Shinty: Wikis


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A shinty game in progress
Highest governing body Camanachd Association
Nickname(s) Camanachd or iomain (Scots Gaelic)
First played Pre-historic Britain and Ireland
Contact Contact
Team members 12 players per side
substitutes are permitted
Mixed gender No
(there are no rules to prevent women from playing in men's teams; this happens occasionally in the lower leagues)
Equipment Shinty ball

Shinty (Scottish Gaelic: camanachd, iomain) is a team sport played with sticks and a ball. Shinty is now played almost exclusively in the Highlands of Scotland, and amongst Highland migrants to the big cities of Scotland, but it was formerly more widespread, being once competitively played on a widespread basis in England [1] and other areas of the world where Scottish Highlanders migrated.

Whilst comparisons are often made with field hockey, the two sports have several important differences. In shinty, a player is allowed to play the ball in the air and is allowed to use both sides of the stick. The stick may also be used to block and to tackle, although a player may not come down on an opponent's stick, a practice called hacking. A player may tackle using the body as long as this is shoulder-to-shoulder as in football.

The sport was derived from the same root as the Irish game of hurling but has developed different rules and features. These rules are governed by the Camanachd Association.

Shinty is also one of the forebears of ice hockey: in 1800, Scottish immigrants to Nova Scotia played a game on ice at Windsor. In Canada, informal hockey games are still called shinny.

Another sport with common ancestry is bandy.



The objective of the game is to play a small ball into a goal, or "hail", erected at the ends of a 140 to 170-yard-long pitch. The game is traditionally played on grass, although as of 2009 the sport may be played on artificial turf.[4]

The ball is a hard solid sphere slightly smaller than a tennis ball, consisting of a cork core covered by two pieces of leather stitched together. The seam is raised. It is very similar to a hurling sliotar in that it resembles an American baseball with more pronounced stitching. The ball is usually white, but there is no statutory colour, black being a common colour for Kyles Athletic and fluorescent balls now being available.

The ball is played using the caman, a stick of about 3 1/2 ft in length. Unlike the Irish camán, it has no blade. The caman is traditionally made of wood, traditionally ash but now more commonly hickory, and must not have any plate or metal attached to it. The caman would be made from any piece of wood with a hook in it, hence caman, from the Scottish Gaelic, cam meaning bent or crooked. It is also often called a stick or club.

A team consists of 12 players, including one goalkeeper. A match is played over two halves of 45 minutes. With the exception of the keeper, no player is allowed to play the ball with his hands. There are also variants with smaller sides, with some adjustments in the field size and duration of play.

The field of play

A player may play the ball in the air and is allowed to use both sides of the stick. The stick may also be used to block and to tackle, although a player may not come down on an opponent's stick, this is defined as hacking. A player may tackle using the body as long as this is shoulder-to-shoulder as in Association Football (soccer).

A player may only stop the ball with the stick, the chest, two feet together or one foot planted on the ground. Only the goalkeeper may use his hands and then only with an open palm. He may not catch it. Playing the ball with the head constitutes a foul whether intentional or not as it is considered dangerous play. Other examples of dangerous play which will be penalised are players, whilst grounded, playing the ball and reckless swinging of the caman in the air which might endanger another player.

Fouls result in a free-hit, which is indirect unless the foul is committed in the penalty area, commonly referred to as "The D". This results in a penalty hit from 20 yards.

A ball played by a team over the opposing bye line results in a goal hit from the edge of the D, a ball played by a team over their own results in a corner. A ball hit over the sideline results in a shy. A shinty shy involves the taker tossing the ball above his head and hitting the ball with the shaft of the caman. The ball must be directly overhead when struck to be legal.


Shinty is older than the recorded history of Scotland. It is thought to predate Christianity, having come to Scotland with the Gaels from Ireland.[2] Hurling, a similar game to Shinty, is derived from the historic game common to both peoples which has been a distinct Irish pastime for at least 2000 years [3]. Shinty/Hurling appears prominently in the legend of Cúchulainn, the Celtic mythology hero[4]. A similar game was played on the Isle of Man known as cammag, a name cognate with camanachd. The old form of hurling played in the northern half of Ireland resembled shinty more closely than the standardised form of hurling of today. Like shinty it was commonly known as camánacht and was traditionally played in winter.

