The clash of the ash was firmly audible at Bught Park, Inverness on Saturday for the Shinty-Hurling/Camogie Internationals between Ireland and Scotland – bringing Celtic cousins together through a love of their native Sports.
By Cóilín Duffy
At Bught Park, Inverness
Shinty derives from Hurling, and while both sports have developed different features over the years, there’s no doubt the passion, skill, intensity and physicality of both codes is on an equal par.
It’s said that hurling is the fastest field sport in the World, but bringing it together with Shinty certainly brings a high tempo game, and this was firmly evident on Saturday.
An example of this physicality was the Irish Under 21’s bench which resembled somewhat of an A & E ward on Saturday, as they claimed a first win over Scotland since 2013.
Burst lips, broken ankles, shins and fingers were the order of the day as Conor Phelan and Willie Maher’s side went on to take a comfortable 5-10 to 1-3 win.
One of those goal-scorers, Laois man Ben Conroy was first on the treatment table after a facial injury, following a block from Scotland captain Daniel Madej.
Ireland never trailed in this game and led 2-2 to 0-0 after 20 minutes, with Meath’s Jack Fagan and Conroy netting early goals.
Laois’s PJ Scully and All-Star nominee Austin Gleeson from Waterford were among those who led the charge for the visitors, with Kildare’s Paddy McKenna also outstanding between the posts.
Ireland captain Gerry Keegan from Celbridge in Kildare accepted the Cup after the game.
Joint Under 21’s manager Willie Maher said the squad played like a team that were together for years.
“We really focussed on picking really good hurlers. Once we started the match very well, I think it served us hugely for the final score-line.
“Their attitude was 100 percent, and as you could see from the amount of injuries we got, guys were really putting their bodies on the line, which is very admirable for their country. They represented Ireland with huge honour today.”
Seniors in final game
After a strong win for the Under 21’s, there was much hope for the Irish Senior side in the final game of the day.
Managed by Galway’s All-Ireland Minor winning manager Jeff Lynskey and Antrim native Greg O’Kane, there was strong confidence that the Senior squad would continue their good run of recent years but this failed to materialise.
A strong first half display helped Scotland to a 3-15 to 2-8 win, with Lovat’s Kevin Bartlett impressive, with six two-pointers, including five in the opening half, as Scotland took a 3-13 to 0-4 interval lead.
In mixed weather conditions, Glen MacKintosh, Liam MacDonald, and Fraser Heath fired first-half goals, as the hosts got off to the perfect start.
Laois’s Zane Keenan kept Ireland in touch, but on the restart defences stood firm, with both sides failed to add a score in a 17-minute spell after the break.
Kerry’s Shane Nolan broke the dead-lock with the first of his two goals for Ireland, with Keenan continuing to add points from placed balls.
However, Scotland had done enough to register their biggest win since 2007.
Scotland manager Ronald Ross was delighted with the victory.
“We put in an excellent performance. It was a really exciting game, a close game and obviously we are delighted with the win,” he said.
“The elements really played in our favour, with the wind and the sun in the first half. We really went for it and had a good lead. We needed that lead, because Ireland really came back at us.”
Lynskey accepted his side had to take blame for the loss.
“We have no excuses. In the first half the Scots got the three good goals and we were at sixes and sevens. Usually in this type of game it takes a while for our lads to adapt, particularly when in the rules we can’t catch the ball, and can’t kick it,” he said.
“With the three goals, and the three two pointers off the ground it cost us. Our lads just didn’t perform in the first half.”
Women Shinty team
Earlier, the Scotland Womens Shinty team powered to a 5-4 to 0-1 win over a Kildare Camogie select in testing weather conditions.
Womens Shinty has grown in stature since its formation 15 years ago, and this was evident with the skill on show in this match.
This year’s Camogie team was mainly made up of players from the Kildare side that lost the All-Ireland Intermediate Final last month to Waterford at Croke Park.
Among those involved was Scotland based Down native Alannah Savage, who featured in last year’s game at Pairc Esler in Newry.
Scotland were far too strong for the visitors, as goals from Kirsty Delaney and Laura Gallacher helped the hosts to an 18-point win, with the Scotland team including Wicklow native Niamh Donnelly. Kildare captain Caroline Forde was thrilled with the experience, despite the result.
“Scotland scored three goals in the first six minutes, and then we switched our goalie, putting our county keeper Roisin O’Connell in and it made a big difference.
“The score-line probably didn’t reflect the game truly. A couple of things went against us, but it was a decent game to our eyes.
“It was different to what we expected and it was certainly interesting, and we had the wounds to show it also.
“It’s good and tough. It was brilliant and enjoyable and I would happily do it again.!”
Many bodies battered and bruised in more ways that one after the weekend. The on-field action, matched with a tremendous social occasion as all squads mixed well on Saturday night.
Everyone would do it all again in the morning if we could, and for the Senior mens teams that chance comes around again on November 21st at 4.30pm in Croke Park, as a curtain-raiser to the International Rules test between Ireland and Australia.