Player pool rule threatens the future of youth shinty
The future of youth shinty in Mid Argyll is under threat after the sport’s ruling body enforced a rule limiting the pool of players from which primary school teams can be selected.
Parents and volunteer coaches at Kilmory and Dunadd Junior Camanachd Club say there is a real threat the club could fold after the Camanachd Association told the club in the spring it would be barred from national competition as it breached the upper limit of 150 pupils.
Kilmory and Dunadd Junior Camanachd recruits players from three primary schools – Lochgilphead, Ardrishaig and Glassary – which have a combined roll of around 350.
But from these three schools, the club has just 37 players to choose from, across all age groups.
The Camanachd Association youth committee previously agreed the rule would be relaxed for 2015-16 and 2016-17 to encourage clubs to develop more school-based teams.
That period of relaxation has now ended - and some parents smell a rat.
‘The rule wasn’t enforced until teams like Taynuilt, which is also affected by this ruling, and ourselves started doing well in national competitions,’ said one parent.
‘It’s alright for clubs in the north, where shinty is encouraged in schools. They might have 50 per cent participation, but that’s not the case in Argyll.’
The Camanachd Association’s argument is that the rule means the best players cannot be cherry-picked from a wide pool, but it does not take the level of shinty participation in schools into consideration.
Ailsa Crawford, mum to keen shinty player Kain, said: ‘We have so few players, we don’t even have subs.
‘When someone can’t make a game we have to pull from the younger players.’
There are fears the children will drift away if they are barred from national competitions. Nairn’s mum Susan Jackson explained: ‘Without this challenge, there is a risk the children as players will become stale and lose interest.’
Bute and Taynuilt primary school shinty teams are facing the same problem. Ms Jackson added: ‘The rule is sending out the wrong signals to youngsters who want to play shinty.
‘The long-term impact will sadly be the inevitable death of shinty in Mid Argyll.’
A Camanachd Association spokesperson said: ‘Our schools competition rules are designed to ensure a level playing field for all participating schools and players and as a result will significantly benefit all those taking part.
‘We understand the frustrations of some clubs and we will continue to work with them, and all member clubs, to create further opportunities through existing competitions and our development programme.’
Young players will not be able to play the best teams in Scotland – and they cannot understand why.