Aug 042017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Massed pipe bands at the 2016 Aboyne Highland Games

Thousands of visitors are expected to descend on Aboyne Green this Saturday as the town holds its annual highland games. Founded in 1867, this year’s Aboyne Highland Games will mark the 150th anniversary of the popular Royal Deeside event. 

Up to 10,000 people from around the world are expected to attend the event, which is held under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly.

A packed programme of 98 traditional highland events will be held throughout the day, including solo and massed piping, highland dancing, light and heavy athletics and fiddle competitions.  Over 80 trade stands, children’s races and a funfair also feature.

To commemorate the games’ milestone anniversary, organisers have created a memory book containing old photographs from bygone years. The book also includes written contributions from members of the public who have spectated or competed at the games, or been involved in its organisation. It will form part of a display of games memorabilia which is expected to prove popular with visitors.

Among those visiting will be hundreds of representatives from the 10 Scottish clans featured in the event’s Clan Village. This year the clans that will be represented are Burnett, Cochran, Findlay, Forbes, Fraser, Gordon, Hay, Leask, Leslie and Strachan. The Burnett clan is expected to have the largest presence, as around 200 clan members are travelling to the north-east from around the world as part of a week-long gathering.

Events on Saturday get underway at 10am, when the massed pipe bands march through the town and onto Aboyne Green, heralding the start of the day’s competitions. The games will be officially opened at 11:15am by the Marquis of Huntly, at which time the chieftain’s banner will be raised.

Aboyne Highland Games 1871: One of the earliest pictures of the event.

A number of competitions will be watched with keen interest throughout the day by the assembled crowd.

Four events that have been a fixture of every games have this year been classed as Gold Events.

Boasting increased prize money and newly commissioned trophies that have been designed by local teenager Angus Fraser, each event is expected to be fiercely contested.

The open caber toss will see the usual feats of strength and balance from the heavy athletes.

However, with the winner gaining the opportunity to toss the new 23ft 6in (7.15m) long anniversary caber, a close competition is predicted. A field of up to 150 runners are expected to take on the challenging 6.8-mile hill race, which last year was won by Kyle Greig in 42 minutes 58 seconds.

One of the events that made up the programme of the inaugural games is also making a spectacular return after a near 40-year absence. Pole vaulting, once a staple of highland games across Scotland and now only staged at a handful of games, will grace Aboyne Green for the first time since 1978.

Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, said:

“Aboyne Highland Games has been an important part of the local community for 150 years, attracting visitors from around the world and occasionally, British and European royalty. Saturday is an opportunity for us to pay homage to our history, celebrate the achievements of today’s competitors and look ahead to the future. It is set to be a special day, which we are marking in a number of ways.

“Seeing Aboyne Green come to life on games day is a fantastic sight. It is the beating heart of the town with plenty going on to entertain all the family. Alongside the usual mix of events, there will be 10 pipe bands performing, a new caber event, the presentation of four stunning new trophies and pole vaulting. The crowd is certainly going to be very well entertained as Aboyne Highland Games celebrates its 150th birthday, and we’d encourage them to be here in time for the opening ceremony at 11:15am.

“Highland games such as ours would not be possible without the hard work that so many volunteers put in throughout the year and the support that we receive from numerous local businesses. We are indebted to them for that continued assistance.”

Aboyne Highland Games takes place on Saturday, 05 August on Aboyne Green, with events getting underway just after 10am. The official opening ceremony commences at 11:15am and events run throughout the afternoon. Those planning to attend Saturday’s event are encouraged to be there in time for the opening ceremony.

Founded in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games is a traditional Scottish highland games held annually on the first Saturday in August. The Aberdeenshire event, held under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly, attracts crowds of up to 10,000 people each year.

Featuring a programme of traditional highland games events, including highland dancing, tossing the caber, piping and fiddle competitions, the event on the town’s green attracts visitors from around the world and makes an important contribution to the local Deeside economy. Further information on Aboyne Highland Games can be found at www.aboynegames.com.

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Jul 282017
 

A leading sporting facility in Aberdeen will welcome the Queen’s Baton Relay this summer with a series of events celebrating the 2018 Commonwealth Games. With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia.

Aberdeen Sports Village

Team Scotland has revealed an exciting five-day programme of events and celebrations which will be held around the country, to mark the visit of the Gold Coast 2018 Queen’s Baton Relay (QBR) on its global tour, ahead of next year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia, including a day of sporting events at Aberdeen Sports Village (ASV) on Thursday 24 August 2017.

In Scotland from 22-26 August 2017, the presence of the Baton will bring Gold Coast 2018 one step closer for athletes and supporters, as Team Scotland aims for its best ever medal haul at an overseas Games.

The Queen’s Baton Relay is a Games tradition that celebrates the Commonwealth’s diversity, inspires community pride and excites people about the world-class festival of sports and culture to come.

The Queen’s Baton carries a message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II that calls the Commonwealth’s athletes to come together in peaceful and friendly competition.

Designed for each Games by the host nation, the 2018 Queen’s Baton has a distinctive loop design and has been made using macadamia wood and reclaimed plastic, sourced from Gold Coast waterways, and inspired by the region’s vibrant spirit and indigenous heritage.

With only five days in Scotland this year, compared to the extensive 42 day tour of the country in 2014 as Commonwealth Games hosts, the focus is on not just passing through, but spending quality time in each community it visits. The programme includes school and community events with a strong youth and sport theme, showcasing our rich heritage, links to Australia, The Commonwealth and a number of exciting Glasgow 2014 legacy projects.

Paul Bush OBE, chair, Commonwealth Games Scotland said:

“The Queen’s Baton Relay is an iconic symbol of the Commonwealth Games and we look forward to welcoming the Baton to Scotland next month. We have had tremendous enthusiasm and support from local authorities, schools and community groups across the country, helping to organise an exciting programme of events which will use the QBR to connect their communities with the Games and embrace the values of the Commonwealth movement as a whole.

