LOVAT forward Kevin Bartlett hopes to round off the most successful season of his career with a first ever senior Shinty/Hurling victory against the Irish.
Drew McNeil’s men fly out to Dublin for leg one of the Shinty/Hurling series on Saturday knowing they are entering an intimidating environment at the spiritual home of hurling.
Bartlett, 24, was an awed spectator the last time the Scots starred, and won, at Croke Park, back in 2010, and remembers fondly a stadium close to capacity.
Playing at such an august arena, he admits, is a dream come true in a season that has already brought him his first senior medal and a second place finish in the Orion Group Premiership.
A victory against Ireland, therefore, would cap a memorable campaign for the player who has been outstanding for Scotland since making his debut two years ago.
He said: “I watched in 2010 when I was over in Dublin with the U-17s and I am really, really looking forward to playing this time.”
“That match was played before the International Rules football match and, by the end of the Shinty/Hurling game, the stadium was really filling up with Irish fans.
“It is an amazing place. Even watching it was an experience so playing there will be like nothing you will ever get in Scotland.
“In saying that, the Irish will not want to lose in front of their fans at the home of Hurling. I really enjoy these games and we just need to show we can beat them.
“I’ve not won a senior international yet so it would be great to do it this time.”
Scotland lost heavily in Ennis last year as they tried to turn around a six point deficit from leg one in Inverness.
The decision to go all out early to redress the imbalance back-fired as the Irish took advantage of the new five point-goal rule to end the Scots’ resistance.
However, it is a vastly different Scottish side that heads for Dublin 12 months on, bolstered with greater physical presence and experience.
With the return of the three-point goal, the Scots will put last year’s disappointment firmly to the back of their minds as they cross the white line.
“As soon as the players re-grouped in the changing room after last year’s match in Ireland, we told them to forget about it. It was simply a bad day and you get those in Shinty and Shinty/Hurling,” said national Coach, Drew McNeil.
“In an ideal world, we would have taken some of our early chances and met an Irish side not quite so good as they were that day, but we knew we needed to move on.
“I think last year, the Irish knew we didn’t want to give fouls away and maybe got away with a few things themselves that might be punished in Shinty but we’ve learned from that. We’ve got a lot of experienced players in the squad and guys who can give us that bit of additional presence, which will be even more important back at Bught Park in November.”
Also bolstering the Scotland squad are Newtonmore’s first team captain Norman Campbell, who will captain the senior side for the third year in a row. He is also joined by team-mates Steven MacDonald, Fraser MacKintosh and Glen MacKintosh. Kingussie’s James Hutchison and Lee Bain have also made the squad.
In an interesting departure from normal proceedings, the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Camanachd Association will also be piloting a new Shinty/Hurling game after the leg one clash is finished.
At half-time in the International Rules Football match, which immediately follows the Shinty/Hurling game, a ten minute demonstration match will be played, called ‘Iomain’.
Iomain is the old Gaelic word for Shinty and Hurling and Scots and Irish players will play a 10 minute exhibition game with a new hybrid Shinty/Hurling stick.
The idea has been proposed as the GAA assesses the possible roll-out of a game of ground hurling, closer, in its nature, to Shinty.
The prototype stick has been trialed by the squad and was designed by caman producer Alan MacPherson.
Contrary to the existing Shinty/Hurling rules, only goals will count in Iomain. There are no points for hits over the uprights.
Throw-in on Saturday is 4.15pm. The game will be broadcast live on TG4 in Ireland and wil be shown on BBC Alba at 7.30pm.