Credit: GU Shinty via Facebook

In conversation with Glasgow University Shinty Club

Glasgow University Shinty Club looks forward to what should be a promising new season.

Call it what you will. Most call it shinty. If you want to be accurate, call it camanachd. If you want to be cheeky, call it violent hockey. Or if you would rather be biased, call it the only sport worth playing. In reflection on last season and anticipation of next, The Glasgow Guardian asked the current captains and president of the shinty club about what lies ahead.

Former men’s captain, now president, Rory MacDhiarmaid, who has been in the club for three years, reflected on what he deemed to be the most challenging season yet in terms of competition: “Everyone had stepped up. All in all, we did well and I’m proud of how everything went in the end. We turned up to every game and we were the most consistent fielders, which will hopefully stand us in good stead for next season”. 

Having piloted a new grass training regime at Yoker Peterson Park last year – the home of Glasgow Mid Argyll Shinty Club in Clydebank – the team are optimistic about building on player’s skills from last season. MacDhiarmaid expressed positively, “This year the club has secured funding from GUSA for more grass training at Yoker. Training will run every fortnight before league matches, which will help players practice skills like flinging, blocking and hitting, because the dynamic of the game is different on grass. It will give players more experience and confidence for playing games.”

Cameron Kemp, current men’s captain, also commented on the continuation of grass training and the benefits that it will bring to the team in the long run: “Grass training allows players to get a feel for the full pitch. It allows us to practice hitting the ball as we would during a match and protects players and equipment as we don’t have the correct footwear to train safely on Astro pitches. Playing on different or unsuitable pitches damages our camans [shinty sticks], so we incur additional costs to replace them.”

However, this is not all that Kemp is looking forward to next season. He is hoping for some “more friendlies. This would give players the opportunity to play more as well as have a better feel for the real game dynamics.” He wants, in his own words, “more players, more teams, more shinty”, and – whilst acknowledging that the men’s team still have a strong core from last year – is always looking to recruit new players.

Not to be forgotten is, the women’s team, who won the league last year under the wing of captain Kirsty Macarthur, and are looking to continue this success. With some big shoes to fill, incoming women’s captain Eilidh Mackenzie does not plan to rest on these laurels. She notes that the club are “in a great position, since many of our players from last year are still at university, so the foundations that were laid are fortunately still intact.” Looking forward, Mackenzie says, “To develop the team further, I am really keen to ensure everyone is confident in their ability to do the basics well. The majority of the team had never played the sport at all before coming to university, so investing time in the fundamental skills is important to us.” 

Similar to the men’s team, she also wants to grow the squad: “To ensure a smooth transition in years to come it is essential that we get some new members into the team for the upcoming season. Most of our outreach will be done at the University freshers fair, but we welcome new members at any point throughout the academic year.”

To all three players, shinty is more than just a sport. Admitting that he is surprised that UofG doesn’t promote shinty more as a way of getting more involved in Scottish culture, Kemp stated “Up north, more boys play shinty than football.” He continued, “Shinty hasn’t got the toxic behaviour of rugby and football. There is a continuous effort from everyone to ensure that it is inclusive and we encourage positive relationships within the sport.”

Eilidh Mackenzie also shone a light on the lack of promotion of the sport, however spoke optimistically about the future. 

“As with any sport, shinty is still developing, and it is great to see the number of women’s teams growing. While media coverage of the women’s game has not reached the same extent as the men’s, TV coverage of the MOWI Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup and MOWI Challenge Cup final matches is still a step in the right direction. Support from the men’s teams and wider shinty community is necessary to ensure that the women’s game can keep growing and make use of the momentum that has been built so far. I believe that shinty at university level has an important role in supporting this development and that the individuals who have come down this route have lots to offer to the community as a whole. The future of both men’s and women’s shinty looks very bright!” 

The club is running a taster session at 12 noon on 14 September at Garscube, with regular training sessions on a Wednesday following that. In the words of MacDhiarmaid: “If you want to have a crack at a traditional Scottish sport, then come along.”

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