Californians are winners in Kelso Shinty Tournament

In the first ever meeting of three US shinty sides, Northern California Camanachd put together wins over Oregon Shinty and Washington Camanachd yesterday at the Kelso Highlander Festival and became the first Pacific Coast Shinty Champions!

A cool morning gave way to a sunny warm day, perfect California-like weather for the shinty and hurling matches. Tam O'Shanter Park was filled with Clan tents, Celtic-themed merchants, pipers, dancers and heavy athletes all tucked in amongst the meadows and woods of Kelso. Irn Bru and haggis provided the needed sustenance for the athletes and in the hour before noon the first of these historic shinty contests got underway.

The first match saw NCC play with composure against the newest US club Oregon Shinty. Despite initial pressures and some skilled play Oregon found themselves on the receiving end of the first scores, the Californian's attack producing three goals before the break. The second half saw continued and sustained pressure from the Bay Area side, but Oregon played strongly and managed to pull a goal back. As the half wore on the Californians broke through for two more goals and a final tally of 5-1.

The second shinty match, after a hurling demonstration, pitted Washington Camanachd against the Northern California side. The play was fast and each side had some challenges stringing together passes on the unpredictable surface of the small field. A series of attacks before half netted the California side two scores and stout defending kept the Washington club off the sheet. The second half proceeded along similar lines, with both teams moving the ball into the opposition's half but being unable to capitalize on the chances produced. Towards the end of time a long free hit resulted in a third NCC goal for a 3-0 final.

As great as these matches were, the highlight of the day may have been the shinty-hurling match between the Longview Hurling club and players from all three shinty clubs. A brief meeting clarified the special hybrid rules (including a few modifications, such as no scoring over the bar due to field limitations), and allowed the teams to set-up 9-a-side teams. The action was tremendous with both teams showing superb sportsmanship and camaraderie. A 25 minute first half was followed by a 55 minute second, the players not wanting the game to end. The shinty side had some great initial success and was able to put up a number of early scores, but the hurlers fought back and were able to put more pressure on goal in the later stages of the match. A final score of 7-2 found the shinty side triumphant, but more important was great experience all the athletes had enjoyed during the run of play.

Plans are already afoot for the next meeting of these three shinty clubs with an eye towards establishing standing competition on the Pacific Coast of the US. This historic meeting was a definite success, and if the enthusiastic spirit seen at Kelso is any indication, the shinty world can look forward to many more such occasions in the future!

Photos will be available soon. (MRB 9/12/2010)