Oban to reap rewards from School of Shinty

Oban High School has launched a School of Shinty. Our photograph shows the coaches and some of the pupils who have signed up.

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Oban High’s School of Shinty was launched in September this year.
It follows the model of existing ‘Schools of’ rugby and dance that Oban High School already has in its junior years.

‘Through the hard work of several volunteers, we have finally been able to launch the School of Shinty at Oban High School,’ said Murray Hamilton, Principal Teacher of PE and Head of the School of Shinty programme.

‘With the backing and support of the Camanachd Association and the Macaulay Association, along with several clubs – Oban Camanachd, Oban Celtic, Taynuilt, Glenorchy and Oban Lorn Ladies – we have been able to offer this fantastic opportunity to our students.

‘It has been great to have the support of so many clubs, companies and organisations, from Oban Common Good Fund and the Camanachd Association to MacKenzie Welders, helping us get shinty goals for the class.

This will be a great opportunity for our students, not only to get time to develop their shinty skills and understanding but also to embed the vision and value of Oban High School.’

Murray Hamilton continued: ‘This has been something we have been working towards for some time and it is great to finally roll out this initiative. We are fortunate that we have Colin Carswell on our staff who is able to lead the weekly coaching sessions and of course we are spoilt for expertise locally with so many successful teams on our doorstep.’

Colin Carswell has played senior seasons with Lochside Rovers and Taynuilt shinty clubs so he is well placed to deliver the weekly coaching sessions.
Colin is ably assisted by staff member and former shinty player David Ferguson in taking the players through a fitness programme that includes strength and conditioning alongside the playing aspect of the sport.

The project has been supported by Euan McMurdo, regional development officer for the Camanachd Association.

The players sign up to the School of Shinty at the start of the year. This is a commitment to participate in the weekly coaching during school time and the weekly after-school training which is run by local club coaches Les Kinvig, Stephen Campbell and Shelley McCuish.

The School of Shinty is open to boys and girls in S1 or S2 at Oban High School.

There are two Shinty Ambassadors this year – Jamie MacGillivray and Mairi Inglis – who have been a great help. They have helped to promote the sport and are a visible presence within the school.

‘We are hoping that after this pilot year, we will be able to grow the number of participants and the classes. This helps make the sessions more specific and we can focus on different aspects of the game or areas such as fitness or nutrition,’ explained Murray Hamilton.

Lead coach Colin Carswell said: ‘I am delighted to be involved with the delivery and planning of the School of Shinty. It is great to get out of the classroom once a week to work with the students. This is something I would have relished the opportunity to be a part of when I was in school.

‘The introduction of the Bulls v Sharks format is great and will help provide more competitive matches for the students,’ added Colin. ‘It follows the model rugby used and we had a really successful first match last week.

‘It was a competitive 4-4 draw and there was some great shinty on show.’

The players are split into two teams who compete for a cup over five or seven matches.

Murray Hamilton explained the idea behind the competition: ‘The Bulls v Sharks idea started when we first launched the School of Rugby. We needed a way to give all the players more game time and we found students bought into the idea of having their own teams within the school. So we make two team selections and will play five or seven matches throughout the year. We also have transfer windows if we need to even up the teams or move numbers around. The pupils really buy into that.’

Murray Hamilton added: ‘We have used the same idea for shinty this year, and football, so we now have a games week where all three sports compete for the respective trophies. This has been successful so far, but we hope to make it grow as the year goes on.

‘We still want to get more matches for our School of Shinty players and other school teams. It is a big challenge across all school sports. Given our geographical location and transport logistics, it can be difficult but working together with various associations and club coaches, we aim to provide more competitive matches across all ages.

‘We really hope this initiative will help the students on the shinty park and in the classroom. It is about taking the values of discipline, respect, resilience and that hard work ethic and applying that across the board. Hopefully this will help students to achieve their full potential on and off the field.’

A Macaulay Association spokesman confirmed its support saying: ‘The Macaulay Association is delighted to support Oban High’s School of Shinty as it creates another playing platform at a vital age in the development of youth players within the sport.’

The early signs are positive for the Oban High School of Shinty as they recently travelled to a youth festival with 21 players, whilst also hosting a festival with the same number of players taking part.

What next for Oban Celtic?

After securing a fifth place finish in the 2019 Mowi National Division, Oban Celtic assistant manager Les Kinvig gave an insight into what his side needs to do to break into the top four in 2020.

‘There are a number of areas we’d need to work on to do that,’ said Les Kinvig. ‘First of all, Dougie and I are still relatively new to the National Division but we gained a lot of knowledge over last season, understanding the opposition and where certain opposition players may be deployed.

