Scot­land se­niors set bench­mark

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The Oban Times - - Sport -

NOW THE dust has set­tled on this year’s Marine Har­vest shinty/ hurl­ing/camo­gie in­ter­na­tion­als, the three Scot­land head coaches have given The

Oban Times their per­spec­tive on their re­spec­tive matches.

In the pre­vi­ous three se­nior in­ter­na­tion­als be­tween the Scots and the Ir­ish, the los­ing team scored 14 points each time. This year, how­ever, although the Scots reached the 14 point mark, a de­fi­ant, de­fen­sive dis­play helped them to a 14-5 vic­tory at the Bught Park on Satur­day Oc­to­ber 22.

Scot­land head coach Ron­ald Ross knows that his squad had to work hard to lift the Marine Har­vest Quaich.

‘ We dug it out,’ he said. ‘To win the match is al­ways the most im­por­tant thing and we put a lot of ef­fort into our prepa­ra­tions. Fit­ness lev­els are so im­por­tant and we were push­ing for­ward right un­til the end of the game. Our fit­ness didn’t tail off to­wards the end of the match as it has some­times done in the past. We based a lot of our prepa­ra­tion on fit­ness and drills so that we were best pre­pared for what was com­ing. We had 90 min­utes of hard train­ing at the Wed­nes­day ses­sions in the four weeks ahead of the game plus, of course, Sun­day ses­sions. That’s a big com­mit­ment for guys who are also play­ing and train­ing with their club sides. It shows the play­ers’ mo­ti­va­tion and their keen­ness to bridge the gap from be­fore.’

That old Scot­tish stereo­type for be­ing miserly may or may not be de­served but it cer­tainly ap­plied to the home de­fence who gave noth­ing away. There was a tac­ti­cal bat­tle on the touch­line and the Scot­land de­fend­ers were given spe­cific jobs to do and they stuck to their tasks with­out ex­cep­tion. Ire­land for­ward Shane Doo­ley was iden­ti­fied as a dan­ger-man given his pre­vi­ous dis­plays in this fix­ture. He scored three goals and three points when the Ir­ish beat Scot­land 51-23 in En­nis in 2012. He also scored three times in In­ver­ness in 2010 and he net­ted the year be­fore too.

One of shinty’s classi­est play­ers, New­ton­more’s Rory Kennedy, was given the re­spon­si­bil­ity of mark­ing the Of­faly hit­man and other than one point over the bar from a ridicu­lously wide at­tempt on the Ir­ish left, Doo­ley’s threat was nul­li­fied. Ron­ald said: ‘Rory was asked to en­sure Shane Doo­ley wasn’t al­lowed to be as ef­fec­tive as he had been in pre­vi­ous games and he stuck to that task su­perbly. We were solid de­fen­sively over­all. Steven Mac­Don­ald, Fin­lay MacRae, Lee Bain and Andy MacK­in­tosh all did their jobs. They closed the space down to al­low Ire­land very few chances and when they did get a cou­ple of shots at goal, our keeper Stu­art Mac­Don­ald was in great form.’

With four new caps all play­ing their part in the tri­umph, Ross be­lieves the con­tin­u­ous evo­lu­tion of the squad as an im­por­tant fac­tor. ‘There is al­ways a need to freshen up the team each year. The door is al­ways open for any player to break through into the squad. The four debu­tants are all young and they all did well. Andy MacK­in­tosh was sound de­fen­sively and he has lots of pace. Thomas Borth­wick also adapted well. He didn’t get as much time on the ball as he’s used to but he will be bet­ter for this ex­pe­ri­ence. Lorne Dickie and Greg Mathe­son both came off the bench and of­fered some­thing dif­fer­ent. Lorne is com­pletely new to shinty/ hurl­ing but he com­peted well at wing cen­tre. Greg has played be­fore and, even although he’s not fully fit, he al­most scored near the end. It may have been a first game for the se­niors for th­ese guys but I’m sure it won’t be their last.”

Once the dust had set­tled on the game, some mur­mur­ings of dis­con­tent from the Ir­ish camp started to reach th­ese shores.

Ire­land boss Jef­frey Lynskey ac­cepted his play­ers had failed to con­vert a num­ber of op­por­tu­ni­ties. The num­ber of Ir­ish wides reached dou­ble fig­ures whilst they were also waste­ful from frees.

