Coll The Coll Magazine

Article by Rob Wainwright (2000)

Shinty 2000
Shinty 2000

It is not often that I travel over to the mainland with no car journey at the other end, but travelling back with our removal van last year was one of those rare opportunities. As a result I was able to give Calmac's esteemed catering a miss and went off to try their beer instead. No problems with the quality there and as chance would have it, I was not alone in the bar. It was also one of those rare journeys when the Maclntyres and the Kennedys were to be found with a drink in their hand on the Lord of the Isles. So a very pleasant 2 hours was had.

Talk drifted inevitably on to the Millennium celebrations and I got round to telling Brian about some happy Hogmanays I had enjoyed at the small community of Heaste on Skye. These had been memorable not just for the traditional island New Year habits, but also for the shinty game that took place on the 1st between the top of the village and the bottom. By this time there was a fair bit of froth on our top lips, and in no time a challenge had been issued: East versus West, though it was agreed that the 1st would be a little early in the year.

As a result the pitch was prepared for the 2nd, which involved asking Neil Smith if he could feed his cattle anywhere but on the Cliad pitch that morning. The cowpats were left to make the pitch look more interesting, but the rabbit holes were filled in by a labour force recruited from the multitude of Gallanach guests. The final job was to tie in some uprights to reduce the size of the goals to more shintiesque dimensions, and in no time Coll boasted one of the finest camannach amphitheatres in Scotland.

As people started to turn up, the thorny issue of where the West End ended and the East End began was discussed. Who would the village and the North End play for? What was the North End and why when you turned south at Arnabost did you head to the North End, while turning east took you to the West End or the north road took you to the East End? Confused? So was I. But the teams were soon picked and the Cliad-Grishipoll march seemed to be the divide.

Under the control of referee, Teak Maclntyre, the teams took the pitch, glowering over their hockey sticks. Shinty pros Scotty and Innes sported the real thing while the rest of us had these plastic hockey sticks, kindly provided by a friend at Dunfermline High School. Consequently, every restart was taken by these two, with the short pitch resulting in a fair amount of aerial ping-pong taking place over the heads of the bemused teams below. Since 90% of those involved had not a clue about the rules of shinty, we had a steep learning curve with Teak reining us in every time we strayed. The guidelines he gave us were that you could do anything so long as it did not involve deliberate injury to a member of the opposition. In spite of this there were injuries. The occasional player went down with dung in the eye, an awkward condition if you wore contact lenses, and Scotty stretched his body to limits it did not want to reach, resulting in a knackered knee. Help was at hand in the comely, if less than hygienic stretcher ladies. Moira Maclntyre and Alison Fraser may have looked as if they had just calved a cow in their slightly soiled off-white coats, but their attentions soon had Scotty standing to attention and limping off to goal keeping duties only.

The game passed in a bit of a blur, with an acute oxygen shortage to all parts of my body, brain included, impairing my memories of the play. The large crowd ( Off. Att: 32,473 or thereabouts) enjoyed themselves. It is debatable whether they saw much of the match as the barbecue, mulled wine and booze provided by match sponsors The Famous Grouse and Tennants seemed to divert their attention. The game was relatively clean and certainly cleaner than the paramedics' coats. Two yellow cards for over competitive play had to be shown, not surprisingly, to John Fraser and the author. The second of these resulted in a penalty, which Innes sent flying over the crossbar in a manner that Kenny Logan would do well to imitate. As a search party combed the dump for the missing ball, Innes explained to me in detail how the defender's stick he was using had a more angled head and as a result it was very difficult to keep the ball's trajectory down so it was not really suitable for penalty taking

Play eventually continued, with my vote for Man of the Match going to celebratory chef Colin James for his mazy runs, while the Woman of the Match award was keenly fought over by the battling Emma Grant and the soon-to-be Mrs. Jonathan Tunnell, with honours evenly split. There were some fine goals. I am not sure who scored them, though I have a feeling that Ian Fraser had a brace.

At the end of roughly an hour, the final whistle went, with the Nor-easters coming out worthy winners by 3 goals to 1 over the gracious in defeat Village People Go West team. A match report was filed in the Sunday Times, though I was disappointed that the Oban Times failed to send a reporter over to cover the game. A good time was had by all and it provided our collective livers a much needed rest, even if our lungs weren't that appreciative. All that is left to say is see you same time, same place, next year.

Rob Wainwright
Coll Magazine - Article by Rob Wainwright

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