Read Time:5 Minute, 9 Second


The air is many shades of blue, the manager apoplectic and if there had been a hairdryer handy, it would be heading straight for the star striker’s forehead.

They are blistering half-time scenes that would surely give Sir Alex Ferguson a run for his money, revealed in an ‘All or Nothing’ style documentary which reveals the blood, sweat and fierce passion that fuels the centuries-old Highlands sport of shinty.

As well as going behind the scenes during highly emotional team talks, the no-holds-barred BBC Scotland film explores the deep ties that bind shinty to the small rural communities devoted to it, revealing far more than ‘just’ a hard-hitting game of brutal injuries, crunching tackles and players who, in sharp contrast to some of today’s highly paid football stars, refuse to let injury knock them down.

For amid the eye-watering tackles and occasional on-field bust-ups, the film also spotlights the ‘human’ side to the amateur sport which has glued families and friends together for generations, in some cases even helping to stem the tide of young people leaving rural areas.

Read More: Shinty memories help combat Alzheimer’s disease

And alongside the fierce ‘paint-stripper’ team talks, are scenes of joyful camaraderie, whisky-fuelled celebrations and raucous bus journeys home that accompany a successful league and cup run.

Cameras followed the Badenoch teams of Newtonmore and Kingussie – next door neighbours and bitter rivals – through the highs and lows of the remarkable 2022 season.

With the two sides based less than five miles apart challenging each other for league success, the rough and tumble of an already fearsome derby rivalry took on renewed vigour, further fuelled as injury-battered Kingussie embarked upon an astonishing winning streak.

Eventually the side would go taste grand slam success, the first in the shinty world for two decades and which peaked when the team of locals, most of whom had known each other since primary school, lifted the coveted Camanachd Cup on their home ground, the Dell.

The win sparked joyous celebrations, with crocked players sporting an array of injuries, on crutches and in one case, a neck brace, partying wildly with family and fans.

Former Kingussie president Russell Jones, who features in the programme, said he hoped it would give viewers fresh insight into a sport rooted in the 5th century and which has become embedded in many Highland communities.

“We wanted to open people’s eyes to it,” he said. “It’s difficult to put your finger on why shinty is so important to us; it’s just our life.”

More than a game, passion for shinty is wrapped up in a combination of local pride and family ties: “Most people play for the town or area they are from and it’s unusual for players to move teams,” he added. “You’re representing the community, your village and your town, there’s a lot of pride.”

While tensions run high on the pitch and in the changing rooms, the bruising sport is shown as a powerful force that builds lifelong bonds between players, backroom staff, families and followers, helping to encourage young men to remain in the area rather than leave in search of new lives elsewhere.

Amid the pressure of a cup run, however, the Kingussie players faced a double hit if they failed to progress to the final on their home turf: with the disappointment of losing out, would come the humbling prospect of spending cup final day directing traffic to the car parks.

However, there is intense drive among young players to follow in the footsteps of past generations of their own families: one, James Falconer, faced a nail-biting battle to overcome a horrific injury in time to become the fifth generation of his family in a row to play in the Camanachd Cup final.

Shinty dates to the 5th Century as the traditional battle game of the Highlands clans. Although today regarded as a game played in Highlands and Islands communities – even branded by some as ‘hockey for the Highlands – in the 18th century it was Scotland’s most popular game.

Its combination of ball, stick, goals and rules has led to the sport being attributed as having given birth to golf, ice hockey and even the development of football which borrowed set positions like defender, midfielder and forward from the game.

Read More: New shinty trail offers insight into sport’s history

Today, however, shinty struggles for poor funding, a lack of interest from outside its Highlands stronghold and dwindling numbers of young people, while competition from other sports threatens to lure promising players away.

Aired on Tuesday night, Giving it Stick, was directed by award-winning filmmaker Greg Clark, whose previous documentaries, Real Kashmir FC and Return to Real Kashmir FC followed former Aberdeen and Rangers star Davie Robertson on his move to India to manage a football club in the heart of a danger zone.

Although not a follower of the sport before the documentary, he said he had come to appreciate the distinct role it plays in Highland life and the passion felt by the communities tied to it.

“Shinty was consciously devised to keep men fit and aggressive, strong and to increase clan loyalty so they could beat the other guys if they came under attack,” he said.

“Many people might think it’s 22 men hitting a ball about the park, but it is more than that. It’s about the full community and village identity locked up in sport.

“Depopulation is real in these areas and sport is not just something you watch or play, it’s something that glues communities together.”

Shinty, he added, reflects centuries of Highland life: “Living in the Highlands 200 years ago you had to be really tough and all the community tended to be resilient and needed to work together, and get up when they were knocked down and support each other.

“And there cannot be many sports where five generations have played for the same team.”

Giving it Stick, a Tern Television production for BBC Scotland, is on Tuesday at 10pm.




Source link

Happy
Happy
0 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %
Previous post NFL exec claims Rams-Seahawks was year’s ‘worst officiated game’ as referees face heavy scrutiny: report — The Knowledge Pal
Next post NHS must reform or die, warns Sir Keir Starmer — The Knowledge Pal