Willamette Shinty, Central California Camanachd Club, & Northern California Camanachd at the 2012 Pleasanton Scottish Games

Pleasanton Scottish Games is a Shinty Success!

History was made this past weekend when three American Shinty Clubs competed at the Pleasanton Scottish Games in California. With the sport still in its infancy in the US, this tournament was a watermark, and the fact that the newest club ended up playing the oldest in the final was a perfect reflection of the enthusiasm with which shinty is being received.

Players from three clubs met at the Pleasanton Games - Willamette Shinty (Oregon), Central California Camanachd Club and hosts Northern California Camanachd - for mixed-sides matches on Saturday and a round-robin tournament on Sunday. The Saturday games provided a chance for the players to get acquainted both on and off the field, with the "Mix'n'Matches" proving a big success. There were many scorers, including Max McKay Taylor, Timmer Shoop, Don Magarian, Jim Buatti, and Michael Bentley; and some great stops by the keepers, including Seth Ford blocking a penalty shot. All around good games and an excellent way to kick off the shinty weekend.

Sunday turned towards the more competitive side of shinty, with a three team tournament set for the afternoon. Temperatures climbed into the 90Fs (30Cs), a factor that might have proved an advantage for the Central Californians who are used to 100+F (38+C) during their summer training. Friends and family, as well as some new shinty fans, watched from the shade as the teams took the field.

The First match saw the Willamette Club, supplemented by a few NCC members, take on the Merced-based Central California Camanachd Club (CCCC). NCC provided a referee, side judges and goal judges for the match, something which all the non-playing teams did during the course of the afternoon. The match raged through the midfield, with chances being created by both sides, but with CCCC taking the better final touch. Steve Aitchison opened the scoring with a one-timer past keeper Ruth Mikusko, and then Joe Heras and Corey Cain followed suit before the break. Three first half goals put the Central Californians on top to stay, though the Willamette squad pushed hard to get on the board through to the final whistle. Aitchison's second half goal left no doubt in the end, 4-0 to the CCCC.

The second match paired the host side Northern California Camanachd against the Portland-based visitors. This time the players on loan came from CCCC and included stints in goal from both Nick Larrison and Corey Cain. The hosts struck first with a goal from Jim Buatti, slotting home the rebound off a Michael Bentley shot. The game thundered on, with some hard fought battles for possession of the ball. The Oregon side pushed into the NCC defense, but was unable to finish the opportunities. A second score for the hosts, this time from midfielder Travis Miranda, closed the first half. The second half saw a lot of back and forth action, and some good work from keepers Elheran Francis and Corey Cain in turning away shots. First half scorer Buatti struck again, this time crashing towards goal and flipping the ball past the keeper as the players converged in the D. The 3-0 score stood and the Northern California side went into the final match of the tournament knowing the the winner would hoist the Michael Kosman Memorial Cup.

Right from the first whistle the Central California and Northern California clubs ratcheted up the level of competition a notch, the two teams fighting hard for every ball. NCC had the best of it in the early going, pushing their attack repeatedly and were rewarded with a goal from Seth Ford, who made a run from the midfield before firing a tricky skipping shot past keeper Nick Larrison's feet and just inside the post. A second NCC goal came from a bad hop ball that Michael Bentley placed at the same post, but before the break the Central California side pushed back, with goals coming courtesy of Joe Heras' rising shot from straight in front of the goal and an aerial looping volley perfectly placed by Hector Ramirez.

With the score deadlocked at 2, the second half set up to be a real showdown. The Northern California side came out swinging and, after a goal called back for off-side, netted the go-ahead score. Michael Bentley's shot was blocked by keeper Nick Larrison, who also stopped Jim Buatti's follow-up roller, but with the ball still in the D, the lurking Bentley flicked the second rebound across the goal line.

The play then took on a different tone, with CCCC pushing the ball repeatedly into their opponent's half, only to have the stalwart NCC defense break down the attack before a shot could be taken, with Travis Miranda and Colleen McAvoy playing key roles. The Merced side did manage several attempts, but did not manage to keep the ball on frame. NCC counter-attacked several times during this period, with goalie Larrison keeping his side in the match, making an excellent stick save off a Bentley rocket and several quick foot stops on difficult low strikes. As time wound down Lester Carter, who had been battling continuously in midfield with CCCC's captain Steve Aitchison, lasered a pass to the feet of Bentley, who then put a backhand blast into the back of the net, completing his hat-trick. With the score at 4-2, the final whistle blew and Northern California Camanachd claimed the trophy on the day.

The post-match session found all three teams enjoying a few drinks and relaxing in the California sunshine. Drams were poured by the NCC and toasts were made to the health of one and all as players analyzed the matches and shared their stories.

A few representatives from the winning side were invited to the Grandstand Stage and, during the closing ceremonies for the Pleasanton Games, were presented with a beautiful trophy. The award was renamed this year to honor a NCC member who had died in early July, so in winning the Michael Kosman Memorial Cup the Northern California players remembered their comrade both on and off the pitch, his friendship will never be forgotten.

Photos from the tournament matches can be found here

Pleasanton Scottish Games Shinty Tournament
The Michael Kosman Memorial Cup

Oregon 0
Central California 4 [Joe Heras, Corey Cain, Steve Aitchison (2)]

Northern California 3 [Jim Buatti (2), Travis Miranda]
Oregon 0

Central California 2 [Joe Heras, Hector Ramirez]
Northern California 4 [Seth Ford, Michael Bentley (3)]

Northern California Camanachd - winners of the Michael Kosman Memorial Cup