Scots and Irish meet again in shinty-hurling
The first leg of this year's international between Scotland and Ireland takes place this weekend at the Bught Parks, Inverness. This is the only opportunity shinty and hurling have to perform in an international fixture through the compromised rules set-up.
The sport of shinty is predominantly played off the ground, while its sister sport hurling is more commonly played in the air. Both sports, however, play off the ground and air making the two rules combined a very exciting and physical match-up.
The points system has slightly changed this year with five points now being awarded for a goal instead of the traditional three. I'm thinking the new rule is hoping to spur on both countries to try for goals instead of hitting long range efforts over the bar.
This however won't stop the Irish from keeping the scoreboard ticking over with long range efforts.
Scotland take on Ireland in the annual shinty-hurling internationals. Pic: Neil G Paterson Photography
The rule of two points from a free, and a single point for over the bar during the run of play will stand as before.
Scotland have not beaten the Irish since 2008, after a hard fought 1-10 to 1-9 win at Nowland Park, Kilkenny, and Scotland boss Drew MacNeil will be very keen to rectify this. Drew himself has captained the national side and is very aware of just how difficult it is to
beat the Emerald Isle.
Newtonmore's Norman Campbell leads the boys in blue for the second consecutive year and, in my mind, nobody deserves it more or has been as dedicated to the international set-up over the years as Norman.
The Irish haven't held back this year with top tier players from several counties populating their 19-man squad. All-star and modern day hurling legend Tommy Walsh is also back in the squad after missing last year's international due to injury.
I haven't seen Tommy since he shattered my nose at Croke Park in 2010. My mum's still after him so he'd better watch out!!
Both squads take the internationals extremely seriously and, as you would expect, nothing short of a win will do for either country.
As I wrote about a few weeks back, this will be the first year since 2000 that I have not pulled a Scotland jersey on at junior or senior level and I feel strange about the whole thing.
With my work commitments changing so much this year, it literally was impossible to get a single training session under my belt. However I will be up in the box alongside my pal Hugh Dan Maclennan to co-commentate on the big match and look forward to still being part of the big occasion in some small part.
I urge you all if you have never watched shinty or shinty-hurley before to tune in to BBC Two Scotland this coming Saturday from 13:00 BST.
With our national football team in dire straits, why not take a punt on our oldest national sport. I don't think you will be disappointed.
They don't play for fame, they don't play for cash, they just play for the glory and the clash of the ash...