Shinty/Hurling: Scots confident ahead of Ireland clash
|2016 Marine Harvest Shinty/Hurling International|
|Venue: Bught Park, Inverness Date: Saturday 22 October 2016 Throw-in: 14:00 BST|
|Coverage: Live on BBC Two Scotland|
Scotland's national shinty team are in confident mood as they prepare to defend their Marine Harvest title.
The shinty/hurling fixture is reverting to a one-off clash, which head coach Ronald Ross believes offers his men a chance to retain the winner's quaich.
"The first game we tend to do better because they've got to adjust as catching a ball is a big part of their game, kicking the ball too," he said.
"But Ireland get used to the rules, so it's more competitive in the second."
The Scots claimed a 24-14 victory in the first outing in Inverness last year, but late points at Croke Park four weeks later saw them lose the second leg while still winning on aggregate.
"Last year at home, we played really well at the Bught Park" explained the former Kingussie forward, who said confidence was key to them losing by such a narrow margin.
"It was really pleasing because normally, when it's a two-legged affair, the second leg we've really struggled."
He added: "We got the goals, we got the points and we had a good lead going into the second half but kind of tailed off a wee bit.
"These things tend to happen, you build up all that momentum and the second half is an anti-climax."
Ross believes his squad this year boasts a good mix and gives him plenty of options when it comes to team selection.
"There's competition for places up there, so if guys aren't performing and playing to their capabilities, we can make changes and that's important in shinty/hurling, because those 80 minutes are intense."
Some of the freshness will come from the new additions - including Newtonmore's Andy Mackintosh, Thomas Borthwick from Kingussie and Lorne Dickie, a Camanachd Cup finalist with Oban.
It is not often two sports can be combined so smoothly.
For this hybrid meeting, each team has 14 players and it is played for 40 minutes each half. You throw in, not up. Scoring varies from three points for a goal, two scoring off the ground from a free or sideline hit and a point for over the bar. And, for hurlers, there is no handling and no kicking the ball.
"The way they play, they attack the ball as they've got like a tennis racquet, so any balls played up they go and win in the air where normally a defender stands behind a forward on a Saturday, so our forwards have to adjust slightly," said Ross.
"We know it's going to be a difficult challenge."
Just as well they are coached by the man nicknamed "Ronaldo of the Glens".
Scotland's senior women's team will this year take the Bught Park field against Dublin's camogie team - the hurling equivalent played by women.
Head coach Stuart Reid explains this will be their biggest test to date "by a mile".
"Every year, we've played we've gone up the levels; we started off played Dublin's junior A team, year after that Down premier/junior, last year Kildare, who are intermediate and this year Dublin are bringing a mixture of their junior A team and their senior team, which is the top level," Glenurquhart player Reid said.
"The ultimate aim is to get an Ireland team to get over, but if we can prove ourselves at a senior level, that's all we can do.
"It'll be a massive test for them, it'll be the highest level they can face, but I'm pretty confident if we prepare them well, they'll be alright."
Kathleen "Missy" Cameron will lead the side in her third appearance for Scotland. The Lochaber stalwart admits it will be tough, but the continued growth of the women's game means they have more strength in depth this year.
"We're expecting a hard, fast and physical game, as always with the Irish," she said.
"We played Dublin a couple of years ago and had a good start then they adapted to the game back and came back against us, so we'll be watching for that happening again."
Having put in a lot of work in training on their fitness, Cameron says their speed should work in their favour when it comes to the game, although she admits their Celtic counterparts will not make it easy for them.
"The defenders are going to have a hard time keeping up with their forwards, but we've got banks and banks of defence, so we should do alright," she added.
Scotland's men's under-21 side will also take on Ireland in a Shinty/Hurling International.