Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Sure You'll Be Grand

I've not been on here for a while.  Had great intentions of writing stuff regularly here but never really got round to it or, more to the point, never really had time.  However, I felt the need to come back here and write something now.  Something that I have had great difficulty communicating to many people really.  But here goes, let's give this a shot.

I guess I always knew there was something not quite right, shall we say.  Was it the lethargy I would sometimes feel?  Was it the fatigue that would suddenly hit me?  Was it the increasing difficulty to focus my attention on things for a period of time?  Was it the mood swings, the sudden turn from smile to scowl, from laughter to frustration?  Was it the uncanny ability to turn away the people I cared about the most and who cared about me?  Was it the knack of ruining any potential relationship before it even had a chance to really go anywhere?

It was all of it really.  A mixture of the whole shebang; and more!

I guess I knew deep down what was going on but never had the guts to face up to it, until it got to the point where I didn't want to get out of bed in the mornings, would make any excuse not to make the effort.  At the time I was working for Tayto in an average job but with good hours and decent money so things should have been fine.  Except they weren't.  They weren't at all.  And it was around this time that I had my first realisation that I needed to do something about it or I was heading down a dangerous path.

It was then that I decided to visit my doctor and try to get to the bottom of what was going on.  He pretty much confirmed what I had known deep down for a long time.  I knew what was wrong but I didn't know what was wrong.

I was told to take a week off work and get out and about, get some fresh air, exercise, etc.  I brought the note to my boss and he looked at me like I had two heads.  After all, it wasn't a real illness, was it.  "Sure you'll be grand".

After a week I went back to work and continued as normal.  Except things weren't the same.  They never would be!  I knew what was going on but I didn't know what was going on.  "Sure you'll be grand".

Time moved on and I changed jobs.  Another warehouse job and in a company that I loved working for.  Seven great years that came to an end when the company merged and I was made redundant.  A few quid in the bank and a little time off.  "Sure you'll be grand!"

A year of unemployment, not a job to be had, bank account emptying fast and the realisation that this struggle is real.  Anyway, I'm waffling now.  So, fast forward to 2015.  Ten months in, I can honestly say that this has been the worst year yet.  Watching my Dad struggle through his battle with cancer, watching the man that I looked up to always, fade in front of my eyes, holding his hand as he breathed his last.  Words can't describe this.  "Keep the head up".  "Be strong". "Sure you'll be grand".

Every day I'm fighting a battle.  A battle with my inner demons.  I can count on one hand the number of people that I have told about my battle.  This daily battle with an illness called depression.  These people that I love and trust implicitly.  These people that have been there for me through everything. Even though they're not always around, they're always around.

I had confided in them that I considered writing this blog but I felt that people wouldn't understand why I would tell people this way.  They would say I was attention seeking or being 'busy'.  They wouldn't understand.  They encouraged me to do it, that people wouldn't feel that way.  I decided against writing a blog and I'd just deal with it. "Sure you'll be grand".

A couple of weeks ago I had a mini breakdown at home.  The feelings of anxiety overtook me and I collapsed.  I'm sure that sounds like an exaggeration and if it does, well so be it.  It was a wake up call.  It told me that I need to change things.  I need to re-evaluate and do whatever it takes to get myself in order.  I have been in a dark place on occasions, the darkest.  I have had certain thoughts, I won't lie.  I have considered certain actions, final actions.  I was able to overcome them.

I'm not one for talking about myself and I don't open up about myself very often.  I'm always more concerned with others and that is something I need to address.  I'm not grand, I know that.  But I also know that I have to fight and I have to keep things going.  Depression will not win, it will certainly try but it won't win. 

Sure I'll be grand!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Brendan Rodgers, new LFC Manager

Today Liverpool Football Club announced 39 year old Northern Irishman Brendan Rodgers as new first team manager, replacing Club legend Kenny Dalglish.

While the rumours of the appointment have bounced around for a while, the fans seem to have been split in their opinions on Rodgers.  They feel he is too young.  They feel he is not experienced enough.  They point to the disastrous stint of young manager Andre Villas Boas at Chelsea.  Well, let me offer my opinion on the matter, and perhaps some balance.

Brendan Rodgers, while only 39, has 20 years experience in the game working with youth team players and with senior professionals and senior internationals.  He has also worked under some of the top managers and coaches in world football.  There is a long list of players and managers who will talk him up and confirm his credentials, including Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson.  High praise indeed!  A large chunk of the current first-team squad at Chelsea have worked with Brendan at some point and all speak highly of him and his methods.