‘You can have a player who usually features in attack but suddenly he switches to buckshee back either before or during a game and we’ll be wiser to things like that next year. Improved player fitness is going to be very important. We’ll get back to training two nights each week from the turn of the year, leading into the pre-season friendly matches.

‘We then want to step up our pre-season programme on last year, fitting in more friendlies, so that we are ready to hit the ground running when the season starts at the beginning of March.’

Les also highlighted the need for consistency saying: ‘We also need to put together a performance for the full 90 minutes. There were times last season, particularly the draws with Beauly, Glasgow Mid Argyll and Glenurquhart, where late goals cost us points. We have played really well for parts of matches but need to maintain that level of performance throughout the whole match.’

Youth shinty is an area Les knows well. ‘Oban Celtic are still a young team but these youngsters will be better for last year’s experience. William MacEwan, John Douglas, Jigme Jones and Innes MacDonald all came in last term and will no doubt feature next year. They are all a year older, albeit they will still only be 15 years next season. We’ll look to them to continue their development, but at the right pace.

‘A more settled side would also be a huge benefit and there are three main areas where we can achieve that: discipline, players making themselves available each week and injuries. Firstly, discipline was better last year and we have to keep that going and continue the improvement.

‘Secondly, player availability can make such a difference.

‘The boys themselves would admit that there were times last season where a bit more commitment would have seen us field a stronger team which would in turn have given us a better chance of winning. Thirdly, injuries are another factor. We lost Neil Carmichael, Michael MacKinnon, Peter Currie and Lewis Mcphee for periods with injury last season and they are all big players for us.

‘We know how we want to play shinty but getting our first choice team out on the pitch as often as we possibly can is key as it gives us the best chance of succeeding.’

Making best use of their squad is also something Oban Celtic are keen to develop. ‘We need to get to a stage where we prepare our players to play in different positions should the need arise,’ said Les Kinvig. ‘We’ll work on that with the players to ensure we have cover should injuries or suspensions arise.

‘We’ve had a year with the boys now so we have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t. Injuries and suspensions will happen over the course of the season so we want to have identified replacements for all positions in advance so that if anything unexpected arises, we are ready for it.’

One issue which needs to be solved sooner rather than later is the goalkeeping position. Iain MacFarlane is expected to be out for the season through injury. ‘Unfortunately Iain will be missing’, sighed Les Kinvig. He has a problem with both knees and we’d like to identify a replacement and get to work with that person before the pre-season starts.

‘Iain does a great job behind the scenes within the club, especially with the second team, and he’ll continue to be a good influence and not disappear completely but he’ll be a big loss on the field.’

There may be six weeks to go until pre-season fixtures get under way but Oban Celtic are already plotting how to continue their improvement next season.

Oban Celtic’s Boxing Day double treat

There’s a Boxing Day double treat for the Oban Celtic support on Thursday December 26.

First up is the annual shinty match between the Oban Celtic Old Crocs and the Youngsters at Mossfield. Throw-up is at 1pm.

The veterans were penalty shoot-out winners in 2017 but the young boys came out on top last year with Ross MacMillan, Daniel MacMillan, Andy MacDonald and Dylan Cooke getting the goals in a 4-3 victory. The match was keenly contested as ever. Kenny Wotherspoon scored twice for the seniors but he also saw a penalty saved by young boys’ keeper Iain MacFarlane. Scott Burnett got the other veterans’ goal.

Later in the afternoon, Oban Celtic’s annual prizegiving takes place at Oban Masonic Hall. There will be refreshments, food and entertainment from 5.30pm.

Clubs launch recruitment drives

Oban Celtic are amongst a number of clubs who have launched recruitment drives ahead of the 2020 shinty season.

Les Kinvig said: ‘We are looking to add players to our first team and second team to help out the current squads and we have a lot to offer. We are especially keen to get a first team keeper with Iain MacFarlane injured. We’d also like more cover in the defensive areas but feel we are well placed middle to front. We’d be happy to hear from any interested players in all positions though.’

Premiership sides Kyles Athletic and Glasgow Mid Argyll as well as Aberdour, newly-promoted to the National Division, are also on the lookout for new players.

Lochaber are also spreading their net as they look to restore their second team next season.

Skye Camanachd AGM

Skye Camanachd held its annual general meeting at its clubhouse at Pairc nan Laoch, Portree, on Thursday December 5.

Fiona Cruickshank stays on as chairwoman, Thomas Wilson stays vice chairman whilst Marion Gillies remains club secretary.

Alasdair Bruce steps down after 35 years as treasurer, whilst club stalwart Donnie Martin also leaves the board as do former chairman Douglas MacDougall and new ladies first team manager John Angus MacInnes.

