Glasgow shinty is being revived from the grassroots

Glasgow Kelvin shinty side
Glasgow Kelvin shinty side

Having suffered the demise of so many senior teams, shinty in Glasgow is being revived by a steady growth at grassroots level over the last 15 years.

It is all a direct result of the Central Scotland Youth Shinty Association (CSYSA), which has more than 100 primary school children competing in local structured indoor and outdoor shinty leagues.

Teams from Coatbridge, Strathkelvin, Milngavie & Bearsden, Aberdour, Edinburgh and Glasgow meet monthly throughout the year and play in under-8, under-10 and under-12 leagues.

This structure has led to a conveyor belt of young shinty talent that is now, in a positive way, impacting on the future of the game.

The biggest beneficiary of this youth policy is shinty itself, with older players, who went through the CSYSA leagues in the early years, now playing in five senior teams.

In the west, Glasgow Mid Argyll has both its first and second teams full of home grown players. Recently, Glasgow Mid Argyll have been in the enviable position where they have had to manage the expectations of juvenile players wanting to get a game in the second team but have no places available. All the young players have progressed through the CSYSA grassroots system.

In the east, Aberdour's fantastic emergence on to the shinty scene is also built on this CSYSA programme. Changed days, indeed

When you look back, Glasgow hosted numerous teams made up of ex-pats from Argyll and the Highlands. Teams like Glasgow Skye, Glasgow Cowal, Glasgow Inveraray and, more recently, Glasgow Highland. Sadly all, including the famous Glasgow Police, have folded, with only Glasgow Mid Argyll remaining.

It is genuinely with a tinge of sadness that I reflect on the demise of a general shinty community in Glasgow that, when I came to the city at first, was vibrant and strong.

When I reflect on this, I note that missing from the core was the investment in grassroots shinty. The "grow your own" policy was never really part of the Glasgow Society psyche and, for many years, teams were always fully dependant on shinty players from the north.

Glasgow Gaelic School shinty players
Glasgow Gaelic School play in regular age-level matches

But things could be changing! It was probably never envisaged when this league was set up that there would be a day when the constant supply of new, up-and-coming shinty players would outstrip the demand from existing clubs.

The ongoing success of the CLYSA continues. Could this mean that Glasgow and Edinburgh could have enough players to set up Junior clubs in the next few years?

It's a nice situation to have and, in truth, we may well have to in order to cater for the numbers of players wanting to play shinty. The challenge is to ensure that we have a structure that gives clear pathways into senior shinty for all.

Glasgow is not quite in that position yet, but the recently formed Glasgow Kelvin Camanachd juvenile team might just be the seedling of the growth of shinty in the city once again. This can only be seen as a positive step for shinty in Glasgow that will augment and support existing clubs.

Just over 10 years ago, Aberdour were formed - a shinty team in Fife? It had its sceptics, but through determination and with the right structures in place, and support from the shinty community, Aberdour are firmly on the shinty map. Could Glasgow Kelvin be the next team emerging from the CSYSA conveyor belt?

Glasgow Kelvin was formed this year with the support of the CSYSA and the Camanachd Association and take their name from one of the former Glasgow clubs from the 60s - and they use the original club badge. Players from the Glasgow area play with the club, in particular Strathkelvin and the Glasgow Gaelic School, who have more than 60 players involved in primary shinty.

As always, there are challenges. In Glasgow, the drop-out rate from shinty is alarming.

With so many competing sports, shinty players, when they make the transition to secondary school, all too often drop out of shinty and go on to other sports. Glasgow is not alone with this problem and maybe this is a topic for anther blog!

Lastly, my aspiration is that shinty reaps the benefits of the hard work and effort of all the army of volunteer coaches, fund raisers, committee members and parents who give their time and effort for free to see the sport develop in the central belt. If existing teams get stronger and new teams evolve, surely that must be a result for shinty!

I leave you with this thought. Imagine Glasgow Mid Argyll made up of all former players from the CSYSA league and from the Glasgow area winning the Glasgow Celtic Society Cup. Achievable?

Time will tell, but one thing's for sure, shinty in Glasgow is now miles better!

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