At the press conference to announce his appointment, Rodgers was asked about the mixed reaction he has been receiving from the fans.  He replied: "I'm not going to make any false promises to anyone.  I'm a realist.  I will fight for Liverpool Football Club and I will fight for myself.  I have a firm belief on how the game should be played and I will look to instill that in the players here.  By doing this, hopefully I can earn the respect of the fans."

An insight into the type of man Brendan Rodgers is came through his comments regarding his previous Club, Swansea City: "I'd like to offer my deepest gratitude to Swansea City and the nation of Wales.  I've had a fantastic 2 years there and helped create history as we became the first Welsh Club to play in the Barclay's Premier League.  I have, and will continue to have, a great relationship with their Chairman Huw Jenkins.  I had a good relationship with the Welsh people and the media there.  I am, of course, very sad to leave.  I always said that if I was to leave Swansea City it would only be for a top Club.  I'd like to think of Liverpool as a destination and I hope that I can be here for many years."

I have had previous personal experience of Brendan Rodgers when we spent ten days together in the US some years ago.  Brendan was youth coach at Chelsea FC Under-19's, while I was working as physio with Shamrock Rovers Under-19's, both competing at the Dallas Cup.  Our two Clubs had been designated the same floor of the same hotel so we interacted quite a lot during our time there.  Brendan struck me as a very down to earth, personable type of guy with lots of time for everyone.  He chatted with our players regularly and he left a lasting impression on all of us.  You could see the respect that all of the Chelsea players and staff had for him.  I am still in touch with one of those Chelsea players today and he has always only had good things to say about the man.

I personally think this is the right choice for Liverpool Football Club.  I think Rodgers is the perfect fit and I hope and pray that he is given the time and space to do the job because I am certain he will be a massive success at the Club.  He will have them back playing the right way and he will behave with integrity, the way a Liverpool manager should.  At least his media interviews will be watchable, respectful and informative; something that could not be said for his predecessor.

I think this could be the start of something special for Liverpool Football Club and I, for one, will be watching with interest at the path the Club now takes.  I wish you well Brendan and I hope You'll Never Walk Alone.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Hoops In Europe

Well, a lot has been said and written about Shamrock Rovers' European campaign this year.  Here's how events panned out from my own perspective.

Having been crowned Airticity League Champions in 2010, Rovers benefitted from UEFA's new rules regarding the Qualification phase in so much as there was now a 'Champions Route' and a 'Non-Champions Route'.  Rovers were seeded in the Qualifying Round 1 ensuring we would avoid all the top seeds and would play a team more on our own level.  When the draw was made, we were paired with Flora Tallinn, the Estonian Champions.

With the first leg in Tallaght, there was massive interest in the game and 5,026 punters made their way through the turnstiles to witness Chris Turner strike to give the home side a 1-0 advantage to take to Estonia a week later.  In all honesty, the winning margin should have been greater.  A week later, 600 hardy Hoops fans made the trip for the second leg and saw their heroes grind out a 0-0 draw to advance to the second round.

The second round draw threw up an altogether more difficult prospect in the shape of Champions League Group Stage regulars FC Copenhagen of Denmark.  This time, Rovers were to travel to Denmark for the first leg and despite putting up a fantastic showing that belied the vast difference in status of the two clubs, they were to go down by a goal to nil.  Again, they were left to rue missed chances.  The second leg in Dublin a week later saw the Danes come through with a 2-0 victory to win the tie by 3-0 and progress in the Champions League Qualifiers.

This defeat, however, was not the end for the Hoops in Europe as they now 'parachuted' into the Play-Off Round of the Europa League competition.  When the seedings were released, Rovers were seeded last of the 76 teams in the draw.  The draw paired the Hoops with crack Serbian outfit, FK Partizan.  Interestingly, the Serbs were bottom of the seeded clubs list and so there was the tiniest of glimmers of hope.

The first game took place in Tallaght Stadium and to say the place was rocking was an understatement, despite the attendance being less than that of the previous two European games at the venue.  The visitors had the better of the early exchanges and when Tomic opened the scoring on 14 minutes, the signs were ominous for Rovers.  Half-time came and went and as the game wore on, Rovers grew in confidence and when manager Michael O'Neill switched his formation to a more adventurous 4-3-3 it was the home side who looked the more dangerous.  The introductions of Chris Turner, Gary O'Neill and Ciarán Kilduff also added to the impetus.

There was a growing sense of confidence among the home team and supporters now and in the 81st minute, everybody's prayers were answered.  Gary McCabe picked up the ball in midfield and drove at the retreating Serbian defence.  When he got to the edge of the 18-yard box, McCabe played a one-two with Gary Twigg before 'nutmegging' the next defender and slipping the ball under the advancing goalkeeper for one of the best, and certainly most important, goals witnessed at Tallaght Stadium to date.  Cue raptures!  Rovers continued to press but couldn't find a winner.  So the game finished in a 1-1 draw.

