The Samhuinn Fire Festival 2019

Tonight, thousands of spectators will flock to Calton Hill for a spectacular display with an otherworldly atmosphere.

A modern celebration of the Celtic New Year, the Samhuinn Fire Festival is an annual event taking place on the 31st of October of each year.

On the night, performers  will act out a dramatic battle between the Winter and Summer Kings and their respective forces, a romantic representation of the changing of the seasons. The battle is acted out by an array of talented singers, drummers, actors, acrobats and fire performers.

A fire dancer mid-way through the performance: Copyright Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. www.beltane.org / www.facebook.com/beltanefiresociety

The Edinburgh-based event is actually influenced by the Gaelic celebration called ‘Samhain’.

Samhain marks the end of the traditional harvest season and the beginning of winter and darker nights. It is unique in that it is celebrated from the setting of the sun on the 31st of October to the setting of the sun on the 1st of November. This is known as a ‘quarter-day celebration’.

While the festival has been observed in other countries, Samhain is most commonly celebrated widely throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.

The Samhuinn Fire Festival was founded by the Beltane Fire Society (BFS) in 1995.

Becca Inglis, a BFS representative gave a little background on why the Samhuinn Fire Festival was created: “The founders were looking for a way to highlight the importance of ritual, celebration, and coming together in public.”

24 years on and the Samhuinn Fire Festival is thriving and gaining more attention with each coming year. Last year (2018) approximately 3,500 people were in attendance atop Calton Hill for Samhuinn.

This marked the first time that the festival was held as a ticketed event and it sold out very quickly.

According to Becca Inglis, a much larger audience is expected tonight: “We’re expecting a sellout event of 7,500, which is very exciting! It’s nearly double what we had last year. It’s fantastic to see so many people getting excited about the festival.”

With a larger audience in attendance this year, the BFS have gone to some lengths to captivate and enchant first-time participants as well as surprise and enthral long-time fans.

“Our audience will be used to the single procession that makes its way around Beltane Fire Festival, and at this year’s Samhuinn we have three! People will be able to follow the Winter King and Summer King as they journey around the hill, and then they’ll all meet in a big cacophony of drums and fire halfway through the night.”

Costumed participants enact the battle between winter and summer – Copyright Neil Barton for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. www.beltane.org / www.facebook.com/beltanefiresociety

“There’s also a big emphasis on Autumn this year, and a nod to climate change – our kings will wake up to a confusing planet where they can’t tell which season it is, so instead of starting as enemies they will seek comfort and friendship in each other.”

The 2019 Samhuinn Fire Festival will take place tonight (October 31st) on Calton Hill. Gates open at 7pm and the event is expected to finish at around midnight. Tickets are £10 on the door and anyone is welcome to come along and partake in the festivities.

Scotland welcome Grand Slam chasers Wales to the capital – The Six Nations Preview Show

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Scotland captain, Greig Laidlaw is dropped to the bench for home match against Wales. (Credit: David Ronney)

Following back to back defeats in this Six Nations Championship, Scotland prepare for their last home match of the tournament against Grand Slam chasers, Wales.

With Scotland at terms with themselves out of the running to win the competition, they’ll be looking to upset the Welsh party with a win against the visitors.

David Ronney is joined by Bryce Donaldson and Fraser Munro for The Six Nations Preview Show.

Watch it below:

Sectarianism: A continuous plague in Scottish football

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Celtic and Rangers fans at Parkhead (Credit: PaulVIF)

Pie, bovril and sectarianism. A typical day out for some Scottish football fans but the latter, a trend that should have been left well in the past.

In the last few weeks there have been numerous cases of sectarian abuse directed at those on the pitch and on the touch-line.

Kilmarnock manager, Steve Clarke, came out last week to say that he was delighted Chelsea signed him as a young player and took him away from the west coast. He went on to say that he was relieved his children did not have to grow up with such rampant hatred in England.

The source? A majority believe supporters of Glasgow clubs, Celtic and Rangers are at the heart of the ongoing issues.

For these two clubs religion remains a part of the club’s identity for many fans, despite their board’s efforts to distance themselves from the problem. Something which is not replicated in the English scene.

Clarke urged the Scottish FA to step up their efforts in tackling the issue saying: “Things can be done, Will [it] be done is probably much more difficult to address.”

The Scottish FA chief executive, Ian Maxwell, responded in a statement: “The Scottish FA condemns in the strongest possible terms the spate of incidents this season involving unacceptable conduct in Scottish football.”

