GLENURQUHART Shinty Club may have fine-tuned the art of getting to cup finals but centre Eddie Tembo admits he’s getting a bit tired of losing them, writes Kenneth Stephen.
Next weekend’s RBS MacTavish Cup final against Newtonmore is the Drumnadrochit outfit’s third outing in a row in the north area final.
Familiarity without the rewards, though, can breed contempt and Glen’s powerful centre-line patroller Tembo admits he’d now like to move on from making appearances to being acclaimed for victory.
Not that this will be an easy journey, given the rude form of opponents and record winners of the silver rose bowl, Newtonmore.
“You might have thought that if you got to three, you would maybe win one,” says Tembo, the first Zambian-born player to be selected to represent Scotland.
“You may also say that, potentially, we now have our hardest task. Newtonmore have developed a great mentality. For me, that is their biggest strength. However, we have to remember that we beat them at the semi-final stage of this competition two years in a row and that, on our day, we can win.”
All sports fans like characters and Tembo has certainly carved a niche in the modern game of shinty.
In recent finals, he has been seen sporting a single stripe of red dye running from the front to the back of his head. Away from the shinty park, too, his career choice, like his hair style, can hardly be described as orthodox.
This week he will be spending a considerable amount of the build-up under water.
“I work as a commercial diver. I really enjoy it, actually. There is a group of us that go all over Scotland. It’s quite different, not a normal job.”
Work commitments and travel, combined with a burgeoning young family, have curtailed Tembo’s training opportunities this term.
This week, he will be below the surface, surveying operations underneath Pitlochry dam in Perthshire. Child number two is just weeks away, too. However, all that will fade for 90 minutes on Saturday as he targets an accolade which has so far eluded him and his team-mates.
“Personally, and as a team, I don’t think we have yet performed to the standards we set ourselves at the start of the season but it is a mark of the progress at the club that we are in another major final. We have higher standards now.
“Although we didn’t win anything last season, two finals and top three in the Premiership was our best season for decades and we’ll be giving it everything next weekend.”
Another player relishing the prospect of Saturday’s fling is Newtonmore centre back Rory Kennedy.
The Scotland under-21 captain suffered a serious injury to his hand which saw the bone piercing through the skin and required three surgical visits to finally fix.
The road back has been a long haul for the precocious defender but he is delighted to be back in the business of trophy hunting.
“It was great for the team to be winning trophies but it was also hard to watch and not be a part of it,” said Kennedy.
“These are the occasions you play shinty for. I feel like I am making up for lost time.”