He was also quoted as say­ing that the Ir­ish had con­ceded too much ground to Scot­land un­der the agreed cross- code rules, par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to dead­balls. He high­lighted Scot­land’s abil­ity to score two points from a free on the ground, whilst his side picks up just a point from the tra­di­tional lift­ing the ball and hit­ting it over the bar. He also ques­tioned the rule which forces the Ir­ish keeper to play a goal-hit - or puck- out - from a golf tee on the ground rather than the lift and hit mo­tion.

The Ir­ish hurlers have a proud tra­di­tion and they don’t like los­ing. Fair play to them for that, but some of the com­plaints raised are du­bi­ous. The dead ball rules were in­tro­duced with Ir­ish sup­port as they wished to de­velop their play­ers’ ground hurl­ing skills. Ire­land also get two points for a free played from the ground and some of their play­ers have mas­tered this skill. The goal-hits seemed to pose lit­tle difficulty with keeper Eoin Reilly reg­u­larly strik­ing the ball into the Scot­land half.

Ire­land were also un­happy about David Reidy’s dis­al­lowed goal although tele­vi­sion re­plays sup­ported ref­eree Innes Wood’s de­ci­sion to rule out the ef­fort for off­side.

Th­ese com­plaints are all signs of Scot­land’s pro­gres­sion in this fix­ture as they seemed much less rel­e­vant when our Celtic cousins were se­cur­ing suc­cess on the pitch.

The Ir­ish pre-match plans were dis­rupted when Tip­per­ary icons John McGrath and Noel McGrath were late call- offs. They were an­nounced in the original squad but their Gaelic foot­ball com­mit­ments for their club side went on longer than ex­pected. Ir­ish boss Lynskey went af­ter a num­ber of high pro­file re­place­ments – in­clud­ing Richie Hor­gan and Sea­mus Cal­lanan – but although they were keen, they were un­able to make the trip at such short no­tice. Clare duo Cian Dil­lon and David Reidy an­swered the call but this last-minute change of per­son­nel was far from ideal.

The Ire­land squad were con­vinc­ing win­ners against their U21s coun­ter­parts when they met in prepa­ra­tion to face the Scots which em­pha­sises the step up re­quired to reach se­nior level.

It must be said the Ire­land camp ac­knowl­edged that Scot­land de­served to win the game. How­ever there is no doubt Ire­land will come back stronger in 2017.

There was al­ready talk af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle of which Ire­land U21 play­ers could make the step up to the se­nior side next year and the three or four top tier play­ers will be care­fully se­lected to en­sure they can quickly adapt to the rigours of this con­test.

Ron­ald Ross ac­cepted this is an area where the Ir­ish have some difficulty. ‘Ire­land have to iden­tify play­ers who are suited to the shinty/ hurl­ing rules. You will get some hurlers who use their hands a lot; this will be a big part of their game. Well, th­ese play­ers clearly aren’t go­ing to be suited to what we have where the use of the hand isn’t al­lowed. Ire­land are get­ting very good at do­ing this as although catch­ing the ball and kick­ing the ball comes very nat­u­rally to the hurlers, it never hap­pened in the game this year. They have cut out such silly mis­takes. They have taken sev­eral strides for­ward, mak­ing our task all the more dif­fi­cult.’

There was crit­i­cism that the ab­sence of any goals scored in the game made for a lesser spec­ta­cle than in re­cent years. ‘It’s not as if both sides weren’t try­ing to score, said Ron­ald.

‘They closed us down at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity when we broke for­ward and we did the same to them. In the end it came down to who took the one and two-point op­por­tu­ni­ties and you have to take your chances. We did that. For me, this is new a bench­mark. We’ve al­ways set out to con­tinue to take our per­for­mances to a new level and I be­lieve we’ve done that.’

The back­drop to the clash, which was broad­cast live on BBC2 Scot­land, was a crowd of just un­der 2,000, shinty’s big­gest at­ten­dance bar the Ca­manachd Cup Fi­nal, whilst there was a bulging spon­sors’ hos­pi­tal­ity tent which em­pha­sised the sup­port there is for this fix­ture. The Bught Park pitch was in re­ally good con­di­tion and the short grass aided the home team’s chances.

