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BBC Alba begins its coverage of the closing stages of the Camanachd Cup (the 'Scottish Cup') today with live coverage of Lovat -v- Kyles Athletic at 4pm.  For Sky subscribers it is channel 169 (or thereabouts!)

The Camanachd Cup is the sports blue riband event.  Travel challenges meant that it was played on a regional basis for many decades from its inception in the 1890s, with the final bringing together the 'champions' of the north and south.  Eventually, in the 1980s, the north clubs, rightly feeling they had more strong teams in their area, pushed successfully for an open draw.  Sod's law kicked in and the first 'open' final, in 1983, featured two south sides, Kyles Athletic and Strachur; Kyles won 3-2 and I remember being there to see it. 

Over those many decades of regional play, Kyles were as often as not the southern qualifiers; they hail from the villages of Kames and Tighnabruaich on the shores of the Kyles of Bute.  This also means that they are one of the three most successful teams in the history of the competition (the others are Spey valley neighbours and arch-rivals, Newtonmore and Kingussie)  

Lovat have won the cup just twice, in 1953 and again in 2015, on both occasions beating Kyles.  I attended the second of these in Oban.  Chatting to a disappointed Kyles fan on the train heading back to Glasgow, he ruefully observed, "Typical Lovat!  You play them off the park...and they beat you!"  That day, Lovat won 2-1.

Kyles haven't won the cup since a high scoring 6-5 win over fellow Argyllshire side, Inveraray, in 2012.

The second semi-final is next Saturday, but it looks as though it will be broadcast as a recording tomorrow week.  It pits Kingussie against Oban Camanachd.  The defending champions, Kinlochshiel, whose success last year was their first ever, have already been eliminated.

Despite two national divisions of league competition having been established many years ago as travel around the Highlands became more easy, the 'Scottish', a knock out cup still, retains its top spot in shinty fans interest and affections - an interesting bucking of a trend in some other sports, soccer and rugby league included.

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Watched a bit of this one. If I'm near BBC Alba at the time, I'll try and catch next week's semi final as well.

Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life. (Terry Pratchett)

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Why is Shinty not popular in Scotland compared to Ireland as Scotland has the near same size population yet only supports Football widespread and Rugby 2nd and that's only in Edinburgh, Borders and a bit in Glasgow yet Ireland gets great crowds for Hurling, GAA Football, Soccer and Rugby Union.

You think they support it as a national sport in the summer.

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8 hours ago, EggFace said:

Why is Shinty not popular in Scotland compared to Ireland as Scotland has the near same size population yet only supports Football widespread and Rugby 2nd and that's only in Edinburgh, Borders and a bit in Glasgow yet Ireland gets great crowds for Hurling, GAA Football, Soccer and Rugby Union.

You think they support it as a national sport in the summer.

It's not as good.

"We'll sell you a seat .... but you'll only need the edge of it!"

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9 hours ago, EggFace said:

Why is Shinty not popular in Scotland compared to Ireland as Scotland has the near same size population yet only supports Football widespread and Rugby 2nd and that's only in Edinburgh, Borders and a bit in Glasgow yet Ireland gets great crowds for Hurling, GAA Football, Soccer and Rugby Union.

You think they support it as a national sport in the summer.

Hurling is only really big in a few counties in Ireland and only played at a decent level by half a dozen at most. In the majority Gaelic Football is king and in many Hurling is barely played. A couple of counties play both to a decent level, like Cork, but in most one of Hurling or Gaelic Football is top dog and given priority by the county board, largely depending on what is traditionally played and what they are good at.

Soccer is huge in support and players but is somewhat of an oddity that few follow it domestically. Crowds are fairly small and more probably travel to England and Scotland on a weekly basis than watch domestic teams. Everyone talks about the Premier League, very few even refer to any domestic club.

RU again isn't really that big in much of the country. Big crowds for internationals and some Pro16 games, such as Leinster v Munster, but it isnt particularly widely played outside of some schools and pockets in areas of Dublin, Belfast and Limerick (and a few others). I'm guessing there are a fair few parallels with Scotland there.

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11 hours ago, EggFace said:

Why is Shinty not popular in Scotland compared to Ireland as Scotland has the near same size population yet only supports Football widespread and Rugby 2nd and that's only in Edinburgh, Borders and a bit in Glasgow yet Ireland gets great crowds for Hurling, GAA Football, Soccer and Rugby Union.

You think they support it as a national sport in the summer.

Your simple question, EggFace, potentially requires a fairly complex answer.

I have played some organised shinty.  I have never played organised hurling, but used to play it informally on a Sunday afternoon, with the Irish, on the Downs, the wonderful green open space in Bristol, so popular for active and passive recreation.  I had first been attracted to hurling by seeing the All-Ireland final on TV for a few years in the mid-1960s.  BBC had recently launched BBC2, and needed material to fill the schedule; it may also have been using the nascent channel to get it in British heads that the concept of playing sport on a Sunday afternoon was quite normal, as Catholic-oriented countries demonstrated (Sunday league, 40-overs-a-side cricket would soon follow)

As a Scot, I hesitate to say this, but Griff's simple "It's not as good" reply could have some merit, in my humble opinion!  There is a wonderful freedom about hurling primarily because, other than throw it, you can propel the ball in just about any way; shinty is more restrictive. 

