MacPhail

The Oban Times - - Letters - AN­GUS MACPHAIL an­gus­macphail@ya­hoo.co.uk

WITH spe­cific re­gards to play­ing a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment, peo­ple of­ten com­ment: ‘It must be won­der­ful to be born with such ta­lent.’

As I al­ways re­ply, play­ing a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment for me and for most has very lit­tle do to with ta­lent. The pri­mary fac­tor lead­ing to the abil­ity is be­ing given the chance to learn in the first place, closely fol­lowed by en­cour­age­ment at home, the de­sire to learn and be­ing able to en­joy and fo­cus on the process.

Take any one of th­ese in­gre­di­ents out of my time­line and I would ei­ther not have started play­ing the ac­cor­dion, or would have given up when the in­evitable ob­sta­cles and dif­fi­cul­ties vis­ited the jour­ney.

As with mu­sic, so with High­land games and one of the ris­ing stars of that dis­ci­pline is be­gin­ning to show the fruits of th­ese same fac­tors.

What Gor­don Con­nell did for me and count­less other ac­cor­dion play­ers from Tiree, Shaun Bate, from Oban, is do­ing for 18-year- old High­land games ath­lete Murdo Master­son of Dun­beg.

Sim­i­larly, he has strong sup­port from his par­ents, has the hunger to learn and is putting the time and fo­cus into train­ing and prac­tice. Murdo is nat­u­rally a big, strong lad, but re­move any of the in­gre­di­ents above and he would not be able to throw a ham­mer the length of him­self, far less dis­tances that put him among the top of his age group in the coun­try.

Like Gor­don, Shaun has never charged a penny for his time and ex­per­tise but, along with his good friend Jock Ross, coaches purely be­cause of his pas­sion for the sport and for the plea­sure of pass­ing that on to oth­ers.

I re­ferred to Murdo and his suc­cess at the Lorne High­land Games a few weeks ago, and his achieve­ments de­serve fur­ther high­light­ing.

Last week­end at the Stone­haven High­land Games, Murdo threw the light ham­mer (16lb) 135 feet and one inch.

This broke a ground record in the un­der-25 age group that had stood since 2004.

Such was the fierce level of com­pe­ti­tion on the day that 10 min­utes later, fel­low young star, 24-year- old, James Dawkins broke it again with a huge throw of 137 feet and two inches.

To put Murdo’s throw in per­spec­tive, the win­ning throw in the 2016 Scot­tish Cham­pi­onships at Cri­eff – which in the High­land games world is ‘the one to win’ – was 139 feet and one inch’ from cham­pi­onship win­ner, Scott Rider.

Murdo’s throw of 135 feet and one inch for an teenager who has only been throw­ing for four years is re­mark­able and good enough on the right day to win any com­pe­ti­tion against the best in the world.

His over­all per­for­mance so far this sea­son has meant that he is al­most neck and neck in points with James Dawkins for the Glen­fid­dich Qual­i­fy­ing Heavy Events Cham­pi­onship for un­der-25s.

There are many events still to be com­peted for this year so the end is still a long way off.

Murdo may not win this year, and whether he does or not is of less im­por­tance than the great achieve­ments he is des­tined to at­tain in his long-term fu­ture in the sport if he con­tin­ues con­sis­tently and care­fully train­ing to­wards his goals.

How­ever, al­ready he has bro­ken new ground for some­one of his age and this should be recog­nised along with the gen­eros­ity and skill of his coaches. There is no greater gift than the gift of time.

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