Obituary: Duncan Rodger, one of Scotland’s top shinty players, dies at 29

Shinty player Duncan Rodger has died at the age of 29. Picture: Scott Wilkie
Shinty player Duncan Rodger has died at the age of 29. Picture: Scott Wilkie
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Duncan Rodger, shinty player. Born 11 January, 1988 in Fort William. Died 29 May, 2017 aged 29

Duncan Rodger who has died aged 29 was one of Scotland’s top shinty players of recent times whose untimely death has shocked all who knew him.

A Scottish internationalist several times in the composite rules hurling/shinty fixtures against Ireland, he made his debut for the full national team in 2010 at Croke Park, Dublin, having previously captained his country in the under 17 and 21 versions of the match. For many years he was a bulwark of his local Fort William team with whom he won many honours including four Camanachd Cup medals, the sport’s premier prize.

He was also a member of their team which won the Premier League title in 2006 breaking Kingussie’s many years of dominance in the competition and later went on to captain the side.

Last year he joined Caol-based Kilmallie and in his first season was a central figure in their National League success, gaining them promotion back to the Premier League for the first time in seven years. This season he played an important role in their qualifying for the MacTavish Cup Final to be played on 10 June in Inverness with his opening goal in their semi-final against Kinlochshiel crucial to their win.

Two days prior to his death he played against Lochaber in the Camanachd Cup scoring what one onlooker described as “two long-range screamers” to ease Kilmallie’s passage into the quarter-finals.

It was almost inevitable he would become a shinty player as a number of family members had played the sport with distinction through the years. His promise with the caman, the shinty stick, was first noted at Fort William’s St Mary’s Primary School and thereafter developed with the town’s youth team where he first came into contact with long-time coach and mentor Jock Sneddon who was quick to spot his “great ability and fearlessness”.

He also subscribed fully to the ethos and importance of teamwork and was a well integrated and highly valued member of every team for which he played.

Tall and physically strong, he was an outstanding hitter of the ball. Under-age honours soon followed including the Scottish Playing Fields’ Association medal for shinty and by the age of 16 he was in the Fort William first-team squad, playing in his first Camanachd Cup Final at that age. National recognition led to his captaining the Scotland under 17 and 21 teams.

During one of these games against Ireland, he demonstrated his courage by remaining on the pitch despite suffering a broken jaw and only attending hospital at full time.

After that initial Camanachd Cup disappointment he won four medals consecutively between 2007 and 2010. As a youngster he had promised coach Sneddon that if he ever won one of these highly sought after items he would give it to him. True to his word he duly did so with his first one, a measure of the man as then he did not know whether the success would be repeated. Full international caps followed to complete a full set of honours in the sport apart from a MacAulay Cup medal, the only one to elude him.

After a spell out of the game he returned to play with Fort Wiliam’s 2nd team helping them to league success before joining Kilmallie last year. He made an immediate impression with his new team scoring a hat- trick on his debut against Lochaber. Apart from his important contribution to their league title, he also played his part in their securing the Balliemore Cup.

Born in Fort William and brought up in the towns Plantation area, he attended St. Mary’s Primary before going on to Lochaber High School. Since leaving school he worked mostly as a salesman in the building services trade latterly with Travis Perkins. In November 2012 he married Emma Bisland whom he met locally and they lived together with young son James in Inverlochy.

Apart from his shinty accomplishments, he was a talented all-round sportsman who excelled at golf and darts. Playing off four handicap he was a member of the Fort William and Newtonmore clubs.

Last year he qualified to play in the National Pro Am tournament at the Spey Valley course where his partner, tour pro Duncan Stewart was very impressed by his powerful hitting. He was recognised as the best darts singles player in Fort William and area after winning the Neil Kerr trophy recently. Lawn bowls was another sport in which he was beginning to show potential.

Although a celebrated figure in the world of shinty, he remained down to earth and was a very popular figure in the sport, always ready to encourage younger players and an excellent role model for them. He is survived by mother Patricia,and his wife and son.

JACK DAVIDSON