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The Big V team in Ireland.
DAY 14: Home for most, while others continue their European adventure. The chatter at the airport centred around the timing of the next tour to Ireland. A good trip? No, a great one that did the boys, their clubs and the VAFA proud.
DAY 13: Sleep in, breakfast, gym and pool. Then on the bus to Dublin airport and home via Heathrow and Hong Kong. Qantas fly a 747 on the route, which displeases Rudy Eifermann, who missed Banyule’s Reserves Grand Final with injury, won the trip as runner and ended up playing at Croke Park. Go figure!
DAY 12: On the bus and half an hour north to Ashbourne. checked into the Marriott and a relaxing afternoon in the hotel gym and pool was the order of the day for the team. Others checked out the nearby village.
At 6pm, the team travelled to the GAA ground, a magnificent facility with two large social rooms and seating are overlooking the green manicured ground. all is perfect until the rain begins, the light but persistent mist that reminds us all of Galway.
Team news: Skipper Matt Torney will play despite a groin injury. Luke Beveridge will suit up in a an attempt to revive a playing career (or to perform a farewell lap). Dave Lally will join the team, recruited on Thursday night at the embassy. Dave, an Irishman, plays Gaelic and Aussie Rules in Eire. Tom Patterson is again between the sticks. Sautner suits up for a final fling, heavily strapped.
The game was a beauty, with the Big V charging early but again wasting scoring opportunities. A six point under got Donaghmore Ashbourne into the game again and at one stage, they hit the front. Sterling performances from Matt Torney and Ryan Colbert in the final term saw the Big V escape with a brilliant two-point victory to close the official tour at 3-1.  Many of the team played their finest patches of the tour. Cameron Lee was exciting, Strachan and Hellier strong through the middle, as were Biggs and Hellier. Chisholm was excellent up forward.
After a quick presentation to Matt Torney, judged best afield, the team reapaired to the locker room to sing the song and Jack Hellier led a team dressed in green (they’d swapped jumpers) in the by-now traditional “Thumbs Up” routine.
The after match was a thing of beauty that lasted until about three, but members of both teams repaired to the Marriott for a nightcap. a brilliant evening and a delightful close to the tour.
VAFA 0.6.10 (28) d DONAGHMORE ASHBOURNE GAA 1.5.5 (26)
Overs: R. Chisholm 2, J. Hellier , R. Colbert, D. Flaherty, M. Torney.
Best: M. Torney, J. Hellier, C. Lee, R. Colbert, C. Howat, D. Strachan
DAY 11: The last full day in Dublin. The players spanned the city, checking out attractions they had not yet visited. They came together for a dinner and a reasonably early night before their final game at Ashbourne.
DAY 10: Some sore bodies today and the day is spent touring around Dublin. Late afternoon, the boys board a coach and head to the seaside Killiney residence of the Australian ambassador, Bruce Davis. The group thoroughly enjoyed the tour and the hospitality provided by his Excellency. The embassy staff were impressed with the deportment of the group.
The coach returned the party to the accommodation at the Augustine Apartments in enough time to ensure they could visit the haunts in Temple Bar and beyond. Travis Ridgway joined the crew on crutches and I’m sure his plight elicited much sympathy.
DAY 9: Two games in 24 hours is a difficult assignment, but there was no denting the enthusiasm of the squad as it boarded the bus to play at the Mecca of Irish football, Croke Park.
The surface was immaculate and so was the Irish team – very tall and very fast – and they didn’t miss a target all night. By contrast, the Vics tired early despite their pride of performance. The game was over by half-time, but the resolute Big V did not give up and played some of its best football late in the game. a loss it may have been, but it was a night that all will remember.
Skipper Matt Torney played his best game of the tour and booted his first over. Julian Rowe kicked the other over in the third stanza, but the Irish defence was strong and talented.
In other news, Travis Ridgway is sporting a half cast on his left leg to protect his broken fibula. The team will visit the Australian Embassy tomorrow afternoon and on Saturday moves camp from Dublin to Ashbourne to take on the powerful Donaghmore Ashbourne club.
IRELAND GAA 6.12.9 (81) defeated VAFA 0.2.1 (7)
Overs: M. Torney, J. Rowe
Best: M. Torney, C. Howat, R. Colbert, M. Dean, M. Christian, J. Hellier
DAY 8: The team news is mixed. Nick Sautner still out, Jack Hellier proppy with a tight hamstring. Gastro guys Nick Wynne and Julian Rowe will suit up tonight, while Twiggy Christian is also good to go. The biggest news however, is that Matt “Rudy” Eifferman, the tough utility from Banyule, will get a run. Paterson still between the sticks and Ryan Colbert wears the captain’s armband.
The Big V found its rhythm early, but four points was not the ideal return from a solid start. On a beautiful lush surface under lights, the Vics finally booted an over after seven minutes, with Travis Ridgway slotting the first over  at seven minutes, Two minutes later, Rudy Eifermann entered the game to massive applause, particularly from the Banyule contigent that dominated the grandstand. Mick “Popeye” Harold boomed a sixty yarder a minute later and it was obvious to all that the team was on song. Rob Chisholm kicked one just before the bell to give the Vics a 14-1 lead. Rowe, Chisholm and Colbert were standouts in a quarter where the Big V showed impressive tackling and ball skills.