More recently, Celtic supporters were criticised for posting a video on Twitter of fans in a pub singing about the IRA and ex-Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers.

WARNING: Some viewers may find the following video offensive or distressing.

A survey in 2017 of Scottish football supporters found that 81% of supporters thought Scottish football had a problem with sectarianism.

In the following two years there has been little change in the social environment surrounding Scottish football and many fans doubt that any real change will be enacted soon.

But something needs to change. Scottish football lives in the stone age when it comes to this level of discrimination. Clubs must act and distance themselves from the supporters involved if they stand any chance of stamping out sectarianism for good.

Hibernian vs Celtic: Scottish Cup Preview

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Hibernian will be hoping to replicate the successful run in 2016 (Credit: David Ronney)

Hibernian welcome Scottish Cup reigning champions, Celtic to Easter Road this weekend, in what is shaping up to be a fascinating fixture following Neil Lennon’s appointment at the helm of the hoops.

Lennon left the Edinburgh club in Janurary and has made a swift return to Scottish football with Celtic only a month later.

The job of Celtic manager was vacated by Brendan Rodgers, who was tempted south to take over at Leicester City following the sacking of Claude Puel on Monday. This sacking was the start of the carousel of manager turnover this week.

Lennon will no doubt receive a mixed reception from the fans upon his return to Leith.

The Northern Irishman was in the dugout celebrating the last gasp winner against 10-man Hearts on Wednesday night that maintained his side’s eight-point lead at the top of the Premiership table ahead of Rangers in second place.

On the other hand, Hibs have enjoyed a good run of form under their new manager Paul Heckingbottom. The new boss has won three out of three since his arrival in mid February. This included an impressive win at St Johnstone on Wednesday night, with Marc McNulty grabbing the winner five minutes from time despite Hibernian going down to 10 men.

That win took them to within three points of fierce rivals Hearts who currently sit in fifth in the SPFL after a disappointing mid-season lull due a long string of injuries.

Heckingbottom will know beating Celtic will hand them a fantastic chance of silverware this season, which would be all too welcome considering their woes in the league this season.

Neil Lennon will be hoping to win a game at Easter Road, which incidentally is something his predecessor Brendan Rodgers never managed to do. A win is essential if the dream of the treble treble is to be kept alive.

The first match of the Scottish Cup weekend kicks off on Saturday at 5:15pm and is live on Premier Sports.

SPFL Team of the Month – February 2019

Spring is finally here. February is over, and it was a month full of drama in the Scottish Premiership. This is EN4News’ Team of the Month for February.

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GK – Scott Bain (Celtic)

Kept three clean sheets in five games, conceding only twice. Made some big saves, including from Sean Clare in the crucial 2-1 victory over Hearts on Wednesday. It appears now that he won the number one spot from fellow Scotland international, Craig Gordon.

RB – James Tavernier (Rangers)

Netted five goals in February, four of which were penalties. The Englishman now has 13 goals for the season, a remarkable feat for a defender. He also helped the club to four clean sheets in the league for February.

CB – Darren McGregor (Hibernian)

One of the men to have improved massively since the appointment of Paul Heckingbottom. McGregor has been solid in the previous three matches, of which Hibs have won all three.

CB – Connor Goldson (Rangers)

Goldson has been immense since returning from injury at the start of the month, with Rangers conceding only twice in the four games he has played. He has formed a solid partnership with fellow Englishman, Joe Worrall.

LB – Borna Barisic (Rangers)

The Croatian fullback was a menace down the left-hand-side for the Glasgow club in February, as well as being a part of the defence that conceded only twice in five games in the month.

RM – Jake Hastie (Motherwell)

The teenager was a revelation for the Lanarkshire side in February. Since returning from spending the first half of the season on loan at Alloa Athletic, Hastie has scored four goals in as many games. Understandably, the Well fans have been very excited by the 19-year-old’s recent performances.

CM – Scott Brown (Celtic)

The veteran midfielder produced some big moments for the Parkhead side last month, which included netting the winner against Kilmarnock and providing the assist for Odsonne Edouard’s winning goal against Hearts at Tynecastle.

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CM – David Turnbull (Motherwell)

The teenager has been one of the breakthrough stars of the season, and February was another great month for Turnbull. A number of dominating midfield performances were produced, and he netted a last minute winner against Hearts.

