Talking sport … with Jim Tait

Shetland’s young sports competitors retained their hold on the Stuart Cup at the weekend, with the margin of victory, in the end, being fairly comfortable.

Going into the last event of the junior inter-county, the netball, Orkney had to win by 32 points to overhaul the visitors’ lead. Despite a brave and thrilling attempt, resulting in an 11-point victory, realistically the overall result was never really in doubt.

While there were excellent outcomes for both the athletics squad and the football team, a substantial proportion of the damage inflicted on Orkney came in the pool.
The Shetland swimmers, led by triple record-breaker Jasmin Smith, once again defeated their hosts by nearly 20 points.

Superiority in the water is now a regular occurrence in inter-counties, and the days when Orkney maintained a stranglehold on that event have been confined to distant memory.

Part of the reason for the continued success could well be the number of swimming clubs around the isles, with Shetland, Lerwick, Delting, South Mainland, Whalsay and the West Side all competing for honours.

Regular events in Shetland could be just as important as the trips to the mainland, as it helps to forge the competitive element necessary in the inter-county.

The only disciplines in which Orkney were successful this year were hockey and netball, where apart from school tournaments in the latter there is no recognised league structure here.

Huge credit is due to the swimmers and their coaches, and also the many others who put in so much time and effort at the other sports involved in the Stuart Cup.

Here’s hoping that the hockey and netball contestants will not have long to wait for their own success.

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On the subject of hockey, mention needs to be made of former goalkeeper Sarah Couper who is now a qualified A grade umpire.

She travelled away last weekend to take charge of two international matches and is off to Swansea today to umpire a home international masters game.

This is the pinnacle of officiating in hockey and should be seen as a fine achievement both Couper and the sport in Shetland, which faces the perennial battle for getting a new playing surface.

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Congratulations are due to the Lerwick Spurs football team which is now through to the fourth round of the Highland Amateur Cup.

Spurs defeated Ness from the Western Isles 3-0 at Dornoch on Saturday and now face Caithness side Staxigoe in the last-16 clash.

It was the first of two successes against a team with the same name in three days and no hangovers were obvious as they returned and picked up an important victory over Ness United in the local premier league on Monday.

The other Ness may not mean much to the average Shetland football follower, but some may know it was the club that Angus Murray represented for a long time.

Murray, who played for Lerwick Thistle for a couple of seasons in the mid-1980s while working at the town’s Co-op, commented on Facebook this week that it was the “wrong half of Lerwick but well done Spurs”.

He continued: “The competition is in the doldrums and in need of new talent. It would be quite something if a Shetland team could win it given the logistics. I’ll be watching with interest.”

Pressed on his Shetland connections, Murray went on: “The Spurs of my era were formidable … Watt Bros, Leask Bros, B Williamson, K Malcolmson et al. I must say I had not heard of Jim Peterson’s passing. A scholar, gentleman and Spurs stalwart, we had many a chat in the Lounge Bar.

“How removed we are at times. He wrote the The History of Shetland Football 1887-1987, a copy of which I have, one of his many accomplishments I’m sure. All the best in the next games. The competition does islands no favours on balance.”

Murray, much like the way he used to play, is bang on target here. The tournament organisers do little to help the furthest travelled teams, and Jim Peterson is indeed a massive loss.

With the anniversary of the Milne Cup now under two months away, and a competition running (see above) to name Shetland’s greatest team, Murray’s name may be on the minds of a few selectors.

And we could hope that Peterson, although this column is not normally the place for religious connotations, may be looking down and having a dram when the big event happens on 28th July.

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Professional footballers, especially in the modern era, obviously have a lot of time on their hands.

That could explain why they indulge so much in the absurd tattoos and haircuts which are now commonplace.

The latest to make the news is Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, who has gone and had the image of an AK-47 assault rifle inked on his lower leg.

Sterling, rather bafflingly, claimed the idea was a tribute to his father who was gunned down by a gang in Jamaica when he was just a toddler.

Not surprisingly Sterling has been criticised by anti-gun campaigners, who demanded he remove the tattoo or be dropped from the England squad.

Richard Taylor, whose 10-year-old son Damilola died after being attacked by a gang in London, has also accused Sterling of setting a terrible example to fans.

The player has now explained that he would never touch a gun and that the tattoo is “unfinished”. Maybe he intends to have a deletion mark added on top of the offending image?

Apparently, Gary Lineker of all people has jumped to Sterling’s defence, claiming it is “weird, unpatriotic and sad” for him to be criticised by the media in such a way prior to the World Cup.

I’m sorry, but it’s not the fault of newspapers that Sterling appears to be lacking in grey cells. I’ve never been a fan of Lineker, but did think he would show more common sense than this.

Taylor is correct. It’s a crass act by Sterling and just as daft a move by those who support him.

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To end on a more postitive note, surely cyclist Chris Froome has to be one of the UK’s best ever sports performers.

The way he destroyed the field to secure the recent Giro d’Italia, the third Grand Tour title he currently holds along with the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, was incredible.

Sadly this country has not really taken to Froome, otherwise he would have surely already been a recipient of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

If he wins another Tour de France this year, which would be his fifth victory, it would be a travesty if he didn’t receive the personality trophy.

Barring Harry Kane scoring a hat trick in the final and lifting the World Cup for England next month, which I can’t really see happening, hopefully this will be Froome’s year at last.


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