“The public support Team Scotland enjoyed for Glasgow 2014 was phenomenal and I look forward to seeing that passion sparked once again, as the Baton’s journey through Scotland marks the final countdown to the 2018 Commonwealth Games. I hope everyone across the country will get behind the athletes vying for selection for the team and play their part in supporting them as they prepare to compete with distinction on the other side of the world next April.

Duncan Sinclair, CEO, Aberdeen Sports Village said:

“Everyone at ASV is looking forward to welcoming The Queen’s Baton Relay to Aberdeen. ASV is dedicated to offering sporting opportunities for everyone, helping people achieve their very best, so we are delighted to be a part of this exciting event warm up to the Commonwealth Games.

“ASV will be getting into the spirit of the Games with a wide variety of sporting activities for young pupils from schools across the city, culminating in an exciting Australian-themed high tea.”

A summary of the programme is given below and includes a number of open events each day which members of the public are encouraged to attend. Many events will also include the participation of past or current Team Scotland athletes and the attendance of the popular Glasgow 2014 and now Team Scotland mascot, Clyde.

PROGRAMME OVERVIEW

Tuesday 22 August – Glasgow

  • The QBR will arrive at Glasgow Airport and spend the first day visiting legacy projects and youth and community groups related to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Game, including:  
  • Welcome to Scotland at the Glasgow School of Sport, Bellahouston Academy
  • Commonwealth Games Village – Meet permanent residents of Team Scotland accommodation
  • Cunigar Loop Woodland Park – Bike Town community group bike ride through the park*
  • Emirates Arena – Schools participation event linked to the 2017 World Badminton Championships
  • The Legacy Hub, Dalmarnock – local community event *
  • University of Strathclyde Innovation Centre – Commonwealth Youth Leaders Conference
  • George Square – Starting point of the Glasgow Commonwealth Walkway. *

Wednesday 23 August – Islay

The QBR will make its first ever visit to Islay in the Inner Hebrides for a unique range of youth and community events including:

  • Bowmore – Primary Schools festival featuring the Schools Gaelic Choir and Highland Dancing *
  • Visit to the Bowmore distillery
  • Bowmore Town Square for community meet the Baton opportunity*
  • Talk at Ionad Chaluim Chille Ìle (the Columba Centre Islay). *

Thursday 24 August – Dundee, Aberdeen, Stirling 

The QBR heads to Dundee, Aberdeen and Stirling for a series of events including:

  • Clepington Primary School, Dundee – a sportscotland gold standard sports award school for Australian Commonwealth themed activity
  • Kirriemuir – a visit to the Bon Scott statue to celebrate the famous Australian-Scot lead singer of ACDC *
  • Aberdeen Sports Village – a multi-school ‘One Big Sports Day’ of Commonwealth themed activities incorporating an Australian high tea
  • Stirling Castle – Team Scotland reception & Bahamas 2017 Youth Games team celebration.

Friday 25 August – Stirling, Falkirk

A big day of school and community activities in Stirling and Falkirk before visiting the home of Team Scotland at the University of Stirling.

  • St Ninian’s Primary School , Stirling – Joining children for their Daily Mile. St Ninian’s is linked with Coolangatta State School as part of the Gold Coast 2018 Schools connect programme.
  • Helix and Kelpies, Falkirk – A multi-school Commonwealth themed festival for the schools and the community *
  • Stirling University Campus – meeting with students linked to the Commonwealth Games
  • sportscotland Institute of Sport – meeting the ‘team behind the team’ who help to prepare Team Scotland athletes for the Commonwealth Games.                   

Saturday 26 August – Grangemouth, Edinburgh

Visits to two major sports events where Scottish athletes are striving to be selected for Team Scotland for the 2018 Games. The day concludes with a visit to the Military Tattoo, an iconic Scottish showcase that is now a firm Australian favorite, broadcast to bring in the New Year down under.

  • Grangemouth – Scottish Athletics Senior Championships *
  • Portobello – Scottish Beach Volleyball Championship *
  • Edinburgh – Edinburgh Military Tattoo

For further information about the Gold Coast 2018 Queen’s Baton Relay and its journey across the Commonwealth so far visit www.gc2018.com

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Jul 032017
 

With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia.

One of Scotland’s top swimming coaches is to head up a new high performance swimming team in Aberdeen, aiming to produce medal-winning swimmers. Patrick Miley, father and coach of Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Hannah Miley, will train elite swimmers for the newly formed University of Aberdeen Performance Swimming programme.

UOAPS is a new partnership between the Aberdeen Sports Village, Aberdeen City Council, Scottish Swimming, the University of Aberdeen and seven of the city’s swimming clubs.

The programme has been established to grow on the rich crop of swimming talent to have emerged from the north-east in recent years, including Hannah Miley, David Carry and Robbie Renwick.

Swimmers across the city will try out to join Team Aberdeen, training with Mr Miley and his team at the Aberdeen Sports Village Aquatics Centre, in order to form the elite UOAPS competition squad.

Mr Miley said:

“With the financial investment and commitment from our partners we have an incredibly exciting opportunity to develop a strong performance pathway for swimming in the north-east.

“Our aim is to build a world-class performance swimming programme, and I am confident we have the backing, the will and the talent to succeed.”

University of Aberdeen Principal, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, said:

“As a University we are committed to helping our student athletes reach their full potential, both academically and in their chosen sport. 

“The University of Aberdeen Performance Swimming programme is yet another example of how we are working alongside our partners to bring through the next generation of world-class athletes, right here in Aberdeen.” 

Duncan Sinclair, chief executive of Aberdeen Sports Village, said:

“In the past, our home grown swimming talent had to move to the central belt or an English University to advance their swimming careers. 

