Barney Abroad: Ireland Tour Days 1 – 4

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A daily diary of the 2015 VAFA Ireland tour from the perspective of father and Big V supporter, Russell Barnes.

Day One

Off we go on our trip to Ireland. Shout out to the VAFA staff for organizing all the player and support staff gear to arrive at the airport. Only one little mishap; Matt ‘Chopper’ Handley had wife, Ally’s passport instead of his own so Ally had to make the quick trip to Donvale and back and did it with time to spare. After a long 14 hour flight we arrived at our first stop over at Abu Dhabi. A bit of bonding done on the flight with a number of the boys catching up outside the rear toilet. Now a lazy four hour wait until we board and head to Dublin.

Harry Whitty (Chewbacca) became the self-proclaimed chewy man when he purchased a box of chewy for $4 and got 100 packets. Woohoo! Set for the trip we will stick together. Just about to board for the Dublin leg of the flight and Sam Confait has his first hassle of the tour. A couple of players missing but turns out no problems as they had just snuck off for a leak. Good timing if they ended up getting left in Abu Dhabi. How would that have been? Barnesy and Chewbacca. Turns out Barnesy may well have been digging for oil.

So now we board our flight and get on to the plane with Manchester City Football Club emblazoned across both sides; the club is obviously doing ok.

For some reason Doc Barnett became a very popular man during the stop over and everyone who wanted to sleep well on the Dublin leg did. Assistant coach and parent liaison officer, John Kanis, had set himself to not sleep at all during any leg of the  flight, mission achieved so far.

This correspondent took the opportunity to watch the first six episodes of The Walking Dead during this leg.

Arrive in Dublin eventually, Gee it’s a long flight. We board the bus for the three hour trip to Cork with Michael the Irish bus driver giving a rundown of where to go and where not to go in Cork, as well as showing us the exquisite bus parking style of the Irish drivers.

VAFA CEO, Michael Sholly, and VAFA Board member, Musha Amad, pick up the tour car and after a little bit of a detour – nice one Shol – met up with us at our first port of call, the Jury Inn, where Sam and Christian allocated rooms out.

Coach Cam Roberts and John Kanis went for a light run to try and find somewhere for the boys to have a training run. The session was well and truly needed to blow out a few cobwebs.

“Hopefully the skills will improve,” CEO Sholly was heard to say.

A six o’clock meeting was called for that evening and dads Rob Viney and I were fined for none attendance – apparently sleep was more important. We suffered our first injury of the tour with Choppers’ dad, Wayne Handley, in a bit of discomfort. Hopefully he recovers quickly and is up and about soon.

The group caught up for our first dinner and it was here that physio Mark Tomlinson was using tooth picks to keep his eyes open and John Kanis hit the wall and had to skip dinner and hit the sack – simply no staying power.

Day Two

Day two commenced with quite a few additions; the Cavens feat. Tony, Anne, Tom and Simon; the Sullivans feat. Damien, Jo, and Tom; the Mugavin brothers and Marshall Rippon all joining the tour. How happy was Jude Barnes to have some additional female company?

The playing group and some of the supporting group went to the ground of the Nemo Stars for a training session. After a quick tour of the clubs’ fantastic facilities we got changed in changing room number six. We hit the ground running in front of a crowd of three which built up quickly when a bus load of school girls came along and had a good look at what was going on. After a lot of skill work and running the ball practice there was a bit of match simulation against some of the team and a couple of older extras – no offence John and Barney. This also gave umpire Daniel ‘Sloppy’ Silfo a good chance to run over the rules and to be honest probably make some up as he went.

Sam Barnett showed some metal and had a crack as goal keeper and did ok. Swill Williams had a few cracks at goal and the forwards tore apart the defence, although it was six on two. Anyway, it was a good hit out and it was now time to head back to our hotel. The players, plus physio Mark and umpire Sloppy, went to a brewery for a fairly large session that extended on to a club which was having Uni night. A two to one ratio of girls to blokes made for an interesting night for those up for the chase. As for young Barnesy falling asleep and being asked to leave and Josh ‘Stumbles’ Cowan it was an earlier finish than perhaps expected.

The older section of the touring party went to the seaside town of Kinsale, where a sidewalk session was held where we were able to see the Kinsale world pass slowly by. Great move by Rob Viney and Wayne Handley to hire a mini bus which was and will be very handy.

The group arrived back at the Jury Inn at about six with no sign of the playing group, however the arrival of Grant O’Donnell further strengthened our supporter base. CEO Sholly sent Musha and John Kanis on a reco mission to find a dinner venue. The decision to go to the Market Lane was well received by all and a good meal enjoyed. On return to the Jury Inn there was still no sign of any players, let’s hope they were having a good time.

Day Three

Not surprisingly, a quiet start to the day with many of the players surfacing just before 10 o’clock in time to attend training. A bit of a mixed bag in terms of what people got up to with some going to kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle – just a little Castle built in 1446. The other place visited was the township of Cobh which is famous for being the last port of call for the ill-fated voyage of the Titanic. It was probably a required quiet day in the lead up to our first big game against the combined Cork under 21s.

Day Four

The day of the first game of the tour is finally here. Everybody has a different way to build up to it; some went to Coulmore Park Stud where they saw the great stud Galileo who was going around at about 225,000 euro per serve, while others went to St Anne’s Shandon Chapel, whilst others did nothing at all. Whatever floats your boat in order to play a good game. Have to go now as the bus is leaving soon to go to the game. Will let you know how we went when we return.

What a cracker!!!!!!!

The whole tour group met in the bar for our team meeting before trekking of to the Fish Bowl the home of the Nemo Rangers to play against a combined U21s side. After addresses from Sholl and Coach Cam about how the game would be played it was over to umpire Sloppy Silfo to explain the rules – it turns out at least one of the refs would know them – well done Sloppy.

The players and officials then made the short bus trip to the Fish Bowl to have a look at the Nemo senior side train for their granny on Sunday. We arrived and the players couldn’t wait to get into it. Unfortunately, that’s what they did do, wait and wait and wait, until after a 45-minute delay both sides finally entered the playing field. We were fortunate to gain three Irish recruits for the night Dee Fence as our goalie, Ima Backup a mid and Stan Din who played both ends and coached the local AFL side.