The 2017 VAFA Ireland Tour is at the halfway mark and in a recent meeting the boys were reminded that this opportunity should be met with a “celebration of little wins”, however it was a big victory that met the Big V in the first game of the tour against Bishopstown.
A rundown of all the happenings of the night can be found at www.vafa.com.au , but to be out of the ground and see the joy in the little things that make up an International Rules game was something I will remember for years to come. After a couple of weeks of nervous build-up, the game was an experience that ranks up there with all that I have achieved in football to date. The players executed all that they were asked, with their run and carry far exceeding the Bishopstown lads.
In an environment such as this, the excitement of the unknown met all players and officials on the bus trip to a pristine venue under lights.
The referee from Bishopstown for this match also had a lot of unknowns; however, excitement was not one of the emotions I subsequently felt when I found out that the opposition had not sent the whistle blower the rules of the International Rules code. Explaining the concept of Holding the Ball in less than 15 minutes wasn’t ideal. More on this later in the piece.
The VAFA boys dominated and it was fantastic to kick off the tour in a fashion such as this. The same could be said for the dance floor at a local establishment after the victory. A rendition of the Richmond Footy Club theme song at the end of the night outside in the street in the city of Cork is something that I, and I can safely say the Cork population had never witnessed.
That winning feeling continued on the commute from Cork to Lough Rea, which is situated around 40 minutes from the city of Galway and while a few may have a had a rusty breakfast, the result from the night before meant that I don’t think any of us cared.
The schedule is structured that there is only a couple of days off between games, therefore recovery is essential and with Carly McConnell on board as the team physiotherapist, the boys are put through their paces after training & games. I am unsure in her post game brief that it included couple’s massage at the hotel, but I am sure it worked given the two lads played well in the second hit out.
The VAFA then took on the slick Tuam Stars, in vastly different conditions. The pitch looking like a Soft 7 at Balnarring Picnic Racetrack on a Sunday. However, the hospitality & enthusiasm for the contest made up for the surface. It is hard to not be happy when warming up to “Down Under” by Men at Work blasting out of speakers to the crowd. It was at this moment that I met my umpiring companion, who I doubt would’ve been able to hear this tune, with my old mate Charlie just recently celebrating his 70th birthday.
With the VAFA mounting an impressive comeback in the 3rd quarter, and again my old mate failing to understand any concept other than a mark, I wonder if I could get away with paying Free Kicks from 80 metres away on a Saturday next season. Whilst the VAFA boys toiled hard, they ultimately fell just short. I must thank the players for their professionalism in the circumstances.
The players’ disappointment at the result further exemplifies how much this means to them and all participating in this tour.
While I sip on a pint of Guiness at the famous O’Connor Pub on the way to the Cliffs of Moher, I hope all is well back home. With a date at the High Commission tomorrow in Dublin, and this afternoons trip, I am sure the next few days will be as riveting as this first chapter has been.