The origins of the name shinty are uncertain. There is a theory that the name was derived from the cries used in the game; shin ye, shin you and shin t'ye, other dialect names were shinnins, shinnack and shinnup[5], or as Hugh Dan MacLennan proposes from the Scottish Gaelic sìnteag[4]. However there was never on all encompassing name for the game, as it held different names from glen to glen, including cluich-bhall (play-ball in English) and in the Scottish Lowlands, where it was formerly referred to as Hailes, common/cammon (caman), cammock (from Scottish Gaelic camag), knotty and various other names, as well as the terms still used to refer to it in modern Gaelic, camanachd or iomain).

The game was traditionally played through the winter months, with New Year's Day being the day when whole villages would gather together to play games featuring teams of up to several hundred a side, players often using any piece of wood with a hook as a caman. In Uist, stalks of seaweed were put to use due to a lack of trees. Modern camans are made from several laminates of ash or hickory which are glued and cut into shape, although one-piece camans were still commonplace until the early 1980s. The ball was traditionally a round piece of wood or bone, sometimes called a cnapag, but soon developed into the worsted leather balls used today.

In 1887, a historic game was played between Glenurquhart Shinty Club and Strathglass Shinty Club in Inverness. This game was attended by thousands of people and was a major milestone in developing a set of common rules. This fixture was to be repeated on 12 January 2007 in Inverness as the opening centrepiece of the Highland 2007 celebrations in Scotland, but was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

The modern sport is governed by the Camanachd Association (Scots Gaelic: Comann na Camanachd). The association came into being in the late Victorian era in as a means of formulating common rules to unite the various different codes and rules which differed between neighbouring glens, in this the sport shares similarities with other sports which became organised around this time. The first meeting of the Camanachd Association was held in Kingussie in 1893.

The Camanachd Association maintained its initial structure for much of its first century, but the ‘Future of Shinty' Report published in 1981 led to a compete restructuring of the way in which shinty was organised and managed. That, in turn, led to the move away from a dependence on volunteers to govern the sport, to the Association's first salaried employees being employed. [5]

Competitions and Organization

Shinty is traditionally divided into two administrative and playing areas, the North and the South. The geographic divide is at Ballachulish, with all clubs south of here being classified as South teams, although most are still northerly in comparison to most of Scotland. The long distances to travel have meant that the game in the South and in the North habitually have slightly different approaches to the game. The South is considered to be more skilful in comparison to the more physical style propagated in the North. The South also has a slightly differing formation, which is more commonly used than that of the North.

Map of Scotland showing North/South divide in shinty
North Tactics
South Tactics

Clubs compete in various competitions, both cup and league, on a national and also North/South basis. Whilst the top Premier Division hs been played on a Scotland-wide basis since 1996, the lower leagues are based on geography. Many clubs run second teams which also compete in these leagues against clubs with only one senior side.

In League shinty, Kingussie has been dominant for the past 20 years and, according to the Guinness Book of Records 2005, is world sport's most successful sporting team of all time,[6] winning 20 consecutive league championships and going 4 years without losing a single fixture in the early 1990s. This incredible, unmatched run of dominance was ended on 2 September by ancient rivals Newtonmore who defeated Oban Camanachd 2-0 to ensure that Kingussie could not catch the team at the top of the Premier Division. However, Newtonmore were unable to usurp their neighbours as champions, as the first post-Kingussie champions were confirmed as Fort William who sealed the title on 30 September 2006 having won their games in hand over Newtonmore. Kingussie regained the title in 2007.

League shinty has always been seen as being less important than cup shinty and the premier national competition remains the Scottish Cup or the Camanachd Association Challenge Cup (the Camanachd Cup for short) which has also been dominated by Kingussie in the last twenty years. The other dominant team in shinty history has been Newtonmore, Kingussie's near neighbours. However, these two teams only met in the Camanachd Cup Final for the first time in 1984 as before 1983 the competition was designed to ensure the final was a North/South affair.

