A sign of the growth of Hebridean Shinty over the last twenty years has been the slow but steady stream of players who learn their shinty in the islands then go and play for mainland clubs, both in the senior leagues and at university level. One such player is former Camanachd Leodhais stalwart, Al Reed.

Lewis Camanachd
Al Reed (bottom left) and the Mod Cup Aviemore Trophy Winning Squad in 2011

Raised in South Lochs, Al played over 100 matches for the Dubh is Gorm, and emerged as one of the first youngsters to breakthrough after league entry. He was a member of the Aviemore Trophy winning side at the Mod Cup in 2011. He was a much loved and respected youth coach as he grew to become a mainstay of the Lewis line-up. Leaving the island for university, he would also represent Glasgow University but has now gone on to join a new team on the block, Uddingston, who also have a strong Hebridean connection.

Al and the Camanachd Leodhais Sixes Team at the Jack Asher Tournament in 2022 (Al Reed, Conor Macdonald, Innes Lamont, Callum Stamper, Steven Morrison, Seumas MacLeod, Daniel Harrison)

Al explains how his new path in shinty came about “In 2022 at Glasgow University’s Jack Asher Sixes, I was with the Lewis team for the day and Uddingston made an appearance. Lee Thomson approached me about joining the team as the team was entering the South Division 2 league for the first time. It was a difficult decision to make as I was still a part of the Lewis team and had been a long time. I’m glad I made the decision to change team as I have played new teams and experienced a different league.”

Lee Thompson of course is a well known opponent of the Dubh is Gorm, having learned his own shinty with Uist Camanachd, and being involved in some ding-dong HebCelt Cup clashes. Al is very positive about teaming up with his one time rival; “I’d rather play along side him than against him! It’s great as he’s an incredibly experienced player and is passionate about the sport. I remember attending an Uddingston training session back in 2017 as Lee wanted some university players to come along; seeing the progress from then to now is inspiring for others to consider creating a team in their area.”

Al against Strachur-Dunoon in Uddy’s Tunnocks sponsored strips!

Started from scratch through the local school, and based in South Lanarkshire, it’s been a tough season for Uddy, as they are affectionately called, whilst they try and find their feet in the South leagues. However, Al’s time with Camanachd Leodhais through hard times and good has given him valuable experience and to think about the long run. “When I started shinty, at the age of 13, it took me a long time to develop my skills and confidence in the sport. Lewis team certainly helped me build confidence on and off the field – definitely a more confident player. I started in defence and that is where I currently play for Uddy, with the odd turn in goals. I would prefer to stay in goals as I enjoy it but its still good playing out field and taking shies. Our goal is to build up the squad and play every game, score goals and gain some points, but to enjoy it first and foremost!”

A couple other well kent Leodhasach faces are training with Uddingston, but Al’s work at the University of Stirling means he is training in the city and helping another new start up; “I’m based in Stirling now so I’ve been training with the up and coming club, Stirling Camanachd, and the University of Stirling Shinty club – it’s great having training sessions close by as back at home in the past I would have to commute up to an hour for training. Big thanks for my mum driving me everywhere!”

Al against Aberdour, Black and Blue Helmet still representing his home club

His home island team are never far from his thoughts. “The Lewis boys are on the steady rise now. It’s good to see. I have been keeping up to date with the team and it’s exciting to following – I met up with the team in April for a couple training sessions. The standard of shinty was high and impressive, with young players stepping up to the challenge. It was great to see some of the juniors I used to train close to 10 years ago! The results of this year’s season speaks for themselves, with consistent goals and that Lewis determination to show that they belong in the league! I’m very proud of the club!”

Al is hopeful that one day his new club can thrive and meet his old club. “One day hopefully, a game between the two clubs would be great!”

Photos from Al Reed – Follow Uddingston Shinty Club here

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