The club will confirm the addition of several new trustees at its next board meeting.

Ross Cowie, manager of the club’s 1990 Camanachd Cup winning side, was made an Honorary Vice President.

Skye Camanachd runs nine teams from its Portree base and is in a healthy financial position having benefited from a Co-op Community Fund payment which allowed them to buy its own mini-bus.

Inverness awards

Inverness Shinty Club announced its player of the year awards at a recent event.

First team player of the year award went to Daniel Palombo.
Stevie Campbell was the recipient of the second team prize whilst Jack Craig was U21 player of the year.

It was a good season for Inverness Ladies, winning the Donella Crawford Sixes through Culloden Academy, the Alister Gow Sixes and the Three Sisters Sixes competition in Edinburgh.

The Inverness Ladies senior player of the year was Amber MacKay; Chloe Mutch took the U16 honour with Laura Brandie named Ladies development player winner.

Rory Maclennan was the Inverness U17s top performer and Iain Hunter was given the U14 award.

Lovat Cup

Arrangements for the 2020 Lovat Cup clash between Lovat and Beauly have been confirmed.

Lovat will have home advantage as the annual clash takes place at Balgate on Thursday January 2, throw-up 1pm.
Lovat are holders having beaten their rivals 3-1 at Braeview Park in early January.

Kingussie set for busy 2020

It was quite a season for Kingussie as first team manager John Gibson led the side to a Mowi Premiership and Artemis Macaulay Cup double.

The signs are 2020 could be just as eventful and there was a boost for the club on the pitch following the club’s annual general meeting with John Gibson confirmed as manager for next term, whilst off the park, the Camanachd Association has confirmed that next season’s Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup Final will take place at the Dell, Kingussie, on Saturday September 19. This will be the first time the Dell has hosted the final since 1999 when Kingussie defeated Oban Camanachd 3-0.

Camanachd Association chief executive officer Derek Keir said: ‘The two games that took place in September this year highlighted just how important the host club is in delivering a successful Camanachd Cup final.
‘Fort William did an incredible job hosting the final and from our initial discussions with Kingussie Camanachd Club, I am excited for what is in store in 2020.

‘Our sponsors, Tulloch Homes, were incredibly supportive in this year’s rescheduled final and are equally as excited at the prospect of 2020 in Kingussie.

‘The host club plays a key role in the delivery of the Camanachd Cup and we are delighted the 2020 Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup will take place on one of the finest playing surfaces in shinty.’

Russell Jones, president of Kingussie Camanachd Club, said: ‘Kingussie has a long and proud association with shinty and our town hosted the first meeting of club representatives from all over Scotland in 1893, a meeting from which the Camanachd Association was born.

‘The sport is as strong and as important to the people of Kingussie and surrounding area now as it was then and we are all delighted that on Saturday September 19 2020, we can once again welcome the shinty community to our town for the Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup Final.’

Tickets for the 2020 Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup Final are now on sale.
This year there are exclusive offers available providing more of a reason than ever to witness what promises to be an epic encounter.

The 2020 final is set to be one of the biggest and best yet in the event’s 124-year history with live traditional music, entertainment and a dedicated Kids Zone adding to the festival feel.

Gates will open at 10am on the day with shinty’s rising stars contesting the U14 MacMaster Cup Final before the main event in the afternoon.
The Camanachd Cup Final attracts thousands of spectators on the day and is broadcast live by BBC Scotland across television, radio and online platforms.

Tickets can be bought online at www.shinty.com and via your local club. Early-bird prices are £10 for adults, £8 for concessions and under 12s go free.

Additionally, when you buy a ticket through your local shinty club, they will receive 25 per cent of the fee.

PJ signs off

Paul John MacKintosh has brought the curtain down on his seven-year reign as Newtonmore manager.

Newtonmore’s final match of the season was to have been against Kyles Athletic at Tighnabruaich but the teams agreed to share the points. That meant Newtonmore’s defeat to Oban Camanachd marked PJ’s final game in charge.

Paul John MacKintosh took over as Newtonmore first team manager in 2013 from Norman MacArthur who had five years at the helm. It was, of course, MacKintosh’s second stint at the helm as he previously led the side before MacArthur.

Paul John MacKintosh’s recent tenure has yielded five Camanachd Cups, five league titles, two Macaulay Cups and four MacTavish Cups. His replacement is likely to be confirmed at this week’s annual general meeting.
Whilst PJ is looking forward to watching games from the touchline without added responsibility of first team management, he was very much ‘hands on’ for Newtonmore U17s Mowi London Shield defeat to Skye Camanachd U17s at Pairc nan Laoch, Portree, when he was Newtonmore bus driver and goal judge during the final.

PJ MacKintosh.