The second term saw a quiet start as the Vics pushed into the breeze, but Ridgway kicked the goal of the tour, a mid-air hoof that sailed through from an impossible angle. Dan Flaherty booted another over to see the Big V lead at the half 23-2, with Tom Paterson commanding the goalmouth and preventing the hosts from scoring any significant points.
Sadly, the next mid-air hoof was from a Ballyroan player that landed on Ridgway’s leg, prematurely ending the exciting forward’s tour in the third term. Ryan Colbert slotted home the resultant kick for his second of the stanza, while Rees Thomas and Jack Hellier also registered triples.  Cam Lee and Gareth Snow were brilliant in the term and the whole line-up was working together like a well-oiled machine. At the lemons, the Vic led 40-11.
The final term saw David Biggs, Cam Howat and Cam Lee slot trebles in a hurry. Rob Chisholm missed a penalty, an error that will no doubt see his wallet a little lighter. Dan Strachan, Julian Rowe and Dan Flaherty nailed threes and the hosts scored two unders in junk time to give their scoreline more respectability than perhaps it deserved. Final at Crettyard near Newtown: Big V 61 Ballyroan 23, in the best performance of the tour.
So it’s on to Croke Park tomorrow night. Tour skipper Matt Torney is doubtful with a groin, but one suspects he’ll not miss the opportunity to play on the hallowed turf.
VAFA: 0.15.16 (61) defeated BALLYROAN GAA 3.1.2 (23)
Overs: R. Colbert 2, T. Ridgway 2, R. Chisholm, M. Harold, D. Flaherty, R. Thomas, J. Hellier, J. Rowe, P. Florance, C. Howat, D. Biggs, D. Strachan, C. Lee
Best: C. Howat, C. Lee, G. Snow, R. Colbert, D. Biggs, M. Harold
DAY 7: No-one on this tour will ever complain about the sudden changes in Melbourne weather. Skies still grey in Galway, rain still falling. It’s a free day, but options are limited by the weather. The team does a recovery in the hotel pool. Some visit Connemara, but no-one has seen the sun for days. Given the heavy schedule – Ballyroan tomorrow and the Irish national team Wednesday – the team hits the hay pretty early.
DAY 6: The team goes touring. Some go to the Cliffs of Moher, others pace themselves by walking around downtown Galway. Team meeting set for three and everyone’s there on time. Even Nick Wynne, flattened by gastro: Julian Rowe not feeling to stable either. Twiggy Chistian similar, but will start. Nick Sautner not ready.
Salt Hill Knocknacarra is one of top ten clubs in Ireland, but ludicrous registration issues have delayed their season end. They are fielding guest players to supplement their available list. The rain miraculously ceases as Luke Holmes holds the ball aloft.
The Big V broke through for it’s first win on tour with a comfortable victory over Salthill Knocknacarra on Sunday evening.

Gastro has struck the team and Nick Wynne and Julian Rowe did not dress. Twiggy Christian played only limited time.

Coach Anderson swung a change, putting Tom Patterson between the sticks, releasing Gareth Snow to play at CHB. Due to the lack of floodlights and the gloom of the Galway weather, the game was played over four 15 minute quarters. The consolation was that the rain, constant for two days, let up as Luke Holmes held the ball aloft.

Early going was dominated by the Vics. Salthill didn’t get it’s first shot until the nine minute mark,(it missed), by which time Travis Ridgway and Dave Drapac had scored overs. Salthill pulled one back, but Cam Howat and Rob Chisholm responded. at the break, it was 15-3. Howat, Paul Florance and Ryan Colbert were damaging through the midfield.
Howat opened the second term with an over, but the hosts hit back with a six-point under. After just two minutes, it was back to 18-10. Then at 8 minutes, Ridgway put one in the net for the Vics first under for the tour. Drapac booted an over and Salthill added one late. 27-13 at the half, with outstanding quarters from Jack Hellier and Chisholm.
The Vics put three over in the opening minutes of the third – Chisholm, Cam Lee, then Howat – and Florance rammed home an under and Ridgway hit two more overs. With Lee and David Biggs dominating with dash, chasing opponents and dragging them down from behind, the Vics assumed total control. At the lemons, it was 53-13.
Howat, Ridgway and Biggs added overs in the final term as Salthill began to finally pick up the pace. Luke Holmes called an end to proceedings as the rain began to fall again and the white ball became difficult to see. Final score: Big V 64, Salthill 26.
VAFA 2.14.10 (64) d SALTHILL KNOCKNACARRA GAA 2.6.2 (26)
Unders: T. Ridgway, P. Florance. Overs: T. Ridgway 4, C. Howat 4, D. Drapac 2, R. Chisholm 2, D. Biggs, C. Lee
Best:  D. Biggs, C. Howat, C. Lee, J. Hellier, T. Ridgway, R.Colbert
DAY 5: The constant was the rain. The team boarded the bus at 11:00 am after one of the bigger after-matches in memory and headed northwest. A one hour stop for lunch at Bunratty Castle had them checking in at the Salt Hill Hotel late afternoon. Most hit the gym for some rehab and to watch David Biggs and Mick Harold lift massive weights. A relatively early turn-in was the order of the evening as the team goes again tomorrow against Salthill.
