Shinty Hurling Sunshine Victory: International games at Bught Park

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

 

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Sweet VICTORY!! for home team Scotland, over a class act Ireland

On the afternoon of Saturday, the 20th of October, there I was being less than useful. I was at home, looking out the window, seeking momentum and inspiration. It was a pretty decent day outside, and the last Saturday of the year before the turning back of the clocks the next weekend spelled out the oncoming months of dark blah drudgery to come.

How was I celebrating this potential last chance of sunshiney goodness? Fucking around on Facebook, naturally. Doing nothing much in particular except for promising myself that in the next couple of hours I’d have to get out and soak up at least some of those fine, fine rays of warmth and light. Yet there I was, inside looking out, and not changing that in any great hurry.

I needed inspiration. I needed divine – or at least outside -intervention. And then, for all its clawing, drag your life away from you dumb-fuckery – [how good did that coffee that friend posted about taste? The barista sure did know how to make a good looking leaf with the foam! What small-minded mean stupidity was Donald Trump up to today – let’s get outraged! Emancipation is but a witty, biting meme away!…]

Out of all this, a friend actually did something remarkable – one of those things that keeps one keeping on with FB – and genuinely helped the situation at hand.

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Not very good pictures, but the aim was to show the packed stands/ the size of the crowd

There they were in the photo, beer in hand in the stand at Bught Park, watching the International crossover game and posting their happiness for the good (or the jealousy, I can’t read minds) of others.

The Scottish were playing Shinty, the Irish Hurling, but there they were, playing together – or I should say against each other – out there in the sun, just a short walk away. A genuine option to get me off of my arse was presented. How mean of them! Decision time.

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The Cup on offer was a communal size Quaich, glass-bottomed and all, for those with a jaunty historical or Jacobean bent among you

I had missed the start of the game, but I could still see a bit of it, so, thinking how I like the game, and thinking of you good people and this review, off I went to explore.

First thing to note was that I wasn’t the only one that was keen on the game. Actually, no, the first thing to note was that it was £15 to get in. I know that it was an international, and that it was popular, and a good quality game, so maybe I really shouldn’t baulk at such a price. Whether I should or not, I did. I huffed, and puffed, and bemoaned like a fucking champ, but after all my whinging for a discount seeing I’d missed a swathe of the game, I paid anyway. If the Scottish defence was as good as that of the people in the ticket stall, then there’d be a good chance of sweet, sweet victory on this fine sunshine day.

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Action shots!!

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And, to cut a chronological path across the event with the same brazen disrespect that saw the rise of Quentin Tarantino, there was victory to be had this day!!

I put it up here front and centre, because of (to court bad form by bringing up a sore subject) the nature of Scottish sporting performances of late. The idea of a victory right now being a rare and precious thing. Andy Murray’s hip has sent him not only back in the tennis rankings, but back at the BBC from being “Britain’s finest” to “Scotland’s own” (others have noticed this, too, BBC, ya fuckers!! – don’t think that that haven’t!!). There was also the way in which the Rugby team, bless them, found new and incredibly inventive ways last year to lose the unlosable game in the dying seconds against Australia.

The national football team having the week before been summarily thumped by the non-titans of the sport in Israel (for fucks sake, people! Israel! Not Spain, or Brazil, or Germany or after the World Cup this year, even Croatia or – dare I say it – England. But fucking Israel got out a forgotten can of Whoop-Ass from the back of the cupboard and opened it up on Scotland. Of all the….)

Calm blue ocean. Calm blue ocean. And this is why I put the news of the victory up front and centre.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Ireland, and the Irish, but to have a win, and in an awesome sport like this – it didn’t re-balance all of the above, but God Damn it was a start!

Actually on that, and to get back into some sort of semblance of chronological order, as well as the actual day being reviewed, it was a cracking game.

To set the scene, the grandstands were packed, and every man, women, and their dog – literally, here’s the evidence – was up and out for the day.

Evidence of dogs. We try to back up our claims (sometimes) with evidence at The Nettle

 

Having covered the Highland Games and the Baxter’s/ MacMillan’s charity Marathon, it was no surprise at all to see the same sideshow stalls and blow-up rides back out at Bught Park.

Those carnies must love Bught Park events – they can’t keep away from them, apparently. However, the kids were still out there in force, bouncing or throwing stuff, smiles on their faces and badly made fluffy toy prizes in hand. Who’s to begrudge such family fun- not the parents, they love such diversion (I didn’t see the cost, so let’s go with that).

With the kids covered in this way, everyone was settled in for the day with something to see, do, and look forward to. I was with the majority, beer in hand and eyes out on the field.

The Carnies are back at Bught Park. Did they ever actually leave?…

 

Actually, to ‘Go Tarantino’ again on you, I mentioned that I did miss some of the action. Both for being there late as well as grabbing a wee beer or 2.