A week later and it was off to Belgrade for the return leg. With the temperatures in the mid to high 30's celsius, it was going to take a performance of monumental proportions to see Rovers score that vital away goal and overturn the tie.  A group of 43 fans made the trip for the game.  Were they to witness history in the making?

Again, as in the first leg, it was the Serbian champions who were on the front foot early on and created several chances.  On 29 minutes Rovers goalkeeper Ryan Thompson, produced a save right out of the top drawer from a Volkov shot and you began to wonder if the storm had been weathered.  However, that question was answered 5 minutes later when that man Volkov scored a header from a corner on the right and it was advantage Partizan.  The game continued to half-time with no more goals.

What Michael O'Neill and Jim Magilton said to the players at half-time is anybody's guess but when the teams re-appeared for the second half, it wasn't the same Shamrock Rovers that had played the previous 45 minutes.  This was a re-energised group of players who were now set on taking the game to their opponents.  Rovers continued to press and probe and when Chris Turner flashed a header against the Partizan post the thoughts of everyone connected with the club were that this is possible, we can do this!

And then it happened.  The moment of magic that will stay with all Rovers fans to their graves.  What we witnessed in the 57th minute of this match was history being made before our eyes.  Gary Twigg won a corner on the right which was taken by his namesake Gary McCabe but was met by the head of a defender but nobody bet on right-back Patrick Sullivan swinging his boot at the falling ball all of 35 yards out to score one of the most exquisite goals you are ever likely to see.  Make no mistake, this goal was worthy of gracing any game at any level.  It truly was a wonder goal.

Now FK Partizan's away goal scored in Dublin a week earlier had been nullified and it was advantage Rovers.  The visitors now oozed confidence and played with a guile and craft that would befit any League in the world.  The winner never came and in these energy-sapping conditions we were to go to extra-time.  Another 30 minutes in these temperatures.  Surely the chance had gone.  Both teams went for the jugular from the start and when Tomic hit the post from a free-kick on 93 minutes Rovers hearts jumped.

Both sides created chances and it was very evenly balanced with worrying moments for both defences throughout as the teams started to show their fatigue and heavy legs.  Then it happened!  With 6 minutes left on the clock and penalties looming, Ciarán Kilduff was released down the left.  His shot was parried by the home goalkeeper into the path of the in-rushing Karl Sheppard.  When Sheppard attempted to control the ball he was fouled by the goalkeeper and in a moment that seemed to take an age, the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot.  PENALTY!

This was it.  Score this and Partizan need to score twice due to the away goals rule.  Score this and history will have been made.  Up stepped substitute Stephen O'Donnell.  A nation held its collective breath.  Nigel Bidmead, commentating for Setanta Sports, uttered what are now famous words: "It's Stephen O'Donnell.  For Rovers.  For Ireland."  O'Donnell ran up to the ball and struck left-footed straight down the middle.  The keeper dived to hs right and the ball rattled the net.  GOAL!

We had done it.  We had upset all the odds to become the first Irish Club in history to make the Group Stages of a major European competition.  Madness ensued among Rovers fans within the stadium and around the world.  Real fans of other League of Ireland clubs recognised the achievement and lauded the Hoops.  We all knew the breakthrough would come for an Irish club some time but who was to know it would be the club that nearly went out of existence 6 years prior to this?

The emotions were now off the scale.  Pride.  Elation.  Tears, both of joy and of remembering all the passed fans who would not see this moment.  This result has catapulted Shamrock Rovers Football Club into a different stratosphere and we now boldly go where no Irish club has gone before.

When the draw for the Europa League Group stage was made, the excitement and tension was palpable.  Typical of UEFA, the draw seemed to go on forever amid plenty of pomp and splendour (and quite a large dollop of nonsense).  They spent ten minutes just trying to explain the rules of the draw and how clubs cannot be paired with certain other clubs. 

That said, when the draw finally came round it was worth waiting for.  We were pulled out of the bowl and we then knew which of the Groups we could be drawn in and when they pulled the ball that said Group 'A' on it, the realisation was that we had been given the dream draw.  We were grouped alongside Russia's Rubin Kazan, PAOK Salonika of Greece and tournament favourites Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League.

This European campaign has quite simply been the stuff of dreams.  As I tweeted after the victory in Belgrade, "I love this club".