“However, the city now has an Olympic standard Aquatics Centre at Aberdeen Sports Village, and with this new performance programme, Aberdeen offers a real alternative and opportunity to our local athletes. 

“ASV is now classed as a Performance Centre by Scottish Swimming, in recognition of the excellent level of facilities and training we provide.

“Our aim is for Aberdeen to be seen as a world class destination for performance swimming, which will retain our best swimmers in the north-east, and attract athletes to study, live and compete here.”

Aberdeen City Council’s education and children’s services committee convener, Councillor John Wheeler, said:

“By working in partnership, we created the state-of-the-art Aberdeen Sports Village including a world-class aquatics centre, with its 50m pool, to give local people the opportunity to participate in swimming and water sports, to maximise the social, educational and physical opportunities for everyone in the city. 

“The launch of the University of Aberdeen Performance Swimming programme and the recruitment of Commonwealth Games coach Patrick Miley, highlight that, by working together, we are creating opportunities for local elite swimmers. 

Instead of having to travel great distances, or move away entirely to get access to the best facilities and coaching, they will be able to try out for a place on Team Aberdeen. By providing these opportunities we will be able to nurture future swimming sensations who will represent Aberdeen, the north-east, Scotland and the UK.”

Ally Whike, performance director of Scottish Swimming, said:

“This programme has been established through the hard work of the University of Aberdeen, local clubs, Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeen Sport and Leisure, highlighting the importance that a strong partnership approach brings to delivering high performing environments.

“Scottish Swimming looks forward to the continued development of the programme, and its positive impact in taking swimmers through the pathway and onwards to international level.”

Jul 032017
 

With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates.

Murray Brown peeling the bark from the log.

Athletes competing in the heavy events at this summer’s Aboyne Highland Games will have a new challenge on their hands as organisers have unveiled a new caber to mark the event’s 150th anniversary.

One of the most iconic disciplines in the highland games programme, tossing the caber requires competitors to possess strength and good balance.

Measuring 23ft 6in (7.15m) in length and weighing approximately 130lbs (59kg), the new anniversary caber is set to test these skills when it is attempted to be thrown end over end into the perfect 12 o’clock position at this year’s games on Saturday, 05 August.

Founded in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games has become one of north-east Scotland’s most popular traditional summer events, attracting up to 10,000 visitors each year. Held on the town’s green, the games is a highlight of the Royal Deeside summer events calendar.

Overseas visitors to highland games watch in awe as competitors toss the caber – many are amazed by the ability of heavy athletes to run with and throw such a lengthy and weighty object. The caber is often described by foreign tourists as a tree trunk – its most natural form – and fail to realise the work involved in creating this carefully crafted piece of sporting equipment.

Organisers of Aboyne Highland Games decided to commission a new caber as the discipline was one that had been a fixture of the games’ programme since the event’s inception 150 years ago.

At the inaugural games, local athlete Donald Dinnie, who would go on to become one of the world’s most revered athletes, outclassed competitors in most disciplines, including tossing the caber. It was reported in the Aberdeen Journal of Wednesday, 04 September 1867 that: “In tossing the caber again, Dinnie was far superior to any of the others, and tossed clean over twice an enormous tree, which none of the others could turn until fully three feet were cut off the thick end.”

Timber for the commemorative caber was donated by Dinnet Estates and came from a 50-year-old Douglas Fir that stood in woodland at Rhu-na-Haven Road, Aboyne. Since the 70ft tree was felled in January, the timber has undergone a number of processes that have seen it transformed from tree trunk to slender caber.

The work is being carried out by Murray Brown, who is convenor of heavy events at Aboyne Highland Games. Murray, who himself competed in the heavy events at highland games during the 1970s and 80s, has made a number of cabers in recent years. Over the past five months Murray and a team of volunteers have spent around 50 hours creating the new Aboyne caber, which will be unveiled at the games.

Tommy Fyvie of Aboyne tossing the caber at the 2016 Aboyne Highland Games

The first stage of the process was to allow the sap within the wood to dry out, before the log was peeled of its bark and sculpted and sanded into the iconic gently tapering pole. A number of coats of oil have also been applied to the caber to preserve its finish. One end of the caber has a smaller circumference, allowing competitors to safely hold it with ease.

The 150th anniversary caber will be used in a special event that will be contested the winner of the open caber throwing competition on games day.

If they are deemed to have successfully tossed the anniversary caber into the perfect 12 o’clock position they will be rewarded with a £500 prize.

Murray Brown, convenor of the heavy events, said:

“Many foreign visitors are unaware of the work that is involved in creating a caber. Some think we merely cut down a tree, strip the trunk of its bark and put it to use on the games field. However, it would still be full of sap which would make it too heavy and its girth at both ends too broad to be held by the majority of competitors.

“The new anniversary caber is a beautiful piece of timber. The wood is very straight and has few blemishes, which has made working with it over the last few months much easier. I look forward to seeing competitors throwing it on games day.”

Aboyne Highland Games has a tradition of creating cabers that challenge the strength and skill of competitors. In 1961, the games sent new cabers to Australia following a request from the Highland Society of New South Wales. However, it proved too tough a challenge for Australian heavy athletes. It was reported in the Canberra Times of October, 21 1965 that “nobody could toss it” and that it was subsequently replaced.

Marcus Humphrey, whose family owns Dinnet Estate, was inspired to donate wood for the anniversary caber after recalling that he was at the quayside in 1961 when the cabers arrived down under.

He said:

“I got the idea when I remembered that Aboyne gave two cabers to the Highland Society of New South Wales in 1961. The society was keen to obtain a caber from a Scottish forest for use at its own games and Aboyne duly obliged. By chance I was in Sydney and witnessed the cabers being unloaded from a ship at the harbour.”

