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2016 Celtic Cup Lille Métropole HC 9-11 September 2016

Scotland GGM 1 (Gordon) Ireland Grand Masters 0

Peter Gordon shoots high at a penalty corner

Peter Gordon shoots at a penalty corner

On a warm and sunny Friday afternoon in Lille, Scotland 65s began their defence of the enlarged Celtic Cup with a game against Ireland. Coach Murray Paton demanded that, in the first quarter, the Scots withstand early Irish pressure and frustrate the opposition by holding on to possession. This the Scots managed to do and were further encouraged by a series of raids on the Irish defence with Colin Tucker using his speed to stretch the Irish down the right flank. The second quarter was even until Scotland broke the deadlock with a goal of careful construction and deadly finishing. Down the right wing Peter Robertson picked up the ball and carefully squared it to the onrushing Peter Gordon. Taking it under control he proceeded to lash the ball into the top corner of the goal giving the Irish keeper no chance.

The half time score did not flatter the Scots but they knew that an Irish backlash in the second half was a certainty - and so it proved. As the half proceeded it became obvious that the Scottish defence was upto the task and Irish attacks were nullified by a combination of pass anticipation and team effort. Defenders Alan Auld and captain Jim Chisholm cut off many of the Irish attacks and, allied to the tenacious tackling of John Smith and Jim Bate, the Irish attacks were repulsed.

When the final whistle blew the Scots knew that victory was a team effort with all 15 players, sometimes in positions alien to them, contributing to the encouraging result. In the match which followed Scotland's match, Wales Grand Masters overwhelmed France 9-0.

Scotland GM 8 (Johnstone, Sturrock 2, Candlin, A. Hay 2, Ogilvie 2) Wales GM 0

Matches between these two teams have until recently gone to the Welsh, their counter attacks in the face of almost constant Scotland pressure leading to comfortable scores in favour of Wales. That all changed in the Home Internationals in July, when Scotland romped home 7-0, and on the opening day of the Celtic Cup tournament Wales were looking for revenge, but it was not to be. The Scots started the game on the front foot and never allowed Wales to settle. Derek Johnstone opened the scoring with a well worked short corner routine, and soon after Niall Sturrock added a second also from a short corner. With hardly a pause for breath, Scotland made it three when Hew Bishop chased a ball into the corner that everyone was certain was a "lost cause". Hew reached the ball and sent a great cross back to John Candlin who had run 50 yards to get into the circle and he fired a first time shot past the Welsh keeper while the rest of the Welsh defence stood in amazement! Scotland went into the quarter break already 3-0 up , and the Welsh were fearing the worst. The second quarter saw the Scots maintaining complete control of the game, moving the ball from left to right and back again, recycling when necessary and constantly probing for chances to get the ball into the opposition circle. Further goals from Alistair Ogilvie and Alastair Hay followed to make the half time score 5-0 to Scotland.

The second half continued in the same vein with the Scots moving the ball around the field at will and Wales doing their best to withstand the constant pressure. There were no goals in the third quarter but this was only a short respite for the Welsh. Scotland upped their game in the final quarter and scored another three goals: another short corner strike by Niall Sturrock, a well worked goal scored by the tireless running Alastair Hay and another typical Alistair Ogilvie strike from a few feet past a flailing keeper.

The final whistle could not come quickly enough for a demoralised Welsh team which far from gaining revenge, had gone down by 8-0, conceding one more goal than in the Home Internationals. Scotland Grand Masters had played a controlled game exactly as Coach Paton had requested and everyone in the squad played their part in a thoroughly convincing win.

Scotland GM 2 (Rowlands, Johnstone) Ireland 0

Only twelve and a half hours after finishing their first match, Scotland were on the field at 10:15 on the second day against Ireland, who had given stiffer resistance than Wales in the Home Internationals but had still lost 4-0. Scotland had the balance of play in this match but had difficulty breaking down a resolute (and packed!) Irish defence. The first goal was a strike by Davie Rowlands at a short corner. The second was scored by Derek Johnstone after Glenn Paton's shot hit a defender's foot, Derek following up and smashing the bouncing ball into the net. The Scots continued to play controlled hockey probing for chances to increase the lead but could not find a way through the resolute Irish defence. Towards the end of the game and 2-0 down, Ireland decided it would be better to try to attack rather than defend and Scotland had to deal with a few short corners but the Scots defence out held out quite comfortably to leave the Scots with two wins from two games. Scotland went into the final round of matches, against France, knowing that a draw would be enough to give them the trophy.

