Shinty/Hurling: ‘Irish won’t make same mistakes’

Scotland shinty international Kevin Bartlett waited four years to savour an international win against Ireland and doesn’t want to lose that loving feeling too readily today in Newry.

Kevin Bartlett was the star of the show last week. Picture: Neil G Paterson

The Lovat player amassed an incredible personal tally of 16 points in Inverness last Saturday and left Bught Park with a special engraved memento for his efforts in both distance ground hitting and shrewd stick play.

No one, of any nationality, could have argued with the judging panel’s choice.

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However, what meant much more to him was the 23-14 victory which, today, gives Scotland a rare opportunity to finally divest themselves of an unwanted legacy from the Marine Harvest Shinty/Hurling International Series to date.

Scotland have not managed to win the challenge since it became a two-test fixture back in 2010.

History is a caman swing away, therefore, although the school of hard knocks means no one in the Scottish camp is 
allowing the mind to drift too far from the task at hand.

“Never mind the series, I’ve never actually won a game against Ireland in four years so Saturday was really satisfying. I think the closest we’ve been is within five points of them,” smiled the forward, who has also had a memorable campaign at club level.

“I have to say, I felt confident on Saturday and I think that second half in Inverness was really important. We knew they had the wind at their backs and we always expect an onslaught in the second half anyway, with the Irish hitting the ball over the posts from everywhere. They have usually managed to find extra gears.

“But I felt, even with the wind against us, they were still struggling to deal with us and most of our boys played the game the way they normally would.”

If indicators could be drawn from Saturday’s rare Scottish win, it is likely to be found in Bartlett’s last comment.

Normally so proficient, it is tempting to try to out-muscle the Irish, outfox them with the tactics board or tinker with ratios and variables.

On Saturday, Scotland did not try to match Michael Walshe’s hurlers, they chose to live or die by their own sword, and, on this occasion, it worked.

It may be the case that, having assessed the video this week, new boss Ronald Ross and trusted side-kick Jimmy Gow decide to stick with the same approach this afternoon in Newry.

“The manager said to us last week, if they are thrashing about in the air, don’t swing at it, get it down where we want it. We spoke about the need to get the ball wide and get a Scottish shirt in front of the defence every time because they can normally cut out cross balls before we get a chance.

“That is how we got our second goal. It was a great shinty goal,” added Bartlett.

The acid test of Scotland’s aspirations, of course, will come today. What has been evident in recent years is that the Irish, over two games, generally manage to rectify what didn’t quite work in match one.

The last two trips over the Irish Sea have been fairly humbling occasions for Scotland and the mood of “let’s take things as they come” would seem to be wise, given empirical evidence.

Still, there’s a flame burning within this new-look Scottish side and no one will want to let the dream die without making a noise about it.

“Ireland made a few errors they wouldn’t normally make, in the first leg. They won’t miss again. To try to win again, we will have to be even more switched on.”