The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

Dumping his gloves for a caman proved perfect for Michael

- By Euan McArthur

Michael Fraser swapped football for his beloved shinty eight years ago – and has barely looked back since.

Former Inverness goalkeeper Fraser, who also enjoyed spells between the sticks for Motherwell, Ross County and Birkirkara in Malta, returned to his first-love sport back in 2015 when he signed for Glenurquha­rt, on the banks of Loch Ness.

Fraser, now 40, intended all along to go back to swinging the caman once his days as a No. 1 goalie had finally come to an end.

There’s just something about sweating buckets in front of 100 or so diehard fans at Blairbeg Park on a Saturday afternoon that Fraser prefers, compared with his former career where he was tasked with thwarting top-flight strikers in the Scottish Premiershi­p.

And the ex-Caley Thistle fans’ favourite, who has successful­ly converted into a midfielder for The Glen, is adamant it’s been a truly refreshing experience.

Fraser said: “I always preferred shinty. Looking back, football was actually frowned upon in Glenurquha­rt when I grew up.

“I played shinty up until I was 17 before signing for Inverness. It was my real passion growing up in the village of Drumnadroc­hit.

“Sure, I enjoyed a good career as a goalkeeper in Scotland and Malta. I maybe miss the buzz of when Inverness welcomed either Celtic or Rangers to the Caledonian Stadium in front of the live Sky TV cameras.

“It’s certainly a far cry from when you go with Glenurquha­rt up to Skye in the pouring rain and mud and some of your team-mates haven’t turned up, and you’re trying to scrape a team together on the morning of the game.

“But there is a better etiquette surroundin­g shinty. There’s no pressure because there’s practicall­y nothing at stake compared to football.

“You just turn up to play with a bag and a stick with your team-mates. There’s a certain honesty that football probably lacks these days.

“For example, there is no playacting from the players. The referee is much-better respected and there’s no swearing.

“Funnily enough, you could break someone’s leg on the shinty pitch but get into more trouble if you were to swear at the referee.

“When you look at how Daizen Maeda got sent-off for Celtic against Atletico Madrid last week, it’s quite clear that certain players will do anything to get an opponent red-carded in football.

“Overall, shinty is much healthier. We can knock lumps out of each other for 90 minutes but then all go for a beer in the local village afterwards.”

Fraser has become immersed again in the sport he was introduced to at an early age and thrives on coaching Glenurquha­rt Under-12’s.

He accepts The Glen will never rival big-guns like Newtonmore and Kingussie but that won’t stop him from demanding the best from his team-mates, which can sometimes be a source of frustratio­n.

He added: “It’s not been an entirely easy transition from football back to shinty.

“I was maybe too optimistic about what to expect. It’s about changing the mentality.

“I went from profession­al football to an amateur sport overnight. So I’m playing with guys where shinty is not their livelihood.

“We would shout at each other every day in football. I was so used to that but now the boys will ask me why are you so competitiv­e? I just tell them that it was instilled into us at football.

“I just want the best for Glenurquha­rt (who finished second in the recently-completed Mowi National Division, shinty’s equivalent to football’s Championsh­ip). I haven’t

Michael Fraser in action for Glenurquha­rt. managed to win anything. I’ve played in one final, and lost a few semi-finals, but I won’t stop striving for bigger things.”

Fraser is currently enjoying an end-of-season break after the competitiv­e action ended in October but will gear up to go again for pre-season training in January.

Glenurquha­rt enjoy a healthy local rivalry with Strathglas­s and nearby Lovat, and Fraser insists the strong sense of community is something that spurs him on.

He said: “It’s about giving something back to the community. There’s a kind of unwritten rule that you should never leave your own village to go and play for another team.

“One lad, Cameron Bremner, bucked the trend by going from Glenurquha­rt to Kingussie.

“Personally, I couldn’t have done it but I can understand why he did as Kingussie are winning everything these days.

“Regardless, I just love the way it’s pretty much village versus village. It might seem old-fashioned to those on the outside, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

Kingussie raised a treble yell as an exciting 2023 shinty season drew to a close, winning the Mowi Premiershi­p, the MacTavish Cup and shinty’s biggest prize of all, the Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup.

Both Kyles Athletic and Newtonmore remained in the title race until the end of the season, but Beauly and Glasgow Mid Argyll are relegated to the Mowi National Division.

Their places are taken by National Division champions Lochaber and runners-up Glenurquha­rt, whilst Bute are promoted after a perfect league season, winning all 12 of their Mowi South Division 1 games.

Meantime Oban Camanachd can take satisfacti­on from lifting both the Artemis Macaulay Cup, denying Kingussie a second-successive Grand Slam, and the Scottish Sea Farms Glasgow Celtic Society Challenge Cup.

Badenoch are Women’s Camanachd Associatio­n National Division winners for the thirdsucce­ssive time. But Skye Camanachd took the coveted Mowi Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup, beating Glasgow Mid Argyll in the final.

The Mowi shinty/hurling internatio­nals returned after a fouryear absence, and the Scotland men’s squad took plenty encouragem­ent despite going down 22-14 to a strong Ireland side at Newry.

Scotland women returned home following convincing wins over a West Cork select and Carbery Camogie.

With brown trout now out of season many river anglers will turn their attention to the grayling.

After the first frosts, the fish will often shoal up and substantia­l catches can be made when the conditions are right. On mild days the grayling can be tempted to come up for a dry fly and the Red Tag is one to have in your box.

Worcesters­hire’s Martyn Flynn designed it for fishing in the north country rivers of England. But its success is not limited to south of the border.

The hook is a Dohiku-301 size-14 and the thread is Black Uni 8/0. The tail is Crimson Wool and the body is Peacock Herl.

The rib is Medium Gold Wire and the hackle is two turns of Red Game Cock.

■ The regular stockings are really paying dividends now at East Kilbride’s High Cleughearn Trout Fishery.

This fishery is very child-friendly and is a great supporter of bringing children into fly fishing.

Junior angler Ciaran Duffy returned seven rainbow trout on lures, brothers Harry and Oliver Milne both caught their first rainbow on the fly, while Graham Dempster had 12 rainbows fishing Flybox Eggstasy Peach Worms under the indicator.

■ Regular anglers at Blanefield’s Carbeth Trout Fishery have been commenting on the pulling power of the rainbow trout, so it would be wise to use strong leader material.

David Woods used his White Squirmy Worm to land 15, Gavin Glen had 16 on a Black Beetle and Iain Black returned six on a Green Egg.

Jim Gilmour used a Yellow Wotsit to return 12, Brian Corewyn used a blue Damsel to catch six and James Boyle returned 12 over two sessions using a Yellow Dancer and a Black Damsel.

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