One of the things that I very obviously missed was how the Scottish Captain came to be a blood soaked mess. The bits of the game that I saw were played in a genuinely good spirit. In the same vein as a Scottish victory, the game was noticeably divergent from many seen at the moment in that it was genuinely played in a good spirit, and with what the old school punters would say ‘sportsmanship.’

Sportsmanship. It does still exist

 

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Then again shinty is one of those games where a little blood spill carnage can actually happen by accident and in the natural course of events. I wasn’t ‘Johnny on the spot’ for that significant event, sorry, so I am going to flagrantly make it up and say that it was an accident with two players just going for the ball. That’s the usual thing to say in these circumstances anyway (ask any players who are going to be reported for their behaviour. It’s like it’s a pre-programmed response in such situations – “No, Sir, he most definitely didn’t line me up and splatter my nose all over my face. We were both focused on the ball, and it kind of just happened”), so I’m going to stand on tradition and ceremony for that one.

For the game, and for the fact that Ireland were playing, I can’t help but have The Pogues song comes to mind, with: “Their feet they hardly touched the ground, The speed was so amazing!”

This was definitely true at the start of play, but I have to be reasonably honest here and say that by the end of the game the speed and fierce run at all costs all the time all over the ground had ground down to that best described as ‘strategic bursts.’ The fact is that it’s a fucking brutal sport on the body. You can get splattered, but you can also get run ragged. Right up until the end everyone gave it their all, on both sides, and when the ball was anywhere near them they ran and jostled and scragged and nudged and ran some more. But when off the ball, by the end being able to set yourself in a strategic position on the field was the order of the day for those not directly involved in the action. Fair, too, if you’d seen the effort put in.

And this is one of the things to love about this game. It has skill, courage, speed, agility, physicality all bundled into the one game. I know that football is ‘The Beautiful Game’ and all that, but I’d love to see that talented but ego-driven twat Neymar out there on the shinty field, shitting bricks and diving like he does. That shit doesn’t get respect from me, and nor does it out on the shinty field either. It’s not as popular a game, but by fuck it’s one I can respect a lot more for the people playing it. Neymar – respect your talent, but you and other twats like you are fucking up the game your milking millions from. For that, you suck. Anyway, I digress…

The game ebbed and flowed, in the way that people writing these things down like to describe it. Not only do we love the term ‘ebbed and flowed’ – no matter the context – in actual practice, when it is true like here, it makes for a seriously engaging and entertaining game.

Up until near the end, Ireland were leading and holding their own, but a bit of class and holding of the nerves late in the game saw Scotland sneak their noses past them to gain the lead with only a few minutes to go, and from there, it was on!

The crowd were vocal, trying to get their respective teams home. The players tried to eek one more little burst run or scrimmage win out of their legs and sticks. Ireland set to the task and for the last 5 minutes threw everything at the task at hand. They repeatedly launched the ball into attack. There was a moment where a player pegged the ball from way, way out on the wing near the grandstand, and it got so close to the line that everyone in the crown shit a brick and thought for a moment that it had been the miracle Hail Mary that just got over the line and sealed a snatch-back victory. But the Scottish defence, taking inspiration from those in the ticket booth beforehand (really not) held firm. Stalwarts. That’s another cliché word to throw in at this time that is actually, happily, appropriate.

The crowd, urging their side on

 

Right at the death-knell there was one final push forward assault from the Irish and people collectively held their breaths in the crowd – this is the sort of thing a good game can do.

Some mad, gifted, or canny fucker in the Scottish defence took it upon themselves to do what seemed to be the most ‘have to get this just right or else’ action ever. Among the masses collecting on the spot he held firm, and with both hands on the stick well above his head, bashed the crap out of the ball out of mid-air. And for all the pressure, he hit the sweet spot perfectly, launching the ball out even further than it had come, over the side-line just over the half-way line. Legend status, and I’m hoping free pints for the night for him all achieved in one cracking last second moment of beauty.

The whistle went moments after, and the players… well, in Hollywood they would bounce up and down, cry, do cartwheels, run all over the ground, that sort of shit. Instead, they could hardly raise a gentle trot to shake the hands of the opposition players. But that they did, all congratulating each other on a good game, which it was.

Damn I enjoyed watching this. I have been meaning to get along to the local shinty for the last couple of summers and for some reason never quite made it. I’m glad I got up off my arse and into the sun for this one though for a bit of classy shinty hurling sunshine victory. Thanks friend on Facebook! Thanks inherent guilt of wasting the last precious warm of summer!

I was also glad it was others playing it. Being on this side of the white line with beer in hand was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon in Inverness. Having a Scottish victory was the icing on the cake. Here’s hoping other National teams take heed of how it’s done!

And that, my friends, is how it’s done