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The Scotland senior and under-21 squads have made their final preparations ahead of their Mowi shinty/hurling internationals against their Irish counterparts at the GAA National Games Development Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin, on Saturday November 2.
The Scots depart for Ireland on Friday for this year’s cross-code clashes on the back of two victories in 2018. The Scotland senior side came from 10-2 down at half-time to win 14-12 in an exciting but tense encounter at the Bught Park.
Newtonmore’s Glen MacKintosh scored Scotland’s only goal last year, but injury has prevented him from staking a claim in this year’s squad.
Scotland U21 returned from Abbotstown with a magnificent 25-13 victory following a bruising encounter last year, only the Scots second win on Irish soil.
They scored six goals in the process with Badenoch duo Roddy Young and Iain Robinson both netting twice and Lochaber’s Findlay MacDonald and Fort William’s Alexander MacMillan getting the others. All are included once more.
Both managers are understandably upbeat as they wait for the Irish to reveal their squads.
Scotland senior head coach Garry Reid said: ‘Preparations have been good and we’ve had several sessions, working with a group of 30 players.
‘The players have shown great commitment to these sessions which, on one hand, made my life easy but, on the other hand, made it difficult as I had to leave out ten of them when I’d have had no hesitation in fielding any of them against Ireland. It’s good I’ve had a real choice when it came to selecting the final pool though.’
There’s no doubt Garry is pleased with his squad and he’s keen to make the point that everyone has a chance to be involved.
He said: ‘The final squad is reflective of the players who have been on form this season and with eight changes from last year, including six new caps, it demonstrates you can earn a place in the squad by having a very good season.’
There is also progression from the U21s and from the U17s before that, which is evidence the pathway works.
The Scotland head coach has an idea of what to expect from the game.
He said: ‘Ireland made a good start last year and I’ve seen that before when managing the Scotland U21s. They are more than capable of starting with speed and tenacity so we have to be ready for that and be able to match it in our own play.
‘I’m also expecting a physical encounter and that influenced my squad selection. It favours a player such as say Daniel Cameron over say Lorne Dickie and we plan to field combative players in the midfield as that’s an area of our game where will have to be strong.’
It has been a nervous wait over the last couple of weeks as Garry hoped there would be no injuries as some of his players played in key league matches.
‘We always knew there would be club fixtures in the lead up but you just have to keep your fingers crossed.’
There is a contingency plan in place though as Garry added: ‘All the remaining ten players are on stand-by and the biggest shame is that there is only this one opportunity to have the chance to represent their country each year.
‘Players such as Scott MacMillan and Lorne Dickie from Oban Camanachd came close to being selected, as did Kinlochshiel pair Conor Cormack and Mark MacDonald as well as Fort William’s Arran MacPhee. Kinlochshiel’s Donald Nixon has had another good season, whilst I like the way Fraser Heath links up play, whilst Caberfeidh’s Blair Morrison, the 2018 U21 captain, could have put a good case forward to have been involved with the seniors last year as well.
‘A number of the Kingussie boys also caught the eye but we agreed any player still eligible for the U21s should play there and only those aged over 21 years would represent the seniors.’
The cross-code rules look to be unchanged and, with the match being on Irish soil, a Scottish referee has been appointed with the honour going to Calum Girvan.
The senior clash throws in at 2pm but, ahead of that, Alan MacRae’s U21 squad return to the scene of last year’s memorable clash for a noon throw-in against Ireland U21.
Alan MacRae said: ‘We are taking a strong squad over to Dublin and are looking forward to the challenge of retaining the trophy.
‘The core of the team is still in place from last year with influential players such as Scott MacLachlan, Lachie Smith, Iain Richardson, Jonnie MacAskill, Danny Kelly and Innes Blackhall playing a pivotal role in their final year alongside Calum Grant from Kingussie.
‘We have an exciting group which includes Oban Camanachd’s three Daniels: MacVicar, MacCuish and Sloss and Oban Celtic’s Ross MacMillan, some of whom will be joining the bulk of last year’s free scoring attack who are still eligible.
‘Assuming our debutants can adapt to the different challenges of the hybrid game, it should prove to be an entertaining encounter.’