Alistair Grant, chairman of Aboyne Highland Games, added:

“Our 150th anniversary is set to be a special day and is being marked in a number of ways. A book containing old pictures and the public’s memories of the games is being created, an anniversary whisky is being bottled and pole vaulting is making a return to programme.

“The new caber will be a splendid and lasting addition to our games equipment. Our thanks go to Murray, Marcus and all of those who have been involved in crafting it.”

Founded in 1867, Aboyne Highland Games is a traditional Scottish highland games held annually on the first Saturday in August. The Aberdeenshire event, held under the patronage of Granville Gordon, the 13th Marquis of Huntly, attracts crowds of up to 10,000 people each year.

Featuring a programme of traditional highland games events, including highland dancing, tossing the caber and piping, the event on the town’s green attracts visitors from around the world and makes an important contribution to the local Deeside economy. Further information on Aboyne Highland Games can be found at www.aboynegames.com.

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Jun 082017
 

Duncan Harley reviews Mark Jackson’s Red White and Blue.

Mark Jackson’s take on the beautiful game, of rugby, is a welcome distraction from that stereotypical play on sweating giants in short shorts which generally populates the sporting-fiction bookshelf.

Set against a backdrop of rarefied privilege in the lead up to the 1924 Paris Olympiad the story follows American student Jack Morgan as, on the trail of burning ambition, he vows to secure selection for the US Olympic team. Along the way he must pick up a Rugby Blue, bag the girl of his dreams and, of course, win that Gold.

Following a meeting at Stamford University, during which he accepts the challenge “Climb that Everest and perchance other mountains may be scaled”, he secures a scholarship at Oxford and sets off on his quest.

Morgan is young, wealthy and gifted. When he arrives at Oxford in 1923, he is paired, by the sniffy College porter, with new room-mate Saul Warburg.

“What are you here for?” asked Morgan
“Isn’t it obvious? Law. It’s the Inns of Court for Saul Warburg QC. You?” replied Saul.
“Get my degree and win a Blue.”
“Ah, the odd-shaped ball.”
“It’s the Great Game,” countered Morgan.

As if the odds were not already sufficiently stacked against him, Jack soon sets sights on the beautiful Rose. She, an ‘English Rose’, is of course none other than the Varsity team captain’s ‘girl’; and his quest for that coveted Oxford Blue appears to be already in jeopardy.

The setting, in a 1920’s privileged England, echoes realism and while the Red White and Blue storyline is strong, character development is perhaps not so. Heading towards the last page there were still unanswered questions regarding the main character. Additionally, the historical-political context outwith the narrow confine of the international rugby world seemed sparse.

Staccato dialogue inhabits these chapters and a perceptible spectre of a Spillane-like Mike Hammer, minus the whisky-swilling-machismo, hummed along in the background. Indeed the upbeat and sometimes stirring rugby commentary raises suspicion that author Mark Jackson, a newspaperman, was perhaps in some previous life a sports-commentator.

Hopefully this powerful foray into the rainbow world of Varsity conflict is just the first of a long series which will see the mighty Morgan’s sporting career flourish. Perhaps in part two we might hear of his exploits in introducing both the odd-shaped-ball and Jesse Owens to the Berlin Olympiad.

Red White and Blue (163pp) is published by Matador at £8.99  
ISBN: 9781785892851

First published in the May Edition of Leopard Magazine – A magazine which celebrates the people, the culture and the places of North-east Scotland

May 142017
 

By Red Fin Hall.

Inevitable changes were made, with Peter Pawlett and Ryan Jack both injured, and Ryan Christie ineligible to play.
Anthony O’Connor made a rare start in midfield, whilst, surprisingly top scorer Adam Rooney was benched, and his place taken by Jayden Stockley.

A decent crowd  turned up for this Friday evening game.

This was the final game of the season at home, the final BT commentary by locally born Derek Rae, the last game that Niall McGinn and possibly Ash Taylor in front of the home fans, and my final match report for The Aberdeen Voice.

The haar was beginning to hang about as referee Stephen McLean got the match underway. Minutes in, Joe Lewis was called upon to make a decent save from Patrick Roberts after he got the better of Andy Considine. From the resultant corner taken by Leigh Griffiths, Dedryck Boyata headed the ball into the net for the visitor’s first goal. A perfect start for Celtic, not so for The Dons.

0-1

Seven minutes later, Callum Mcgregor fired a ball which Shay Logan blocked well, but Stuart Armstrong reacted quickly and flicked the ball into the net. The defence didn’t seem to be coping at all well with the pace of the champions.

0-2

Just as the fans were still shaking their heads over the state of things, Leigh Griffiths fired a shot from all of 25 yards out. Lewis made a bit of a hash of things, opting to try and palm it away instead of holding it, but he could only look on helplessly as the ball ended up crossing the line for goal number 3.

0-3

Things didn’t look good for the injury hit men in red, and one two fans, even this early, decided to call it a day. More fool them.

These ‘supporters’ would have barely left the confines of Pittodrie when, man of the match, Jonny Hayes, shot in the goal of the game, curling the ball in from outside the penalty area on the right, and straight into the top left hand corner. Much to the dismay of keeper Craig Gordon.

1-3

From such a poor and inauspicious start, in a game that means nothing other than pride, the match was pretty much turned on it’s head by this.

Moments later a fine and deep cross from Kenny McLean found the unmarked Stockley. His back post header should have gone into the net, but the tall striker’s attempt went inches wide of the target.

Aberdeen had their danders up, and kept the pressure on the team from Glasgow, with their defence, in my opinion, having to work the hardest they have had to domestically this season.

20 minutes in. first Hayes had a go, testing Gordon, then Graeme Shinnie had a shot, which he maybe should have hit better. Ten minutes later, McGinn forced the Scotland keeper to concede a corner. The Northern Irishman took the set piece himself, but Taylor could only head the ball into the side netting.

