Oxford Shinty Club get to dust off the camans just to have to put them away again

After months of lockdown, waiting patiently to dust off the camans, Oxford Shinty Club went back to training with a will in September. With help from the Camanachd Association South development officer Paul MacArthur and the English Shinty Association committee, risk assessments were created and protocols were formed to make Covid-19 secure training sessions possible.

After a long spring and summer in lockdown the team hit the ground running with renewed enthusiasm. Under the leadership of newly-elected club president Melissa Charlton, elected with an ambition to make Oxford shinty “the Best Camanachd this side of the wall” hopes were high (as was the smell of disinfectant hand gel).

For many at the club it had felt like a very long wait, especially for ex-Glasgow Uni and Tayforth player David MacLean “I think the biggest disappointment for me was not being able to train, I hardly saw the guys. Silver lining is that we've gained a bunch of players”

Perhaps due to other sports not recommencing training, there has been an influx of new players to the Oxford team this autumn. The range of experience is wide: from those who last played as kids (but, even in the most generous estimation, are definitely no longer children) and players who have recently been exiled south, to those new to the game who have quickly contracted the shinty virus.

This flood of new players has also led to a change of venue for training; the decision was made to move to more formal facilities, the Horspath pitches run by Oxford Harlequins RFC. Previous training grounds, on small public spaces in Oxford, involved the majority of fitness development coming from chasing dogs who had stolen the ball, or running to move the car before the traffic warden issued a ticket. The new venue has better playing surfaces, and plenty of space for training and parking (though local dogs are still a key feature of the fitness regime).

The Covid-19 situation and the new facilities also led to the first club Captain’s vs President’s select game being organised: https://twitter.com/OxfordShinty/status/1318110189090897926?s=20. After a tight game, the President’s select came out on top, winning 2-0. The match was a great introduction for the new players to competitive shinty.

“I am really loving it! Much more than I thought” is the opinion of Eric Sukumaran, previously a cricketer and rugby player.

“Shinty reintroduced me to competitive sport after a break of several years. I massively enjoy it and was surprised by the camaraderie, the exercise, the competitiveness and the banter. “

Normal times may be awhile away yet, with a 2nd lockdown currently in force in England as of the beginning of November. However the team has not been idle, taking up the challenge of running 500 miles in a month for local charity, the Katherine House Hospice. The idea was the creation of JP Crilly "We wanted to keep everyone, especially the new players, involved over the period when we could not train together as a club. We considered Zoom HIIT sessions (but several members vetoed any more burpees after the last lockdown) and an exercise log but decided on an exercise challenge. We thought that we would not only try to keep our members active but could also do some good for the wider community by turning it into a fund-raising activity"

The club’s progress on their charity challenge can be followed at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/500-mile-oxfordshinty-dribble.

There are also plans for various events for 2021, such as the Oxford 6s competition (5th June), as well as a range of fixtures against other English clubs. For upcoming events, or if you want to get involved in any way, please see https://www.facebook.com/shintyoxford

or email oxfordshinty@gmail.com

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