I have lately returned to following hurling through the medium of satellite TV and feel it is not as good as in my carefree teen years in Bristol.  Am I just being a grumpy old seventy-something?  Quite possibly!  However, there seems more of an emphasis on longer range shooting, rather than running with the ball balanced on the stick.  Tactically, it is superior now, but I sense, as a spectacle, it may have lost something.  But it is still a great game.

However, I think the main reply to your question, EF, comes in three parts - cultural, demographic and economic.  Scotland is not a country of a single culture.  Shinty is the sport of the Gaelic community, so its home has always been in the Highlands and Western Islands.  As an interesting (well, to me!) aside, I note that, as one of the mainstays of that culture - the language - declined, it shrank back to the western isles as a tongue in everyday use, whereas any decline in shinty tended to be in the opposite direction; it was the Western isles - Bute and Skye excepted - that gave up on it, though it has now been successfully reintroduced to Lewis.  So, shinty is not really indiginous to the more populated parts of Scotland, such as the industrialised central belt and the flat lands of the east, Dundee and Aberdeen included.

Demographically, even within the Highlands, it has always been the sport of the rural community.  So Inverness, the one significantly sized centre of population in the Highlands, does have a shinty club which fields two adult teams, but no other clubs within the city; there are quite a few shinty clubs near Inverness, but all in freestanding small towns or villages.  After Inverness, you drop to places the size of Oban (c 8,500 pop) or Fort William (c 7,000 with adjacent villages); both these have more than one shinty club so that both places probably field four teams each on a Saturday afternoon.  All this is, demographically, in stark contrast to the sorts of places where hurling thrives.  The places are bigger and include urban centres; for instance, the great Glen Rovers, home club of the legendary Christy Ring, are a Cork city club.

And finally, don't overlook the stark economic facts of playing a stick-and-ball game as opposed to just a ball game, like soccer.  A shinty stick for an adult might set you back the best part of £60.  So for a team (12 on field, and, say, 3 subs) to begin a match, their club has needed an outlay of £900.  That's quite a bit for a village sports club, especially given that the sticks (incidentally, called a caman in both Scots and Irish Gaelic) do break from time to time.

I hope that answers your question, at least to some degree. 

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Excellent reply Thank You 🙂

I also remember reading Shinty being played in England that's how you have 2 Football Clubs in Nottingham with Forest being a Shinty Club who would set up a Football Club and Notts County being the County Cricket Club but I could be wrong.

Never the less thank you that excellent reply.

Edited by EggFace
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13 hours ago, Damien said:

Hurling is only really big in a few counties in Ireland and only played at a decent level by half a dozen at most. In the majority Gaelic Football is king and in many Hurling is barely played. A couple of counties play both to a decent level, like Cork, but in most one of Hurling or Gaelic Football is top dog and given priority by the county board, largely depending on what is traditionally played and what they are good at.

Soccer is huge in support and players but is somewhat of an oddity that few follow it domestically. Crowds are fairly small and more probably travel to England and Scotland on a weekly basis than watch domestic teams. Everyone talks about the Premier League, very few even refer to any domestic club.

RU again isn't really that big in much of the country. Big crowds for internationals and some Pro16 games, such as Leinster v Munster, but it isnt particularly widely played outside of some schools and pockets in areas of Dublin, Belfast and Limerick (and a few others). I'm guessing there are a fair few parallels with Scotland there.

Another excellent reply 🙂 and that's what I heard from a few but I think the whole Leinster and Munster Rugby thing has calmed down but the Irish National team do get could Tv Ratings and has had a advantage of being a full Ireland unlike the Soccer with Northern Ireland and Republic Of Ireland and GAA International is strange International Rules which I believe has dropped in interest.

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4 minutes ago, EggFace said:

Excellent reply Thank You 🙂

I also remember reading Shinty being played in England that's how you have 2 Football Clubs in Nottingham with Forest being a Shinty Club who would set up a Football Club and Notts County being the County Cricket Club but I could be wrong.

Never the less thank you that excellent reply.

You are right; there have been spasmodic attempts to have shinty played in England.

I always understood that Nottingham Forest was also set up to play bandy, rather than shinty, but maybe it was both.

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3 minutes ago, Wiltshire Warrior Dragon said:

You are right; there have been spasmodic attempts to have shinty played in England.

I always understood that Nottingham Forest was also set up to play bandy, rather than shinty, but maybe it was both.

Maybe you're right on that.... a shame it wasn't Rugby League 😉

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  • 1 month later...

The Scottish Cup Final - Kingussie -v- Lovat - is on BBC Scotland (note - not BBC Alba) tomorrow at 1.45pm.  I presume the commentary language will be English, not Gaelic.

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