It wasn’t one way traffic though, and Mark Reynolds, then McLean had to look sharp to deny the visitors adding to their tally. Boyata still looked dangerous when up front.

Defender Jozo Simunovic looked a bit slack, and McLean should have at least hit the target. Instead his curling, left foot shot went wide. A free kick to the Dons just 2 minutes before half time was cleared forward by the visitors, and it ended up at the feet of Scott Sinclair. But the player of the year had the ball taken off of him by the persistent Hayes.

Half time: 1-3

As the match resumed, Aberdeen continued their positive and determined play as Shinnie chased after a nothing ball and won a corner. Considine then put in a low and fierce cross into the area, but it was too hard and McGinn just couldn’t make contact with it.

The next incident provided the only real moment of controversy of the evening. The referee spoilt a pretty flawless shift from himself when he denied the home team what looked, to all intent and purpose, to be a stonewall penalty. Shinnie was running through at pace to get to a blocked Logan shot when Gordon impeded him. If it had been the other way round, no doubt a foul at least would have been given. This is not the first time that the Celtic keeper has been lucky to escape punishment this season.

Four minutes later an effort by Anthony O’Connor in a crowded box came to nothing. The flag was up for offside in any case.

Celtic had a bit more of the play for a spell, but the Aberdeen defence had well recovered from their period of sleeping by now, and handled things quite admirably.

McLean should have scored a second goal and therefore really tested Celtic’s mettle when he received a pass from, surely next season’s captain, Shinnie. However, instead of aiming for the bottom corner, he chose, puzzlingly, to send it screaming over the bar and into the Richard Donald stand.

With only 20 minutes left the game turned a tad scrappy, and the only chance of note was a snap shot from McGinn which went high. Even pushing Taylor up front, and trying to break down the defence with high balls, pointless considering the height of the visitor’s defenders, failed to produce.

History was made with just 3 minutes of the allocated 4 of stoppage time left, Aberdeen schoolboy, Dean Campbell, made his first team debut, becoming the youngest player to feature for the Dons. Hope he doesn’t go the way of the previous record holder, Fraser Fyvie, and depart the club too soon.

The game ended, and the fans stayed to give the players a standing ovation.

With two games left before the Scottish Cup Final, both away from home, first to The Rangers midweek, and then back down to Glasgow to play Partick Thistle, two fighting perfomances like that will surely stand us in good stead for the trip back to Glasgow for the final.

Final score: 1-3

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Apr 302017
 

By Red Fin Hall.

On a very chilly afternoon, Derek McInnes decided he would experiment with the team, knowing that a victory would all but secure the second top spot in the league.
He decided to play both Ryan Christie and Niall McGinn and opted for a back three of Ash Taylor ,Andy Considine and Shay Logan.

This also gave the opportunity for Kenny McLean to be pushed a bit further forward.

Almost from the kick off the defence was called into action when a slack pass by the sometimes shaky Taylor fell to Danny Swanson. The net result was the first corner of the game for the visitors.

Seven minutes in, a cross from probable future captain Graeme Shinnie fell into the path of forward Adam Rooney who deftly turned the ball goalwards, and only a timely intervention from keeper Alan Mannus prevented the Dons’ striker from scoring his twentieth goal of the season.

Referee, Alan Muir, set the tone of the game soon after by booking both Logan and Jonny Hayes, both of which possibly just merited a talking to.

Soon after this, he totally ignored the clash between Chris Millar and Christie, when the former deliberately and cynically pushed the Aberdeen player into the visitor’s dugout. Why the fourth official didn’t bring this matter to the attention of the man in charge is beyond me. Before he limped off injured, Millar again avoided punishment when he again showed the style of play that St Johnstone participate in, when he body checked Jonny Hayes.

This tactic had the desired effect though, as the Dons failed to adapt and found it hard at times, despite trying, to get back to their crisp, passing play that has seen them see off various pretenders this season.

The first half continued in the same vein, with too much midfield head tennis being played. Much to the dismay of the fans. Just before half time, the first real chance of the game fell to Aberdeen, when a pleasing early cross into the box by Hayes, found McLean running in behind the defenders. But the on form midfielder should have done so much better with his diving, unchallenged header, and the half ended goalless.

Half time: 0-0

Just into the second half, the home side should have took the lead when that man McLean again found himself with the chance to score. It came when a long free kick was received by Logan who passed the ball to the aforementioned midfielder. But, as was the character of his efforts today, it went over the bar for a goal kick to the team from Perth.

Next to break forward was the soon to be departing Ryan Jack, who played a fine ball to Rooney, who fired in a dangerous cross into the area, only to see Steven Anderson turn it past his own post for a corner.

The game was desperately in need of a change of direction

From the resulting corner kick by McLean, Mannus had to be sharp to deny Christie, and then the ball ended up at the feet of Taylor – another player that looks to be departing in the summer.

His shot was unsurprisingly way off target.

Not long after that, the ever willing McLean saw another of his efforts, this time from further out, go high, wide, and not at all handsome.

The visitors then had their first chances of the game when first of all their captain, Steven Anderson, headed inches wide from a free kick, and then the ever dangerous Swanson’s long range attempt went, thankfully, wide of the target.

With 60 minutes gone, a fine piece of play from Christie resulted in a good ball laid into the path of Jack. His shot was not the one to get the opener though.

The game was desperately in need of a change of direction, and when Jayden Stockley and future MK Dons player, Peter Pawlett, replaced Rooney and Christie the fans were hoping that they could do as they have done so often this season and grab the vital winning goals.

But this was not to be. Their fresh legs didn’t change the way of the pretty poor fare on display at all.

The opening goal came under pretty controversial circumstances with only ten minutes left to play. Joe Lewis parried a shot from Swanson. The ball fell to Jack who was only a couple of feet  away from the keeper on the left side of the goals in a crowded area. The captain should have just turned it out for a corner, instead he hesitated on the ball and touched it back to Lewis.