DAY 4: They say “payback is a bitch” and so it proved immediately at Na Piarsaigh tonight. Within the first minute Nick Sautner slotted an over and his teammates responded with high fives.
Unfortunately, while the celebration was taking place, the Cork outfit raced the ball down the other end and slotted an under past a bewildered Gareth Snow. 6-3 Na Piarsaigh.
Both teams played fast and furious football, but the Vics struggled with the round ball, particularly when shooting for goal.
However, the Vics were dominating possession, but couldn’t see the dividends. Great pressure from Tom Pattison saw Rees Thomas slot an over and the teams wen to the first break with the Irish just ahead 9-7. Not a bad start if you consider the start!
The second term was hotly contested. Travis Ridgway put one over after a great tackle from Dan Flaherty. The Irish got busy but Paul Florance booted another after a blistering downfall run from the Big V, with Cam Howat the chief instigator. Julian Rowe put another one over and the Vics led 18-13 at the seven minute mark. By the half, however, it was 18-21 Na Piarsaigh.
The Cork lads opened strongly in the third, but Rowe lifted spirits with a sensational dropkick goal. Despite having the light breeze behind their backs in the third, the Big V went to the lemons down six at 23-29.
Ryan Colbert overed early in the last giving the Victorians hope, but from then on, the Irish artillery was huge. Final score, a massive 51-29.
Despite the result, there were some encouraging signs. Jack Hellier was magnificent in the midfield, Nick Wynne was dynamic in defence and Camerons Howat and Lee cut the lines extremely well.
The final score was a disappointment, but there was no doubting the approach. Now it’s on to Galway to meet Salt Hill on Sunday night. See pics on VAFA Hq at Facebook.
NA PIARSAIGH GAA 3.8.9 (51) d VAFA 0.7.8 (29)
Overs: J. Rowe 2, N. Sautner, R. Thomas, T. Ridgway, P. Florance, R. Colbert
Best: J. Hellier, N. Wynne,J. Rowe, C. Lee, C. Howat, D. Drapac
DAY 3: Breakfast was the first step, and training the second. At 10:00am, the team gathered in the large indoor court and practised skills further. Assistant coach Luke Beveridge ran them through some tackling drills and there was the much anticipated goalkeeper trials. While an announcement is yet to be made, the wise heads watching quickly eliminated Nick Sautner. This scribe has Gareth Snow and Tom Patterson as favourites for the gig.
After training, the group saw the sights of Cork, then met again at 6:00pm to go through the gameday routine, which will include an early night. They are ready to go and keen to notch up the first win of the trip.
DAY 2: Tour party arrived safely at 11:00am after about 27 hours travel. A few bleary eyes, but all fit and keen to put on a great showing. The group was taken by coach to the Commons Inn just north of Cork centre and settled in before the scheduled training run at 4:00pm. At 3:30, the team assembled and jogged up the hill to the Na Piarsaigh facilities. The club is most famous for its hurling, but plays Gaelic football on its three pitches. All are beautifully grassed and the game pitch is magnificently lit. The team looked sharp, concentrating on adapting to slick conditions, the round ball and misty rain. Physio Mick Beasley was on hand to lend some treatment to players with niggles.
After training, the players held a meeting and then dined out together. The bonding on the trip so far has been significant and the pre-trip training at Banyule is proving of great benefit. Not surprisingly, most players returned to the hotel reasonably early to hit the sack.
DAY 1: The team, under coach Dean Anderson, leaves Tullamarine this afternoon and flies to Cork via Heathrow. The Big V will play four games against strong Irish clubs. The team consists of players who represented the VAFA against the VCFL in July at senior or Prem C-Div 4 levels.
Meanwhile, the “Godfather of Big V” football Anthony Amad is captured by a very tired paparazzo as he clears immigration in Cork on Tuesday night local Irish time. After meeting with Na Piarsaigh officials late into the night, he came away suitably impressed.
“The facilities are excellent and the club is exceptionally hospitable,” he said.
“The boys are going to love playing here.
The touring team, the first Big V senior team to play internationally, consists of:
Matthew Torney University Blues (Captain)
Ryan Colbert Old Xaverians (Vice Captain)
Cameron Howat Old Carey (Vice Captain)
David Biggs Old Essendon
Robert Chisholm Ormond
Michael Christian Banyule
Matthew Dean Werribee
David Drapac Banyule
Daniel Flaherty Old Essendon
Paul Florance Bulleen Temp
Michael Harold Oakleigh
Jack Hellier St Bedes/Mentone Tigers
Cameron Lee Werribee
Thomas Paterson Glen Eira
Travis Ridgway Old Haileybury
Julian Rowe Old Carey
Nick Sautner Collegians
Gareth Snow Old Mentonians
Daniel Strachan Collegians
Rees Thomas Mazenod
Nick Wynne Old Xaverians
Matt Eifermann Banyule (Runner and Emergency)