My Tournament Experience

On March 19 the men’s UL soccer team travelled to Dublin to take part in the Crowley Cup. The event, which was hosted by UCD, took place over three days from Friday March 19 to Sunday March 21.

Universities from Ireland and Northern Ireland took part in the annual event. UCD, DCU, NUI Maynooth, UL, Queens University Belfsat and Coleraine all took part with UCC fielding two teams.

It was a new experience for me and a lot of other squad members as we never travelled to a soccer tournament before. After almost seven months of training, two to three times a week boiled down to this. We loaded the cars and went to Dublin Thursday evening.

When we eventually arrived at the hotel we checked in and were allocated our rooms. Having only arrived at 11:30pm we had a half hour to ourselves before we had a team meeting.

We all piled in to one of the bedrooms and went through tactics and specific roles for the upcoming game against a well fancied UCD. The team was named as well and I was starting right-wing. It was a change from my usual position as the striker where I played all year, but I was just glad to be on the pitch. We headed off to bed that night while watching a really bad kung-fu film on the television.

Usually I’m a heavy sleeper and this night was no different. I woke around 10:45am the next morning and we headed for breakfast. After a protein laden breakfast we had another team meeting and headed off to the pitches around 1:00pm in anticipation of our 3:00pm kick-off against UCD.

UL Crowley Cup squad that beat UCD 3-0. If you look closely you can see me in he back row, 5th in from the right!

UL Crowley Cup squad that beat UCD 3-0. If you look closely you can see me in the back row, 5th in from the right!

I felt a pang of nerves a few hours before the start of the game. I figured it was a good thing and I was a lot more excited for this match than I was a lot of others previous. When I listen to sport stars talking about nerves they usually say that they’re a good thing and it’s a matter of controlling and using them to your benefit.

After a tentative first half we opened up in the second half and beat UCD comfortably 3-0. It was the first time a UL side beat UCD and it was an important victory, not only for us to progress, but UCD have one of the top senior sides in the country and to beat them so convincingly was a boost to our confidence and morale.

We had a physiotherapist with us the entire time and after the match some of us went for rub downs. After we travelled back to the hotel we went out for dinner and walked around for a couple of hours.

The following day we did more or less the same thing, only we lost 4-3 on penalties to UCC in the semi-final after a 1-1 draw after extra time.

What I want you to understand from reading this is the process of teams participating in tournaments. We had a wonderful weekend and were unlucky to lose on penalties, but I came away from the experience relatively satisfied with what we had achieved and with a sense of wonder how professional players get on at major tournaments. Some teams participating in tournaments like the FIFA World Cup or UEFA European Championships stay in hotels for periods up to five weeks. Despite the fact we were gone only one weekend, we found ourselves sitting around the hotel bored with not much to do for a couple of hours each day.

While it might seem like a simple problem there was very little we could do. Energy saving and recovery for the next day were all on the agenda and we had hardly any creature comforts. Being realistic too there’s only so much Playstation, reading or browsing the internet you can do before you grow tired of it.

This is only a petty gripe on what was a wonderful weekend that I’ll never forget. It was a bonding session with friends that I had made over the previous months of training and on top of that we got to play soccer which I will enjoy as long as I live!

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