Campbell keen to stick it to the Irish
If YOU asked Scotland shinty manager Drew McNeil and his captain Norman Campbell what the annual shinty/hurling series means to them you’d have to pour yourself a cuppa and prepare for a conversational epic – not to mention the sight of a few gashes worn almost as a rite of passage.
Shinty/hurling, a crossing of the two stick sports of Scottish shinty and Irish hurling, is fast, compelling fare requiring unending energy, skill and spirit.
When Newtonmore legend Campbell, 33, leads Scotland’s players over the line on Saturday at Bught Park in Inverness for the first leg of the two-match series, it will be his 19th international run-out. Furthermore, it will be the fourth time he will have skippered his country – an honour very few have savoured and even fewer repeat.
The defender was just a baby-faced youngster when he donned the dark blue for the first time.
Since then he has captained the Scots to victory at a partisan Croke Park, Dublin, in front of 40,000 fans and has tasted both unlikely wins, such as 2008 in Kilkenny, and souring defeats, such as last year in Inverness.
Now, with the Scots determined to claim their first Marine Harvest series win since 2008, in Inverness and County Clare, McNeil knows exactly why he has chosen Campbell as his on-field leader. “Norman is a hub on and off the park, a catalyst for everything,” says McNeil, himself one of life’s 110 per cent types.
“When I made Norman captain last year, I knew within minutes it was right. He has an aura and, at 33, he is showing his fellow players a determination to keep improving.”
Not every player adept with a caman excels at shinty/hurling.
With their broader-bladed hurleys, the Irish game plan tends to involve more hitting shots over the uprights for single points.
The Scots, accustomed to going for goals (three points), often see the ball flying over their heads more than in shinty. However, Campbell has only ever seen these quirks as a challenge.
With around 4,000 fans and the BBC cameras at the Bught, and live TV at Ennis the following week, he wants shinty to be seen in the best light.
“If there is a game of shinty to be played I’ll be there,” he says.
“I really enjoy this fixture and we have a great relationship with the Irish. The margins between success and failure have been so small in recent years. It goes without saying, then, that hopefully we can do it this time.”
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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