With the referee at close hand viewing the incident, he rightly awarded an indirect free kick, despite the player’s protestations, and later claiming he was nudged in the back causing his foot to move the ball, from where I sit, directly behind the goal, it saddens me to say, that this was one of the few decisions that wannabe-Willie-Collum referee Muir got correct.

Rarely does anybody score from an indirect free kick in such close quarters to the net, but the writing was on the wall when The Dons lined up as if they were defending a free kick from further out. Instead of crowding out the goal mouth as most teams do, the set up a small defensive wall, with Lewis crazily positioning himself just behind the wall, with one man on the back post.

Liam Craig noticed this calamitous set up, and squared the ball to Swanson, who tucked it away from a relatively tight angle into the gaping space at the back post.

0-1

Aberdeen had to then chase the game – a situation that would never have developed had they been more positive in their finishing, and three minutes later, the inevitable happened. Goal scorer Swanson passed the ball to young Craig Thomson, and he fired a perfect angled and executed shot past Lewis to increase their lead.

0-2

Another poor decision occurred over on the South Stand side when Stockley and a couple of St Johnstone players were involved in a nothing situation which very nearly got out of hand. They were all lying on the ground after a period of play, nothing really, but when they stood up goalscorer Craig got right into Stockley’s face in a very threatening manner. The tall Aberdeen forward held his hands up and backed away.

Craig didn’t give up trying to make something out of nothing, and when the Perth lad threw himself to the ground causing Stockley to fall over him as he walked away from the farcical episode, other players got involved. Instead of sending Craig off for simulation, referee Muir showed only a yellow card, then mysteriously issued the same to Stockley who had already calmly walked away from the melee.

The end couldn’t come quick enough for what was left of the poor 10,606 crowd, and when the final whistle went, we all bemoaned the fact that two home games in a row we have lost a game in a five or six minute second half spell to a lower placed team playing in blue.

It looks like our post  split season poor form continues. This time with only nine points separating us from the plucky newcomers, the last four matches are vitally important.

Final Score: 0-2

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Apr 052017
 

By Red Fin Hall.

A crowd of around 11,500 people, including 174 from Inverness, saw referee Andrew Dallas get this evening game underway, and an unchanged Aberdeen team were looking for their tenth home victory in a row.

Starting positively, Jonny Hayes burst down the left wing, saw Niall McGinn inside the opposition’s box and fired an inch perfect ball into him.

The number 10’s attempt was on target, but was destined to count for nothing as the Main Stand linesman waved for an offside.

The Dons were determined to continue where they left off on Friday, by playing at a great pace and fighting for every ball.

The next move saw man of the moment, Kenny McLean, fire a great ball into the feet of McGinn who was ready and willing in front of the goal. But the Inverness captain, Gary Warren had other ideas and stole the ball right off him a mere 3 yards in front of the net.

Minutes later McGinn was the provider from the same left side, but keeper, Owain Fon Williams managed to get his fingers to the ball, which fell, fortunately, just beyond Adam Rooney.

With 11 minutes gone, Aberdeen were keeping the pressure up, and some fine passing from Hayes to McLean and back to Hayes, then into McGinn, whose head flick was saved by the keeper.

Next, a Graeme Shinnie shot from just outside the box went wide.

The home side were awarded their first corner in the 12th minute of this so far, action past game.

McLean was on fire, running the midfield and appearing all over the field pitching in. Inverness were working hard to stop the Dons from running rampant, and were making a better fist of it than Dundee did.

Working his way down the left side, McLean was brought down by Henri Anier, resulting in the first free kick of the match just inside the visitor’s half.

Shinnie picked the ball up around half way and started a great run towards the Merkland Stand, culminating in a super shot from about 30 yards out, but the only reward from this great play was a corner. Hayes took the corner finding Friday’s hat-trick hero, Andrew Considine, who fired the ball in for Ash Taylor who made certain by striking the ball into the back of the net to open the scoring on the 22nd minute.

1-0

A short time later, the defender attempted one of his accurate long passes towards Shinnie who was lurking at the far edge of the goal area, but the ball ended up going out for a Caley goal kick.

In the 33rd minute, Hayes tried a running chip shot, gaining yet another corner from which Taylor, who was having a good game, headed just wide. With around ten minutes left of the first half to play, the referee issued the first booking of this competitive match when Billy McKay deliberately pulled back Considine.

Just before the end of the first 45 minutes, Hayes had another super breakaway before finding McGinn with the pass. McGinn in turn passed brilliantly to McLean who was running in to collect it. The net result, however, was a corner, which turned out to be the last action of the first 45.

Half time: 1-0

With neither side opting to make any half time changes, Aberdeen had been awarded a throw in and a corner within the first 2 minutes of the restart. From the corner Considine got his head to the ball, but could only head the ball down and out to give the visitors possession.

Shay Logan was the next player to execute a great move, by making good run before putting a fine ball in to captain Ryan Jack who then passed to McLean. McLean was desperate to score, but could only put the ball wide.

Jack then showed some wonderful strength in midfield by holding onto the ball despite numerous tough challenges and severe physical pressure from several players. Aberdeen were then awarded a free kick around 30 yards out, but McLean made a hash of it.

Manager, Richie Foran must have had some harsh words to say to his team at half time, because Inverness were playing much better in this second half. Nevertheless, they barely troubled the home defence, despite having some talented players in their side such as Greg Tansey, who will be joining Aberdeen in the summer, and the other paying his first visit as a player to his old club, Kevin McNaughton. 

The pitch, not in great shape at the best of times, was cutting up more and more, making silky play all but impossible. Still, Aberdeen kept trying to add to their tally, but to no avail. 

