Scotzine will be expanding their coverage in the next few weeks and months as contributor Stephen Nicolson covers Shinty for our website. Here are the basics to the sport, as explained by Stephen.
The Field of Play
The aim is to score by playing the ball into the goal or “hail” as it is known as in shinty (much like football, hockey etc.) The pitch can be no more than 170 yards long (with a goal at each end) and is usually of a grass surface. Games run by the governing body must be played on grass or artificial grass. Non-competitive games however, are enjoyed on a variety of surfaces including indoors where the game is adapted to suit the conditions with factors such as age groups and ability also taken into account.
The ball is solid and is sphere shaped, of a size slightly smaller than a tennis ball. The centre of the ball is made up of cork and is covered by two pieces of leather which are intertwined. The seam is raised and is not unlike an American baseball with stitching that is emphasised. Most shinty balls are white although there are no rules which state that they cannot be of another colour. Rubber shinty balls are also manufactured and are mostly used by youth players or children in order to minimise injury.
The stick, or Camman, is now usually made of hickory and is about 3 and a half feet long. The faces are slanted with a prominent curve at the bottom to allow the player to play the ball. The thickness of the curve will depend on the players’ position on the field. For example, a defender will play with a thicker curve in order to gain height, whereas a forward will play with a thinner, lighter stick. This doesn’t have to be adhered to however, and it is usually the players’ own personal preference as to which stick he/she performs with.
Although only players under the age of 14 must wear a helmet, players above that age do not. It has been a prominent debate amongst the shinty fraternity for many years and a number of people associated with the sport believe the wearing of a helmet should be compulsory. There have been many serious injuries sustained in the sport that would have been avoided or reduced if a helmet had been worn.