Women’s progress a big plus

ONE of the recommendations in the Shinty Audit, that women should be encouraged and supported, acknowledges a growth area in the game of which many were unaware.

In theory, women could be part of a mixed-sex Camanachd Cup team; in practice, girls who play alongside boys in primary and under-14 teams have tended to drop out in their mid-teens when the lads developed greater physical strength.

A separate women’s game developed after the formation in 1994 of Dunadd Camanachd in Lochgilphead. They had to play Irish Camogie teams until Oban Camancheros (now Oban Lorn) were set up followed, in 1997, by Glengarry Ladies. And in the past two years, interest has mushroomed into the fastest-growing area of the game, with 11 teams: women now form 15% of the membership of the Camanachd Association.

The Women’s Camanachd Association were formally constituted on August 31 last under the presidency of Alasdair Rothe, a qualified coach with a degree centring on sport in the community. He reports that the women’s game is much stronger in the south area, which has eight of the 11 teams and, in contrast to the men’s game, the north is the area in need of development.

Rothe finds a high level of interest in the cities, where team sports are generally popular, and the other main motivator is a family connection with the game. Catherine Cameron of Invergarry, publicity officer for the women’s association, is a good example: husband Ewen and sons Steven and Martin are all involved. Ewen, who recently suffered a serious forestry accident, coached Glengarry men’s and women’s teams, and Catherine and daughters Elaine and Karen all ended up playing. Glengarry Ladies have been losing finalists in the past three Walker Cup finals, the north v south league play-off.

Catherine points to a breakthrough when women were introduced to the Marine Harvest festival in 2000. She was aware of a changed attitude from men, from indifference/hostility to passive goodwill, and there are opportunities now for keen young players, such as 15-year-old Elaine Wink of Corpach, who is an important member of Kilmallie’s under-16 team and plays for Glengarry Ladies. Previously, she would have dropped out of the game.

Playing the Walker Cup on the same day as the Tulloch Celtic Cup final last year proved a success, though after-match receptions were separate, and this year it is hoped to stage an event on Camanachd Cup final day. A knockout competition and a new team in the Inverness area are planned.

The initial need is for a single person to drive forward the process, to tap into the undoubted potential...

With a game adapted to their own needs, with nine-a-side teams, rolling substitutes, 60 minutes’ duration and with burgeoning interest, women are set to revolutionise the game and, along the way, strengthen the case for support for shinty from sportscotland.