LM – Stephen Mallan (Hibernian)

Mallan has been phenomenal since Heckingbottom took over at Easter Road. He’s looked in as good form as he was in at the start of the season, and Hibs fans will hope he can continue that form into the remainder of the season.

ST – Odsonne Edouard (Celtic)

The Frenchman netted a crucial winner against Hearts on Wednesday, as well as netting twice in a 4-1 win over Motherwell, a match that turned out to be Brendan Rodgers’ final game in charge of the Hoops. He also secured all three points at Tynecastle with a late strike in the first match under returning boss, Neil Lennon.

ST – Marc McNulty (Hibernian)

McNulty has been in scintillating form of late, netting five goals in three games. Hibs’ striker problems have been a thing of the past since he joined in January on loan from Reading. And with form like this, the Hibees will hope to retain his services beyond this season.

Click here to view January’s team of the month.

Ladbrokes Premiership Team of the Month – January 2019

Another month has passed in the world of Scottish football. January saw most teams play only twice, but there were still some standout performances. This is EN4 News’ Premiership Team of the Month.

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GK – Daniel Bachmann (Kilmarnock)

The on-loan Watford stopper was very impressive in Killie’s two matches in January – a win against Rangers and a goalless draw away to Aberdeen. He made some very impressive saves in the latter game, making sure that the Ayrshire men extended their unbeaten run.

 

RB – Mikael Lustig (Celtic)

The Swede helped to contribute towards his side’s run of three consecutive clean sheets in January. He also laid on both goals in the 2-0 win over St Johnstone on Wednesday.

 

CB – Kristoffer Ajer (Celtic)

It’s clear to see the different that Ajer makes when he is in the Celtic team. The powerful centre back put in some dominating performances last month.

 

CB – Stuart Findlay (Kilmarnock)

The ex-Newcastle defender just keeps getting better and better under Steve Clarke, putting in two very commanding performances in two big matches for Killie last month.

 

LB – Greg Taylor (Kilmarnock)

Like Findlay, the highly-rated full back looks to be reaching top form until Clarke and that showed in the last month. Very unlucky to not have a full Scotland cap yet.

 

CM – David Turnbull (Motherwell)

The youngster is enjoying a fantastic breakthrough season for Well, he scored both goals in the Lanarkshire men’s two 1-0 wins over Hibs and Dundee last month.

 

CM – Arnaud Djoum (Hearts)

The Cameroon international was in fine form last month, putting in two consecutive man of the match performances against Dundee and St Johnstone. Hearts fans will be desperately hoping that Djoum will sign a new contract and stay on beyond the end of this season.

 

CM – Callum McGregor (Celtic)

Even as a sitting midfielder, McGregor has been impressive with this attacking play for Celtic in the past few months. Scored in two of the club’s three wins last month, against Hamilton and St Johnstone.

 

ST – Oliver Burke (Celtic)

The highly-rated forward has enjoyed a very good start to his Celtic career. He netted twice on his league debut, in the 4-0 victory over St Mirren.

 

ST – Sam Cosgrove (Aberdeen)

Cosgrove’s cracking form continued in the last month, the Englishman netting twice in the Dons’ 3-0 win away to Hamilton.

 

ST – Scott Sinclair (Celtic)

The exciting winger’s dip in form looked to certainly be over now, much to the relief of Celtic fans. He netted in the side’s wins over St Mirren and Hamilton.

Hugh McIlvanney dies aged 84

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Hugh McIlvanney at the Football Writers’ Association Gala Tribute Dinner in 2018. (Photo credit: Football Writers’ Association via Facebook)

Scottish sports journalist Hugh McIlvanney has died at the age of 84, after a battle with cancer.

McIlvanney, widely considered to be one of Britain’s greatest sports journalists, was born in Kilmarnock and began his journalism career with local newspaper The Kilmarnock Standard, after leaving high school. He then went on to work long term for The Observer and The Sunday Times, for 30 and 23 years respectively.

McIlvanney was known for his football and boxing reports, especially the 1966 FIFA World Cup where England recorded their famous victory and the 1974 ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ between Muhammad Ali & George Foreman, possibly the most famous boxing match in the world. He claimed the greatest ‘scoop’ he had was when he found himself in Ali’s villa, hours after the fight in Zaire.

Due to his illustrious career, McIlvanney formed close and personal relationships with some of the most successful football managers to come from Scotland: Sir Matt Busby, Jock Stein, Bill Shankly and Sir Alex Ferguson. Fergie even asked McIlvanney for help with producing his autobiography – Managing My Life.

