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Les Kinvig – Lessons for Oban Celtic
Les Kinvig looked back on Oban Celtic’s 2021 shinty season and amongst his reflections, he highlighted some lessons the squad can learn before the game returns to a more familiar format in 2022.
Boss Dougie MacIntyre and assistant manager Les Kinvig took charge of Oban Celtic at the beginning of the 2019 shinty season. They took over from Kenny Wotherspoon who led the side into the Mowi National Division for the first time before securing a fifth place finish on 12 points. Dougie and Les maintained the improving trend, also finishing fifth but on 13 points.
An unplayable field ruled out Oban Celtic’s opening and only fixture of the 2020 season at home to Skye before covid struck, triggering a 15-month lay-off.
Regionalised leagues were introduced for the delayed start to the 2021 season and it was one Oban Celtic started with optimism, as Les Kinvig recalls.
‘The general consensus amongst the boys was that they were glad to be back playing shinty,’ he said. ‘We knew we’d face a couple of very tough opponents but viewed that as a challenge to test ourselves against top flight opposition. So we looked at it as an opportunity with our focus definitely on the cup games.’
It was a tough opening day as Kyles Athletic visited Mossfield in Mowi Senior League C. ‘We were dreadful for the first 20-25 minutes against Kyles. We didn’t have much of a pre-season, like most teams to be fair, and we thought we were prepared but we weren’t. We underestimated the effects of the lockdown period.
‘It was an eye-opener, and maybe we were a bit overawed, but that match showed us the pace of play we needed to get to.’
Oban Celtic started the season without Michael MacKinnon and Rory Bruce through injury but Allan ‘Spider’ Duncan took over from the injured Iain MacFarlane in goal.
A midweek league encounter at Inveraray followed when Celtic travelled with a ‘thin squad’ and were edged out 2-1.
The Oban side broke their duck with a 6-0 victory over Ballachulish in the first round of the Artemis Macaulay Cup, with Duncan MacDonald grabbing a hat-trick. ‘Ballachulish was a good performance,’ said Les but he admitted, ‘it was a tie we were expected to win’.
The win over Mowi Premiership side Glasgow Mid Argyll (GMA) was the high point of the season. ‘It was a great win and we could have scored more goals. We started well and GMA took the lead against the run of play. We didn’t let that affect us though and we were the better team and deserved the win.’
It could be argued that the following two matches had a detrimental effect on the remainder of the season as injury and fitness issues began to bite.
‘The Oban Camanachd match was another tough test. We fared well in the first half and it was 1-1 at the interval. They kicked on in the second half though and gave us a lesson in the importance of fitness. They scored twice late on but we were lacking options when it came to our senior players.’
Oban Camanachd ran out 6-1 victors in the end but the match and schedule took its toll physically.
If the GMA victory was a season high point, the defeat to Bute in the Alvance Balliemore Cup first round was the low-point. ‘The Oban Camanachd game was on the Wednesday night and it took a lot out of us,’ said Les. ‘We travelled to Bute less than three days later. We took a squad of 15 players but some were carrying niggles and three pulled up in the warm up. It was another lesson that two matches in such a short period of time were just too much for us.’
The reward for beating GMA in the Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup was a trip to eventual winners Kinlochshiel. It is an afternoon Les remembers well: ‘We travelled to Kinlochshiel badly affected by injuries. Three players were ruled out and our only two substitutes were carrying knocks. It was another lesson that you can’t play the top sides with so many players missing and a sign that we needed to build the size of our squad. It was good to be in the Camanachd Cup quarter finals and we went out to the eventual winners with Kinlochshiel showing over the course of the season just what a good side they are. We put in a hearty performance but the game showed again how much we still had to do to compete with the top sides.’
The season ended with a second defeat to Inveraray and an 8-0 triumph at Aberdour. ‘Inveraray deserved the win,’ added Les, ‘but the final score was a bit harsh on us. Aberdour will get their first experience of a full national division season next year but with no disrespect to them, we were expected to win that match.
‘The cup finals came along and the season faded away a bit for us, although we did carry on training into October. We played nine games in all over the season, but only two of them were with what I would call our settled team.
‘The biggest plus for us this season is that we managed to further develop our junior level players ahead of next year. At times we perhaps rushed one or two of them into the squad because of injuries and covid and we even played some of them out of position just so we could get games played, but they did well.
‘Duncan MacDonald was a real positive for us. He has come on well this season. William MacEwan, Ewen Campbell and Pierce MacBeth also did well. The way these players took their opportunity was great to see. We were able to play them without any real pressure on them. They got invaluable game time.
‘A number of boys are playing football over the winter to keep themselves fit and Neil Carmichael should have recovered from his achilles injury before the new season and that’s important because he is by far our best option at full centre.’
Alan Duffy looks after the Oban Celtic second team and Les acknowledged the efforts of his colleague’s charges. ‘They got eight games played and did all right. The juniors benefited from the game time and the games against Kilmallie and Lochaber were big tests. It was a higher level against these teams but the matches were keenly contested.’