With ten minutes left of the action, Derek McInnes decided to take off McGinn and Rooney and replace them with Ryan Christie and ex Inverness loan player, Miles Storey. It was the latter who messed up the perfect opportunity to put the game to bed. Hayes fired in the perfect ball to him as he was standing, virtually unattended on the goal line, only to get the ball trapped beneath his feet. Frustrating and puzzling to say the least.

Even with three minutes of stoppage time added, The Dons couldn’t score a second, and when the final whistle was blown Aberdeen were content to secure yet another clean sheet and, more importantly, 12 points ahead of The Rangers in second place

Final Score: 1-0

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Mar 192017
 

By Red Fin Hall.

The match against ‘they who were once contenders’ before Robbie Neilson jumped ship to go to MK. Dons and the young statistician took over, was a game where nothing short of a Dons win would suffice; not just to make it nine home wins in a row, but to rectify a poor recent record of results versus Hearts.

Aberdeen reverted back to the usual suspects in the team fielded, with Mark Reynolds still out injured, Anthony O’Connor retaining his place, and Jayden Stockley back on the bench.

It was a fine but sunny-ish day, with the rain, thankfully, staying off. Hearts won the toss, and decided to kick off towards the Merkland Stand. The match referee was Steven McLean.

The Dons started off in a positive manner, winning two corner kicks in the first minute. Hearts got theirs five minutes in when O’Connor and Esmael Goncalves were involved in the first real tackle of the game.

8 minutes in the home team were awarded their 2nd free kick, a pattern which was set for the whole of the game.

Kenny McLean continued on from the last game, being involved in almost everything that happened on every part of the field. However, he was an unwilling participant in the first booking of the game, when he was chopped down by Alexander Tziolis.

Aberdeen were well at the top of their game, and even this early in the proceedings there was some pretty fine football being played. But, Hearts being Hearts, they interspersed trying to make a game of it with their trademark fouling.

Aberdeen were nearly hit with a sucker punch as the visitors progressed upfield, but some calm defending meant that the shot from Arnaud Djoum never troubled Joe Lewis, and the ball sailed over the bar for a goal kick.
 
Leonard Sowah was the next player to concede a free kick for a foul on Ryan Jack.

With 23 minutes elapsed we saw the best move of the game when Andrew Considine and Niall McGinn showed some skill in passing and possession, with the latter firing a perfect cross from the left side into the 18 yard area to find Shay Logan running across the front of goal and heading the ball into the back of the net.

1-0

McGinn was the executor of the next chance a mere 4 minutes later when he fired a good ball in for Adam Rooney. Rooney couldn’t quite make contact with it and it fell perfectly for Graeme Shinnie. Alas, the best we could get was a corner, which, when taken was too long for anybody.

Next, left back Considine passed forward an almost perfect ball for Hayes, but he wasn’t expecting it and failed to control it.

Hearts found themselves having the ball for a good bit of play until their work was broken up by McLean, who was then fouled for his trouble.

within the first 2 minutes Rooney had the ball in the net

Playing to his usual high standard, Shinnie collected the ball on the edge of the opposition box, turned swiftly and chipped the ball in.

It went over the bar though.

The Dons were a joy to watch, and the goal had obviously knocked the stuffing out of the men from Edinburgh, with Goncalves seemingly giving up on chasing loose balls down to easily.

Meanwhile, McGinn showed again why there may be top clubs after him in the summer, when he aimed for Rooney with a superb ball in from the sideline. The Irish striker was just unable to reach it. Still looking dangerous though.

Sam Nicholson, despite not having a game of the standard you might expect from him, tried running at the Dons defence looking for an equaliser before half time, but his finish was poor and the ball was inches away from clearing the roof of The Merkland Stand.

Just on half time Hearts had another possible goal failing by poor shooting, this time by Goncalves. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as the player was adjudged to be offside, although he didn’t know it at the time.

Half time 1-0.
 
The second half kicked off with The Dons attacking, and within the first 2 minutes Rooney had the ball in the net, but the whistle had been blown for offside.
 
57 minutes had passed when Logan took a throw in to Hayes, who passed to McLean who is not shot shy, but couldn’t find the second goal.

Don Cowie, the Hearts captain was booked for a foul on McLean. The free kick went no further than the wall though.

There next followed a catalogue of errors by Hearts starting off when McLean stole the ball off a Hearts player in midfield, but then after getting it back, the Dons forced a slack pass back from Anastasios Avlonitis. Before Hearts’ keeper Jack Hamilton could get to the ball, Jonny Hayes nipped in and collected it.

The keeper made a timing error when he dived at the feet of the onrushing Hayes, missing both the ball and the attacker, making it easy for him to kick the ball into an empty net.

2-0.

The second half continued in such a fashion, with the Dons pushing high upfield and Hearts fouling, mainly McLean, with Jamie Walker getting a yellow card for doing so just after 80 minutes had passed.

Just before that, however, Rooney was substituted and Jayden Stockley came on. The tall forward is more often than not, proven to have a crucial effect on games when he comes off the bench. Today was no different, but time it wasn’t so good. The Hearts players couldn’t quite handle him, and as he tried to break upfield with minutes left to play Krystian Novak, in an attempt to stop him, was pulling him back.

None of the officials saw this, but they did see Stockley foolishly react by swiping back at the player with his hand, making contact with Novak’s face. The Hearts player, unsurprisingly, went down over dramatically. The Dons player was correctly shown a straight red card for his part in the incident.

Dying the time that Novak was being treated for the gentle tap on the face he received, both Shinnie and Hearts substitute, Malaury Martin, were yellow carded for pushing and shoving like petulant schoolboys.

Ryan Christie and Frank Ross both got very minimal run-outs in the last few minutes. The fourth official indicated that three minutes stoppage time would be played, which passed without further incident. The full time whistle went, and Man Of The Match, Kenny McLean must continue to ponder what he has to do to get back into the Scotland squad.