Despite witnessing some of the most famous events in sporting history, McIlvanney had to write about some heartbreaking events, including the death of his friend Stein who sadly suffered a heart attack at the conclusion of a 1985 Scotland vs Wales match, for qualification to the 1986 World Cup. He was also present at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, where 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and subsequently murdered by a terror group. McIlvanney also reported on the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

When McIlvanney decided to retire in 2016 after a 60 year career, Muhammad Ali was one of the first to pay tribute to the great man. Ali said: “His words were a window to the lives, the courage, the struggles and the triumphs of the great champions of his time. He has contributed richly to the fabric of our sport”.

McIlvanney was awarded an OBE in 1996 for services to journalism, given the Lifetime Achievement Award by The Scottish Press Awards in 2004, and is currently the only sports writer to be voted Journalist of the Year. McIlvanney also became the first journalist to be inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame, just two years ago, with an induction to the Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

Although he started his career in Scotland, McIlvanney was respected across the world – evidenced by the sheer amount of tributes pouring in. Former England star Gary Lineker tweeted: “Very sorry to hear that Hugh McIlvanney has died. Truly one of the greatest sports’ writers of all time”.

Former Aberdeen keeper – turned journalist – David Preece also paid his respects: “There are writers you will read whatever they write. Hugh McIlvanney was one of those writers”.

Former BT Sport commentator Derek Rae called McIlvanney “Scotland’s most gifted journalist’.

In a tribute to Hugh McIlvanney’s work, The Guardian has selected six of his best articles. The Rumble in the Jungle and The Thriller in Manila feature top of the list, and it comes as no surprise. Not only were they two of the greatest boxing matches to date, the way McIlvanney writes about the events makes you feel as though you were actually there. Also on the list; the 1966 World Cup Final, Celtic’s 1967 European Cup win in Lisbon, boxer Johnny Owen’s tragic last fight and the aftermath of Matt Busby’s retirement.

Moving Zwiftly into the future

In the ever-changing world of technology which is increasingly relied on for convenience, things are taking a turn for the physical in eSports. Gone are the stereotypes of gamers being couch potatoes who lounge in their man caves, there’s a new breed of gamer and they are drastically different from the ones you might think you know.

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Credit Jade Du Preez.

But gaming has come a long way – the 70s was the golden age of the arcade game which actually forced gamers to leave their homes and game in public, the 80s saw tech like the ZX Spectrum and Commodore VIC-20, 8-bit computers that you could code your own games on (you plugged it into your TV!), then the 90s saw more handheld gaming with the Game Boy console finding a new niche in the market, then the turn of the century ushered in the most popular age of gaming and eSports captivated the world.

eSports is different from just gaming at home – you take part in a tournament that is often live streamed to people around the world, and not just anyone takes part, it’s normally always the upper echelon of players who battle against one another. It’s the cream of the crop and there’s normally a lot of money at play.

The prize pool for Dota 2’s The International 2018 tournament was over $25 million and people have been making a living out of eSports gaming for years now, and that looks like it’s going to stay as Fortnite creators Epic Games are looking to offer $100 million in prize money for tournaments during the 2018-2019. Dota put $38 million in for the previous season ($25 million of that going into the International 2018 tournament).

There is serious money backing eSports, with millions at stake, and that’s a drastic change from when Dennis Fong (also known as his gamer tag of Thresh), recognised as the first professional gamer, was playing Quake and Doom. Over his career, he made roughly $16,000 and famously won a Ferrari 328 that was owned by id Software CEO John D. Carmack. The players who finished 17th and 18th in the International 2018 tournament made $63,830.00 – that’s almost four times Fong’s entire career winnings.

But where are things changing? Yes, gaming has become a spectacle watching by many and held in huge arenas, but where does it go next? The answer could be helpful in cycling and running video game Zwift. It allows users to connect their turbo trainers (stationary bike technology that gathers data on performance) to their account and cycle indoors whilst playing the video game which simulates a world. You can connect with friends across the globe to cycle together and the video game aspect comes with power-ups (short performance enhancing the character on screen).

So, if eSports was like a game of chess, Zwift is like playing chess whilst on a bicycle peddling up a steep hill – not easy at all. The video game really comes into its own when Zwift introduced their eSports league – the KISS Super League – which enables four Pro Continental, nine UCI Continental teams and two Zwift community teams to race each other for 10 weeks on Wednesday nights.

