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Spreading gospel is proving to be a labour of Love

Scots have exported many of their own specialities to the wider world, and anybody who can flog the deep-fried Mars Bar to Americans and Australians surely deserves a gong.

However, the fast, frantic and occasionally furious pursuit of shinty has proved a harder sell to those beyond the Scottish diaspora.

As Graham Love, the captain of London Camanachd, said almost wistfully: "It's a sport which thrives in small communities. So trying to spread the gospel in urban areas – in England – can be a pretty difficult business."

None the less, Love's passion remains unabated and this weekend, he and his colleagues will launch the London Shinty Festival, a three-team, six-a-side tournament, featuring his group of Exiles, the Scots Camanachd, the majority of whom are part of the Armed Forces, and the Cornwall Shinty Club, who have developed from humble origins into a thriving organisation during the last few years. It can be safely predicted that the crowds will hardly require Olympic-style security, and everybody involved seemed remarkably keen to downplay expectations, but there again, this is new territory for Love.

After all, we are talking about the first recorded shinty competition to be held in England since the early 1990s and the first with two Southern-based sides in the last 70 years. Hence the gentle prodding of the participants in the build-up to the proceedings, which will happen at Greenford GAA club in the west of the city.

"We have a reasonable-sized pool of players, and the Cornish group have made genuine progress since they came into being [and are increasing their numbers with the assistance of Truro College] but we have to take small steps, and we are realistic that shinty has a reputation for being a really tough pastime," said Love. "You'll find people who catch a game telling you: 'That looks brilliant', but then they will add; 'I don't fancy being on the wrong end of a swing of that stick.' But those who give it a chance tend to end up liking it and all we are asking is that people come to us with an open mind.

"I have heard some remarks to the effect that there are so many Scots in London that it is a bit surprising there isn't more of a shinty presence. But the fact is that the majority of those from Scotland come from the cities and that is different from hailing from Newtonmore or Kingussie."

That latter bastion of the sport – which is to the caman what Freuchie and Melrose are to cricket and rugby – has produced the Scots Camanachd captain, Euan Graham, whose charges will be the favourites to lift the spoils in the tri-series, and it was evident from speaking to the club's long-serving coach/secretary/manager, Robert Stoddart, that his men are viewing this event as an opportunity to win hearts and minds. Regrettably, Stoddart won't be in attendance – he flew out to Afghanistan on Tuesday – but his peers have been working hard to ensure that Scottish honour is upheld.

"Of course, we want to do well," said Stoddart, "because the boys are a competitive bunch, and they love their shinty. But this is an opportunity for raising the profile of the game in England and I happen to believe that this is the ideal time to be bringing alternative sports to the attention of Londoners."

Some might retort that flogging snow to the Inuits might be simpler than converting the Home Counties set to such a distinctive Scottish sphere. But, in the present climate, there may never be a better moment to persuade those in England's capital to join the caman herd.

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