Full time 2-0

Next game is away to Dundee on the last day of the month, before Inverness Caledonian Thistle pay a visit on 4th April.

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Mar 122017
 

By Red Fin Hall.

A quick return visit from the manager-less Steelmen, but a harder match was to be expected than the 7-2 drubbing we handed out to them on the previous occasion.
Being AFC Community Trust day, a large contingent of children and first timers were in attendance.

The club had said that the Merkland Stand had sold out, but there were enough empty seats to nullify this claim.

With Captain Ryan Jack back from injury, but Andrew Considine joining Mark Reynolds on the injury list, changes were inevitable. Graeme Shinnie slotted into the left back position, whilst Jayden Stockley continued in his up front position with Andrew Rooney.

After a rainy night and morning, it dried up, but it didn’t do anything to help the already sodden pitch.

Referee Euan Anderson blowed whistle as The Don’s kicked off towards the King Street end.

The first free kick of the game was awarded to the home team when Chris Cadden deliberately pulled down Jonny Hayes. Niall McGinn’s free kick was palmed away by keeper Craig Samson.

A good ball from Ash Taylor was received by Adam Rooney who was in plenty of space and had seemingly plenty of time, but the striker unnecessarily rushed the shot and the ball went out for a goal kick.

8 minutes into the match, McGinn collected a pass really well on the right side of the pitch. He then executed a perfect cross for Rooney, but his header was just off target. A minute later Motherwell were awarded the first corner of the game.

The centre pairing of Taylor and Anthony O’Connor were caught napping, but fortunately Motherwell were incapable of cashing in on the error.  

The first booking of the game saw ‘Well defender, Ben Heneghan shown a yellow card for coming back onto the field without permission – after being on the sidelines getting treatment for a head injury.

The pattern for the afternoon was set for Rooney when he managed to steal the ball from Zak Jules and Carl McHugh, then had a shocking ‘un-strikerlike’ attempt at goal.

This bad luck / carelessness continued in the 18th minute, when, not for the first time this season, he attempted to find the back of the net with an overhead kick. This time he didn’t even manage to make contact with the ball.

With Shinnie taking over the left back slot, we were missing somebody at this juncture who could put their foot on the ball in midfield and hold play up for a moment or two to try and alter this tousy game.

Jules, in the spirit of their tactics, conceded a free kick when he clattered Stockley to the ground

Midway through the half, good interplay between Shay Logan, McGinn and Stockley saw Rooney taking the final touch. This time his sharp shot was much more positive, but still couldn’t find the net, the ball going marginal over the bar.

Ryan Bowman became the second player to be booked for deliberately taking down Shinnie after the defender had ran back 30 yards to tackle the ball away from ‘Well number 12, Cadden, who had broken away.

The defence was called into action next when O’Connor took the ball off of  Scott McDonald as he was lining up to take shot. The ball was then worked forward to McGinn whose shot was on target, but well saved by Samson.

Motherwell seemed to have came with a plan to stop the Dons building a rhythm to the game, and it was working successfully. Jules, in the spirit of their tactics, conceded a free kick when he clattered Stockley to the ground 30 yards out.

The half drew to a close with Hayes, McGinn and Stockley nipping away and trying to break down the resilient Steelmen to no avail.

Half time 0-0.

With both teams unchanged from the first half, it was Motherwell who, within 4 minutes of the second, had the first attempt at breaking the deadlock when Scott McDonald, from just outside the goal area, chipped the ball over the defence. However, Joe Lewis was perfectly placed to catch the ball in his arms.

Good persistent play from Stockley saw the tall Englishman winning a corner. The end play from the set piece saw the ball enciphered at the feet of Taylor in a well forward position. The tall defender struck the ball from the left side of the goal mouth at a diagonal angle, going narrowly beyond the far right post near the crossbar.

Kenny McLean was having a really strong game, being involved in most moves. One minute bang in front of the goal winning a corner, next back helping with the defence.

21 minutes into the second half, the visitors made the first change of the game with Ryan Bowman being replace by Jacob Blyth, who was introduced I presume to add some spirit to the Motherwell play.

McLean was in action again in the 62nd minute when he slotted a great ball towards the far post which, with Shinnie just unable to make contact, went over for a goal kick. McLean had another unsuccessful attempt at goal just a minute later .

The final booking of the game, the sixth for the visitors, went to Cadden

Stephen Pearson became the next Motherwell player to fall foul of the ref when he was booked for holding back the pacy Jonny Hayes the Dons winger sprinted goal-ward.

Motherwell were content to waste time and settle for the draw.

Their fourth booking went to Hammel, Captain for the day, who chopped down McGinn.

In the 73rd minute Rooney was replaced by Ryan Christie. Soon after, Hammel was substituted as Elliot Frear came on for Motherwell.

Meanwhile, in between these two substitutions, yet another Motherwell booking was given. This time it was David Ferguson who was the recipient, long overdue, for time wasting.

Stockley received a yellow card with 7 minutes to go. At the same time O’Connor was replaced by Miles Storey as Derek McInnes was determined to get a win. The Dons never-say-die attitude was needed now as time was ticking away.

The game was held up for a while as Stockley and Ferguson received treatment, the 2 players having cracked their heads together in a challenge.

The final booking of the game, the sixth for the visitors, went to Cadden who refused to release the ball for The Dons to take a throw.

It was looking like an undeserved draw was on the cards when fourth official Scott Millar indicated there were 5 minutes of time to be added on.  

In the first of these minutes, Jonny Hayes shot the ball across the area from the left, to the right. McGinn ran into the ball and swept it into to the back of the net, shattering the hardworking but poorly skilled visitors, and sending the home fans into raptures as AFC move 9 points clear in second place.

1-0

The match sponsors bemused the crowd by awarding McGinn the man of the match, whilst ignoring the best player on the pitch, McLean.

Final score 1-0.

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