Scotland GGM 0 Ireland 2

In their second match Scotland Great Grand Masters took on a confident Welsh side who had convincingly beaten hosts France 9-0 in the first round of matches. A combination of team effort and individual skill would be needed to see the Scots successfully across the finishing line. Matches between these two sides have traditionally been close (in the 2015 tournament a single goal by Scotland had been enough to win the trophy for Scotland over two matches against Wales) but Wales edged this one 2-0 to leave Scotland needing a big win against France and a favourable result in the Ireland-Wales match on the third day to have any chance of retaining the trophy.

Wales started on the front foot, mounting a series of attacks, and twice in the opening quarter they succeeded in breaching the Scottish defence, firstly when a cross deceived keeper Nigel Dixon and sneaked in at the post and then from a short corner. For the rest of the game the Welsh were able to contain sporadic Scotland attacks whilst launching their own offensives mostly with long ball hits allied to impressive possession play from their experienced back line. Try as they might the Scots could not find the control to pierce the Welsh defence. In the end a 2 - 0 defeat was a fair reflection on the balance of the game.

Scotland GGM 7 (Gallacher, Dunbar, Crighton, Robertson 2, Gordon 2) France 0

Scotland Grand Masters relax at the end of the tournament

Scotland Great Grand Masters relax after a tough tournament

After a confidence boosting result against Ireland and a frustrating defeat to Wales, Scotland Over 65s were hopeful that an improved team performance against the hosts France would help to develop confidence and expectation for future tournaments. These aspirations were encouraged when Colin Gallacher deceived the French keeper to open the scoring in the first quarter. Any hopes of a rapid goal rush were frustrated by a competent French keeper and a desire for the Scots to over-elaborate. The second quarter showed more promise and a series of simple midfield moves opened up the French defence for first Donald Dunbar, then Roy Crighton and finally Peter Robertson to take the Scots to the interval holding a commanding 4-0 lead.

As possibly anticipated, Scotland began the second half in rather a relaxed mood, allowing the French to frustrate the Scots and cause them to deviate from the coach's instructions. However two strikes from Peter Gordon and a tap-in from Peter Robertson ensured that the Scots finished on a high with a 7-0 victory. With the European Championships being held in Glasgow next year, Scotland Grand Masters can look forward to a progression in both performance and results. Although the 65s failed to retain the Celtic Cup, the players realise that improvement at both team and individual level is necessary - and attainable - and that next year's European Championships in Glasgow should surely provide the strongest incentive for both individual and team development.

Scotland GM 2 (Bishop, Sturrock) France 0

Scotland knew that a draw would be enough to win back the Celtic Cup but still went for the win that would reinforce their position as champions. Coach Murray Paton set out the team to play an expansive but controlled game, similar to the way Scotland played in their first success in this tournament against Wales. However, the French had other ideas and did their best to break up the Scots fluency. This was a different French team from earlier encounters with our Gallic cousins.

The first quarter was a tousy affair with Scots pressing hard for a breakthrough - but to no avail. The deadlock was eventually broken by Hew Bishop who finished off a move after everyone had stopped, waiting for a foul to be awarded. It was no more that the Scots deserved and Scotland went into the half time break leading 1-0

The second half carried on in the same mode but a combination of some poor decision making by the Scots and resolute French defence kept frustration levels high. After a few consecutive short corners, one was switched back to the injector, Niall Sturrock, whose first shot on goal was saved by the keeper. However, Niall kept his composure to collect the rebound, dummy the goalkeeper and lift the ball into the net for Scotland's second goal, which was nothing more than the Scots deserved. Scotland kept the pressure up on a fast tiring French team in the pursuit of another goal which might kill off the French. It never arrived and the match finished 2-0 to Scotland.

The Scots had done enough in a dour game to take back the Celtic Cup. Played 3, won 3, goals for 12, goals against 0 - a "magnifique" performance by everyone in the squad and a credit to Coach Murray Paton.

results and tables

Reports by Bernie Morrison (GM) and Peter Gordon (GGM)