As well as his many Oban Celtic duties, Les Kinvig, who has recently taken up the Camanachd Association’s regional development officer’s role in Argyll and Bute, also found time to referee some games throughout the season. ‘After doing the referee coaching course, it is important to keep your hand in,’ he said. ‘It was good to help out. I enjoyed it and I would do it again on a Saturday if I was available.’
The final word goes to two unsung heroines and the work they do behind the scenes at Oban Celtic. Les said: ‘Vivienne Duffy and Helen Pearson have been a huge help. Vivienne is our covid co-ordinator and that has obviously been an important role this season. Her work takes a lot of pressure off the rest of us.
‘It is the same with Helen. She washes the strips for the first and second teams after every match, which is just brilliant.
Oban Celtic are yet to confirm a date for its annual general meeting but it is usually just after the Camanachd Association AGM, so a date in early December is likely.
The club has various committee positions to fill and anyone interested should contact Les Kinvig or Davie Hamilton.
MacQuisten Cup Final
Oban Camanachd P Aberdour P
The MacQuisten Cup Final between Oban Camanachd Under 17s and Aberdour Under 17s at An Aird, Fort William, on Sunday November 21 was postponed as the Fife side was unable to field a team.
Oban Camanachd expressed a preference to contest the trophy, so alternative options are being explored.
Camanachd Association annual general meeting
The Camanachd Association’s annual general meeting will take place via Microsoft Teams on Friday November 26 with at 7.30pm.
Members will be informed the association recorded a surplus despite a huge drop in turnover.
Finance director Daniel Palombo will tell the meeting that the Camanachd Association’s 2020 annual accounts report a turnover of £352,819, a decrease of £261,749 from 2019. However the association reported an operating surplus after tax of £16,440, down from £26,910 in 2019. The association’s reserves increased to £172,852 as at December 31 2020.
There was a drop in the number of adult female and youth registered players which can be put down to the reduced number of fixtures because of covid restrictions. The completed fixtures record was similarly affected.
New Camanachd Association president Steven MacKenzie will use his first annual report to thank everyone involved in the effort to ensure a return to shinty in the face of a global pandemic.
There will also be thanks to all host clubs and Argyll and Bute Council for stepping up to the mark when it was decided to relocate the 2021 Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup Final to Mossfield, Oban.
Chief executive officer Derek Keir will speak of the unprecedented challenges in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic which have had a significant impact on the Camanachd Association.
There are no proposed resolutions to go before the AGM.
It is recommended that individual membership fees for adult, student and youth members and the fee for club and affiliate members remain unchanged.
It is also proposed that competition fees remain unchanged whilst insurance levels return to 2020 rates. They were discounted last season, with the option of a new enhanced personal accident cover rate for adults and youths.
Ross Brown recently stepped down from the role of Camanachd Association director whilst Lyndsay Bradley, a primary school cluster head teacher in Ayrshire, stands for re-election. A UKCC Level 1 shinty coach, Lyndsay Bradley was involved in developing shinty at all levels at Ardnamurchan and is passionate about continuing the growth in the sport.
She has also coached the South Under 14 girls for the past few years and coached the Scotland Under 18s Ladies team for the two previous seasons.
The Camanachd Association is a not-for-profit member-led organisation led by a board elected at the annual general meeting by member clubs and associations.
The 2021 Camanachd Association board comprised of: Steven MacKenzie, president; Burton Morrison, competitions; Lyndsay Bradley, officials; Kirsty Deans, volunteering, safeguarding and UK Anti-Doping; Willie MacDonald, Youth Player Pathway; John Finlayson, communications and facilities – Highland; Roddy McCuish, communications and Ffacilities – West and Central; Daniel Palombo, finance; Ross Brown, coaching and development – equality and inclusion; John MacKenzie, chieftain, and Richard Gall, vice chieftain.
This year’s AGM will be followed by a short session to discuss the 2022 shinty season, the new Camanachd Association Strategy and how everyone can work together to ensure shinty continues to progress.
Newtonmore begin manager search
Newtonmore have started looking for a new first team manager following Orsten Gardner’s decision to stand down.
Orsten took over from PJ MacKintosh at the end of the 2019 season. The club hopes to appoint a successor at next month’s annual general meeting.
Col Glen fundraiser
Col Glen are taking on a challenge to collectively run 2,000km to boost club funds.
The team has an intensive pre-season plan which requires training facilities and equipment as well as travel to and from events.
In an effort to raise funds for this, the players hope to run 2,000km as a team before the end of 2021.
Anyone wishing to donate can do so via a crowd funding page with details on the Col Glen Shinty Club Facebook page.
Col Glen will hold its annual general meeting at Colintraive Village Hall on Friday November 26 at 7pm.
Ballachulish raise money for prostrate cancer research
Ballachulish Shinty Club members are taking part in ‘Movember’ to raise money for Prostate Cancer Research.
One in eight males in the UK will be diagnosed with prostate cancer but early detection means a 98 per cent chance of survival beyond five years. Late detection offers only a 26 per cent chance of survival over the same timeframe.
Details of how to donate can be found on the Ballachulish club’s Facebook page.