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Scotland must change to prosper

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BBC Sport blog editor | 18:43 UK time, Monday, 29 October 2012

Scotland's senior squad travelled to the Emerald Isle to play the second leg of the yearly shinty-hurling international.

Cusack Park, Ennis, County Clare was the venue of choice for the Irish who led 3-1 after the first game in Inverness. They secured a bonus point for scoring more than two goals, while Scotland's point came with only a minute to go. Kevin Bartlett and Lochaber's Neil Macdonald both scored to keep the tie alive.

With Patrick Horgan, the man who had scored 22 of Ireland's 25 points in Scotland the weekend before on holiday, Scotland would have been confident they could overcome the deficit.

In front of the Irish Prime minister Enda Kenny and dignitaries, Mánran frontman Norrie MacIver sang the national anthem as the men in blue prepared for battle.

In the beautiful sunshine, the game was seconds old when Bartlett had a point over the bar to raise the Scottish flags.

Ireland responded immediately with goals and long distance points over the bar to take control of the game. The green and white Irish shirts seemed everywhere as they tore the Scottish defence apart with a barrage of attacks and points.

Ireland were 25-19 winners at Bught Park

The second half was slightly better for Scotland with goals from Bartlett and Keith MacRae, however it was Ireland who continued to slalom with the ball on the end of the hurl - a move which the Scottish team couldn't stop.

The match eventually finished with Ireland unbelievably breaking the 50 point mark, 51-23.

This was the largest margin between the two countries ever.

So what went wrong, and how can we come back from this?

Personally, I think three key changes must be made if Scotland is to be victorious again.

This year was the first year that five points were awarded for a goal instead of three, which had been traditionally played. This must be scrapped now! It was tried, it didn't work, now swap it back to the original points system and leave it alone.

From 2010 the series has been played home and away instead of a one off yearly game.
This I believe hinders the Scots. Ireland are fitter, faster, and over the two games adapt better to the compromised rules. Sport and media interest would increase if there was only one game.

My third point is training.

To be part of the Scotland set up you must attend one of three initial selection sessions followed by a further four weekends of training. If you are lucky enough to be selected, then two full weekends including Friday's off for the series follows.

This process is not working.

Having spoken with many of the top players in the sport, they feel there is now too much of a commitment alongside work, family, and club commitments on a Saturday, without adding nearly two months extra of time away on their only day off (Sunday).

For years Shinty has been asking Ireland to send out their top boys, or 'All Stars' to represent their sport, now because of the demands being placed on Shinty players, they are not selecting their best for the series, so how do we change that?

Instead of players being nominated to attend try-out sessions it may help if Scotland boss Drew MacNeil and staff pick their squad on who they feel is playing well that season and are in form, then train with just those picked for a shorter amount of time.

The other possible option is they bring back the North v South fixture and the management team pick from that game.

There are many options I'm sure the Camanachd Association could discuss to help improve things.

One thing for sure is that after the last couple of weeks results the GAA will now look at using lower tiered hurlers again to keep the tie respectable. This is not what either sport wants.

It is a fantastic spectacle when the two sports collide and a huge social side between the two countries that will never be lost, however both countries I'm sure would agree they would like to showcase the series as best as possible.

Scotland's under 21s were extremely unlucky in their match up losing by 23-19. Ireland took the lead midway through the second half and with only minutes remaining Greg Matheson had a chance to claim his second of the day and likely the winner for Scotland, however solid goalkeeping from the Irish keeper secured victory for the hosts.

The Scottish women's team did however lift the spirits on Saturday morning with a 21-5 win over Clare. Goals from Lorna MacRae, Laura Gallagher, Katie Drain, and a double from Jane Nicol sent Scotland home with a fine piece of silverware.

This will be the last blog for 2012 and I would once more like to thank BBC Scotland for their continued support of our sport, and for continuing to feature Shinty on the main BBC Sport Scotland website each week.

I'd also like to thank you all very much for continuing to read my nonsense of a blog and for the feedback that you give me regarding each weeks blether.

Have a safe winter,I look forward to getting the craic and caman back in hand with you all very soon.

Sláinte

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