By NEIL RIDDELL
With only six weeks left until the action gets under way, Shetland’s 93-strong squad of athletes and officials for this year’s island games competition in Åland has been named.
One of the most striking details about the squad is that there is no place for runner Claire Wilson, one of the outstanding performers in recent games having won a host of medals in the Isle of Man in 2001, Guernsey in 2003, here in 2005 and Rhodes two years ago.
Athletics team coach Karen Craigie said Wilson had recently moved to Birmingham but has been unable to get into a settled programme of training over the past year and so she has decided to sit the games out, but the club hopes she will be able to return to action for the 2011 competition in the Isle of Wight.
The provisional 26-man football squad – to be whittled down to 20 later this month – is boosted by the presence of Duncan Bray, scorer of the clinching second goal against Guernsey in the 2005 games final in Shetland.
Manager John Jamieson is hopeful that Bray – who is now based in France but had a rare outing for Ness United against Whitedale on Monday during a fleeting visit to his home shores – will be able to make the games, which would inject a bit of much-needed spark to the team in the attacking third.
The footballers face a tricky draw in the group stages, coming up against host island Åland, Greenland and Menorca, but should have a much stronger squad to choose from than they did for the recent defeat against
the Western Isles. Along with the possible addition of Bray, students Ross Moncrieff and Joe Leask should feature, along with key midfield man Alan Duncan.
Shetland will be participating in nine of the 14 sports being contested in Åland from 26th June until 4th July, including a 23-strong athletics squad, 10 archers, eight swimmers, a trio of table tennis players and seven shooters. Four sailors, four windsurfers and solitary golfer Jordan Leask, along with various team managers, coaches and physios, make up the 93 taking part.
Accounting for the presence of a football team this time around, the squad size is roughly in line with the pool of 64 which travelled to Rhodes. The squad could have been substantially larger but squash, bowls, triathlon and cycling have all been left out of the games at the discretion of the host island, while Shetland is not sending badminton, volleyball, gymnastics or women’s football teams.
General team manager Bob Kerr said there was a “good mix of youth and experience” in the squad. “You never know what surprises might come in the form of medals – the combination of the event, the preparation, the climate, all combine to bring up medals where we may or may not have expected them. It’s hard to predict, and that’s the excitement of the games.
“As in previous games, there’s a mix of younger members for who it will be the first games and it will be a fantastic experience . . . [which] is helpful for the next time – that in itself is a good reason to be taking part.
“If we can try and get a good mix in the team, that’s as much as we can do. We’ve always kept well ahead of the Western Isles and Orkney [so] it’ll be interesting to see how we do [in comparison] with them.”
Kerr said organisationally things have been progressing very smoothly, with a lot more communication from Åland than had been the case in the weeks and months leading up to Rhodes two years ago.
“We’re getting a lot of good information from the committee, which gives you some confidence that they are ready for the games and very organised. We didn’t get much information from Rhodes before we left.”
He also paid tribute to the “fantastic” fund-raising efforts taking place, most recently a variety concert which took place in the Town Hall on Monday night and raised over £1,000 for the sailing team. Fiddler Maggie Adamson, who is part of the sailing team, helped organise the event which featured a range of local bands and fiddle groups, young musician of the year Erin Sandison and – curiously – the Whalsay Spice Girls. The personal contribution – once council money has been factored in – required for each competitor travelling to Åland comes to £850 and recent weeks have seen “a huge amount of effort”, with the football team out washing cars at Clickimin and the swimming and athletics teams packing bags at local supermarkets, while a raft of sponsorship deals with local businesses have also helped.
The team’s tracksuits are again being sponsored by Hay & Co. Buildbase, continuing a relationship which began back in 2001, and raffle tickets are in circulation for a draw taking place on 17th June.
Provisional football squad: Craig Dinwoodie, Paul Grant, Erik Peterson, Matthew Saunders; Richard Arthur, Leighton Flaws, Gary Jamieson, Merv Jamieson, Lewis Kay, Ross Moncrieff, Peter Peterson; Duncan Anderson, Alan Duncan, James Johnston, Josie Kay, Scott Morrison, Tomas Smith, Erik Thomson, Karl Williamson; Duncan Bray, Gary Burns, Craig Gerty, Fraser Hall, Joe Leask, Ross MacDougal, Dominic Mann.