Tuesday, 15 March 2011

'It makes football look like hairdressing'

The title of this post comes from a comment I read someone make about shinty.

Shinty is the forgotten national game of Scotland. Less famous than the over-priced football, rugby or golf, but it's supporters and players are no less passionate about their sport.

Rumour has it that golf is actually derived from shinty. Long ago, shinty players would practise their swing and this then turned into golf. I'm not sure if this is remotely true but it's a nice story!

Traditionally shinty was a west highland game. Although the central belt now has teams as well, the west highland ones still seem to be the most successful.

My husband was brought up in one of the shinty heartlands, Oban, and so is a keen player and supporter of the game. His playing days have actually turned to coaching days, and he is now one of the coaches at the boys' school.

Shinty sticks are known as camans, which comes from camanachd, the Gaelic for shinty. They come in extra small sizes too so that your littlest man can get an early start. Alasdair obviously has the game in his blood, as he likes nothing better than hitting a ball around with a stick. Indoors he will find any object to use as a stick, from a pencil to a penny whistle, and any little ball he can get his hands on, and then is quite content chasing the ball up and down the living room with his stick.

He's his daddy's boy.

The three oldest boys all go to shinty training on a Saturday morning. Calum is a keen little player. David is also keen and suitably fearless for such a game. James enjoys the run around but you can see he would rather be at home making some animation or reading a book! Oh well, his mother was never really the sporty type either, so we can let him off with that!

When playing shinty, all the boys wear helmets that kind of look like ice-hockey helmets, with bars protecting their faces. The shinty ball is extremely hard and travels very fast. My husband bears a few scars from his playing days, when helmets weren't worn and when there would usually be a player or two sporting a blood covered strip! 

All the youth players wear the helmets, but plenty of the adults still don't. It certainly separates the men from the boys, in more ways than one! The clip below is excellent. The commentary is in Gaelic and just listen for the whack of the shinty ball as the keeper saves the penalty with his head with NO helmet. And wins the game for his team!

Give me a rugged shinty player over a pampered footballer anyday.


  1. That is amazing! I've never heard of shinty before - though my husband had the right idea about it. Thanks for making us smarter!

  2. Wow, no kidding about the toughness of it! Talk about a hard knock! But that was cool...I loved hearing the commentary in Gaelic (even though I didn't understand what was said...)!:)
    Is there a difference between the Gaelic spoken in Scotland and the Gaelic spoken in Ireland?


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