MacKinnon – Oban Lorne; Ashleigh Fraser – Fort William; Lauren Doherty – Fort William; Kayleigh Marie Woods – Fort William; Christy MacIntyre – Lochaber; Mairi Duncan – Lochaber; Orla McCarthy – Glasgow Mid Argyll; Katie MacDonald – Glasgow Island; Annabel Budge – Glasgow Island; Shannon Cowie – Glasgow Island.
The round-robin matches against Micheal Breathnach and Fir Uladh get under way at 10am.