 

A Zwift spokesperson told EN4News: “We are now in an exciting position because we are able to connect the Zwift community with the lofty heights of the professional peloton. KISS will be a demonstration sport, illustrating how we can do this – the KISS Super League will provide high octane action for spectators worldwide featuring some of the best riders in the world.

The KISS League, however, provides an accessible eSports league for the rest of the Zwift community to compete in. It’s important that we recognise both ends of the spectrum. This is just the beginning for Zwift – we have big ambitions and will be unveiling our big plans for 2020 in the very near future.”

Is this the future of eSports gaming? Gaming whilst physically racing on a bike is immersive and highly skilled, incredibly addictive to watch and possibly one of the coolest new steps for eSports. You might not physically be able to defend yourself from demons and the undead like Dennis Fong did in Doom, but you can conquer volcanos and Alpine-like mountains in Zwift. Ushering in a new age of fit gamers, Zwift’s contributions to eSports are ones to watch.

If you want to hear more about gaming from the EN4News team, check out Liam Mackay’s Review of Battlefield V!

 

FA Cup v Scottish Cup: Which is cheaper?

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Are Scottish Cup tickets too expensive? (Photo credit: Hayden Barry)

As cup fixtures concluded in Scotland for the most part last weekend, they get back underway south of the border this weekend round.

You may think despite English football generally being the more expensive choice when it comes to their league football, it’ll be cheaper to attend a Scottish Cup fixture. Surely?

Well surprisingly it’s actually the other way round. Some fans last weekend put their money where their mouth is and refused to cash in for the inflated prices for tickets to Scotland’s oldest competition.

Scotland’s fourth round replays take place next week where for example Dundee travel to Palmerston Park to play Championship outfit, Queen of the South.

Whereas in England, the FA cup fourth round gets underway this weekend where teams like Newcastle United face familiar opposition when they take on fellow Premier League side Watford at St James’ park.

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Auchinleck’s win over Ayr United was one of the biggest wins during the fourth round of the Scottish Cup this season. (Photo credit: Auchinleck Talbot)

With all due respect to all clubs involved, if you had to choose between the two matches then you’d likely go for the English encounter due to the quality of the two sides on offer. And you could be saving a few quid while you do.

Queen of the South are charging a standard admission of £19 for all home supporters. However, season ticket holders at Newcastle United are unable to use their usual seats for FA cup ties so the club has set a fair price of £10 for a general admission. Given the noticeable difference in the standard of football, many Scottish fans have sparked an outcry claiming their clubs are ignorant in their pricing of tickets.

Last week, Hibernian entertained Elgin City at Easter Road who were greeted with a less than half full stadium, struggling to just bring in over 7000 supporters. This poor attendance, in an otherwise passionate stadium, has been heavily linked with overpriced tickets. Even in league games, Scotland has seen an overall increase in season ticket prices since 2016. On average, the cheapest season ticket has risen from £293 in 2016 to just over £302 and with many clubs suffering from a low turnout the price is only set to increase.

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You’ll be cheaper going to St James’ Park (above) over Palmerston Park for a fourth round tie. (Photo credit: Jimmy McIntyre)

Ex-Motherwell and Queen of the South goalkeeper, Ross Hyslop, is now a season ticket holder at St James’ Park and claims that “Scottish football could learn a thing or two from England.”

The former professional argued his case. He said: “Cup ties always struggle to bring fans along to games simply because a lot of people view the league as much more important and much more competitive. So, what you do is you set fares at a low price so more people come along. Then you’ve not got whole stands with empty seats and there’s more support for the team but Scottish clubs always fail to see that. As a player I always hated playing in an empty ground.”

Most English teams were close to filling their stadium during the third round of the FA Cup, with Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium generating a higher figure in their tie against Championship side, Rotherham, than their average Premier League attendance record in the past season.

Hyslop believes this is solely down to ticket pricing, with the cheapest adult admission staying as low as £10.

He added: “People want to come out and support their team but unfortunately what you have now in the Premier League and in Scotland are absurd ticket prices. If you drive the price down then more people are going to come, you’re going to have a much more packed ground and essentially you’re going to make more money.”

Scottish football fans aren’t oblivious to the fact that money is tight in the professional scene, but some may feel like this time, clubs have just went the one step too far.

Gregor Townsend announces Scotland squad for Six Nations – Podcast

Following the release of Gregor Townsend’s Scotland squad for the Six Nations in February, Bryce Donaldson and Fraser Munro discussed the players included and their thoughts ahead the competition.

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