Ron­ald had lit­tle to say on his own fu­ture as Scot­land boss. ‘I’ll take my time to re­flect as I do ev­ery year,’ he said. ‘It’s far too early to think about next year and there’s still a num­ber of ar­range­ments to be put in place such as where the game will be played.

‘The Ca­manachd As­so­ci­a­tion has a rep­re­sen­ta­tive com­mit­tee which deals with such mat­ters and I’ll speak to them first be­fore any­one else re­gard­ing my own po­si­tion as that is the right thing to do.’

With Scot­land’s re­cent suc­cess set­ting a high bench­mark – three suc­ces­sive wins at the Bught Park - and a wounded Ir­ish squad now seek­ing re­venge, the 2017 en­counter is sure to be as keenly con­tested as ever.

More to come from un­der 21s

SCOT­LAND U21 head coach Al­lan MacRae be­lieves there is more to come from his young squad fol­low­ing their 30-17 de­feat to Ire­land U21 at the Bught Park, In­ver­ness.

The Ir­ish have mainly had the up­per-hand in this fix­ture with Garry Reid’s win in Ire­land a cou­ple of years ago a rare Scot­tish suc­cess. This year’s vis­it­ing squad was strong and in­cluded Tip­per­ary trio An­drew Cof­fey, Tom Fox and Barry Hef­fer­nan.

Al­lan MacRae was pleased with his squad’s dis­play, com­ment­ing, ‘I was de­lighted with the com­mit­ment and ef­fort given by all our play­ers. Our young team com­peted well against a tal­ented and skil­ful Ir­ish squad who were boosted by their three top flight Tip­per­ary play­ers.’

Ire­land had built up a 19-9 lead in the game be­fore Scot­land staged a se­cond half fight­back which took them back to 19-17. Al­lan said: ‘The way in which we fought back to within two points in the se­cond half showed char­ac­ter and, at that stage, the re­sult hinged on a cou­ple of missed frees from us.’

The Scot­land squad was one of the youngest in re­cent years which augers well for forth­com­ing in­ter­na­tional meet­ings.

Al­lan added: ‘ We in­cluded six play­ers aged 18 years or un­der so the fu­ture looks bright and ev­ery­thing bodes well for the game next year.’

Women stay on learn­ing curve

A 12-2 re­verse against Dublin meant Scot­land women’s head coach Stu­art Reid tasted in­ter­na­tional de­feat for the first time in four years and it’s not an ex­pe­ri­ence he en­joyed.

The Scots have mea­sured their progress by play­ing against stronger Ir­ish op­po­si­tion each year but this year’s Dublin squad was to prove to be their stiffest test for a num­ber of years.

Stu­art said: ‘ We are dis­ap­pointed to have lost as the ladies put in a tremen­dous amount of work, both tech­ni­cally and phys­i­cally, in the lead up to the game. This was the first time any of our play­ers had been ex­posed to the top level of camo­gie and it took us a while to ad­just to the speed and phys­i­cal­ity of the Dublin play­ers. Once we did that, we ac­quit­ted our­selves very well and I couldn’t fault any of them for ef­fort or de­sire and I thought our de­fence, in par­tic­u­lar was, out­stand­ing un­der se­ri­ous pres­sure.

‘We only scored two points though which is nowhere near enough to win a game so we can have no com­plaints about be­ing beaten as Dublin thor­oughly de­served their win.’

Stu­art sees the game as be­ing part of a pro­gres­sion which will help the de­vel­op­ment the ladies game in the long run and his side will be bet­ter for the ex­pe­ri­ence. Our per­for­mances over the past few years, and the pro­gres­sion of women’s shinty, shows this is the level we need to be op­er­at­ing at reg­u­larly to progress as a sport. The more we can test our­selves against the best, the bet­ter we will be and we will be us­ing ev­ery­thing we have learnt this year to help progress the women’s game in gen­eral and to pre­pare our­selves bet­ter for next year’s re­turn match in Dublin.’

Pho­to­graph: Neil Pater­son.

Ac­tion from the re­cent shinty/hurl­ing in­ter­na­tional hled at Bught Park, In­ver­ness. Ire­land’s Danny Cullen and Scot­land’s Roddy Mac­don­ald.

Scot­land head coach Ron­ald Ross.

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