The 2007 final was played at the Bught Park, Inverness between Fort William and Inveraray, the 100th Cup Final being held as part of Highland 2007 and Fort William winning 3-1.

In 2003, shinty clubs voted for a trial period of two years of a summer season from March to October, with a view to moving permanently to summer shinty if the experiment was judged to be a success. Despite opposition from the "Big Two", Kingussie and Newtonmore, and other small groups in the game, an EGM in November 2005 voted by an overwhelming majority (well over the required two thirds) to make summer shinty the basis upon which the game would proceed.[7]

Although Camanachd Cup finals and internationals have been shown over the years, 2006 marked the first ever regular TV deal for shinty with matches being shown on the BBC Sports show Spòrs.

In August 2006, the Camanachd Association decided to move its main offices to Inverness from Banavie near Fort William. This move was met with consternation by many in the sporting community with calls for an extraordinary general meeting. The EGM was held but a vote of no confidence in the Board of Directors was voted down. In 2006 the Association appointed its first female chief executive Gill McDonald.

Shinty outside the Highlands

Now predominantly a Highland game, there are also clubs found in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth and even London. University Shinty is a popular section of the sport, with almost all Scotland's main universities possessing a team. Historically, Glasgow University, Aberdeen University and Edinburgh University have vied for supremacy but in recent years, Strathclyde University, Robert Gordon's College, Dundee University, and the University of St. Andrews have risen to prominence. It is also played in the British Army with The Scots Shinty Club keeping alive the tradition of the game being played in the Forces.

London Camanachd is the only shinty club in England. They do not play league matches but do compete at present in the Bullough Cup. They have historically been attached to the South District. They went into abeyance in 1992, but were reconstituted in 2005. They played the first officially recognised shinty match outside Scotland in 80 years on Saturday 22 July 2006 against the Highlanders. Shinty was previously played widely in England in the 19th century and early 20th century, and Nottingham Forest F.C. was established by Shinty Players. [8]

Shinty is also spreading to North America; though originally played in the 18th and 19th century by Scottish immigrants, the sport died out. However, it is enjoying a revival; teams such as Northern California Camanachd Club (NCCC), play at Highland Games and other venues across the USA. See Shinty in North America.

Shinty/Hurling Internationals

In recognition of shinty's shared roots with hurling, an annual international between the two codes from Scotland and Ireland is played on a home and away basis using composite rules. In recent years the Irish have had the upper hand, but the Scots won the fixture narrowly in 2005 and again in 2006, this time at Croke Park, Dublin, albeit with the Irish fielding weaker players from the second tier Christy Ring Cup. Scotland made it four in a row when they won in 2008.

In popular culture

  • Billy Connolly suggested in September 2009 that shinty should become Scotland's national sport because the Scotland football team's performances had been so bad.[6]
  • Runrig have referred to shinty in several songs, Recovery, Pride of the Summer and most explicitly in the song Clash of the Ash, which is specifically about the sport.
  • The accordionist Gary Innes has also played for Scotland 8 times at shinty.
  • Quidditch, the fictional sport in the Harry Potter book and film series by J.K. Rowling was inspired by shinty.[7]
  • The TV series Hamish MacBeth featured a shinty match as an integral part of the plot of the episode More Than A Game, with real players, Dallas Young of Kingussie and Neil "Ach" MacRae of Kinlochshiel Shinty Club playing pivotal roles.


External links

Simple English


Shinty a traditional game now mainly played in the Scottish Highlands. It involves 2 teams of twelve players using a stick (known as a "caman" from Scottish Gaelic) to put a ball in the opposing team's net.

It was once played over all Scotland but is now played mostly in the Scottish Highlands and Highland communities in the big Scottish cities. It is also played in universities and in America by enthusiasts.

The sport's rules and regulations are decided by the Camanachd Association.

It has a common ancestor with the Irish game of hurling and hurlers and shinty players sometimes hold internationals.

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