Good Luck!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Kennedy Cup 2011 - Day 2

Kennedy Cup Blog - Day 2

Tuesday was destined to be a busy day as we were to play two matches, the first of which had a 10.30am kick-off time.  I rose at 7.00am and started to prepare for the day ahead.  Shower and breakfast out of the way, it was time to do the rounds and make sure all the players were up and starting their breakfasts. 

Three players required treatment after the previous nights' match.  With this done, it was time to get my equipment ready for the game.  This involved making ice-packs and replenishing the stocks in my on-pitch medical bag.  With this completed I had a spare ten minutes so I used this time to type up my notes on the three players I had seen in the morning. 

We had our pre-match briefing with the players then made our way across to the pitch for our tussle with Roscommon.  The sun was shining and already there was a lot of heat, which was a concern.  A bonus for our players was the appearance of a number of their parents, who had made an early start to the day to travel down from Dublin to watch the two games.

Roscommon had watched us the previous evening and decided the best way to beat us was to contain us and they set up with four defenders, a holding midfielder and then a line of four midfielders with a lone striker playing very deep just in front of that.  This defensive set-up was something that we would have to get used to playing against as the week went on.

The negative tactics employed by Roscommon almost paid dividends as it wasn't until the 50th minute that the breakthrough came (bear in mind that at this age level the games are 30 minutes each way).  After the opening goal, Roscommon appeared to drop even deeper if that was possible.  We battled hard to try and find that second goal and despite creating many more chances the game finished 1-0.  With results elsewhere coming through, we now knew that a draw in the evening fixture would see us win the group.

When we got back to our accommodation, the players consumed their post-match snack of rolls and popcorn.  They showered and made their way to their rooms to rest up ahead of the evening game.  Those players that required treatment reported to the staff house and again I looked after them immediately.  There were no serious injuries and it was all just knocks that required massage and/or ice.

With the players in bed, the staff got together to review the morning and to plan for the evening.  I advised the managers in relation to the players' fitness and, armed with this information, they then set about picking their team and setting their strategy.  Regardless of who was picked to play we would still be playing the same way as always.  We would pass the ball and spread it around the pitch.  Ball retention was one of our strengths at the tournament and every other team changed their style to try and stifle us.

The second game was at 5.00pm against the North East Counties League (NEC).  We went through our usual pre-match routine and got to our pitch to be met with another huge crowd.  As before, they just wanted one thing.  The pressure being exerted on our players from outside the camp was starting to manifest itself in the form of nerves for the players.  While we did our best to calm them, there would inevitably be uncharacteristic mistakes made.  Luckily, though, we had a very tight group of players who looked out for each other.

Again, we went on to win the game 1-0 against a very defensive team.  This meant that we had topped the group with 9 points out of 9 and no goals conceded.  We progressed to Wednesday's Quarter-Final where we would face suprise Group 2 winners, Midlands League.  

Upon returning to our houses, the usual post-match routines took place.  This time I was very busy with injuries as would be expected after playing 2 games in one day and 3 games in 22 hours.  That said, I was still able to report only 2 real concerns to John, our manager.  I would re-assess these players on Wednesday morning ahead of the Quarter-Final game.

With everybody showered we got into our tracksuits and strolled the fifteen minute walk to the Kilmurry Lodge hotel for our evening meal.  Following the meal, we allowed the players to have their first contact with their parents.  They all really appreciated the half hour downtime with their families and the mood in the camp heading back to the accommodation was excellent.

We held a quick team meeting to discuss that evening's fixture and advise the players of their wake-up time in the morning.  They were all happy to learn that the Quarter-Final would have an afternoon kick-off and that they were getting a long lie in the morning.

Once the team were packed off to their beds myself and John had a one to one meeting where we discussed the condition of the players and drew up the schedule for the group for Wednesday.  These daily meetings were crucial as we couldn't afford to get anything wrong in terms of our planning.

With this completed there was only one thing on our minds now - BED!  It had been a long, tiring couple of days so we all wanted to recharge our batteries ahead of the next days' work.

Good Luck!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Kennedy Cup 2011 - Day 1

Kennedy Cup Blog – Day 1
After several months’ preparation, including a short tour of Belgium, the day has arrived.  All the work that has gone into this group of players has all been geared towards this day.  The Kennedy Cup is here!

We met at the Red Cow Hotel on Dublin’s Naas Road at 9.30am for the bus journey to Limerick.  Everybody was in good spirits ahead of the 3 hour trip South.  We got the bus loaded with our gear, took our seats and we were soon on the road.
The first hitch came ten minutes into the journey when we went to put the DVD player on to kill some time and entertain the troops.  The driver was struggling so I took over.  He handed me the remote control and I attempted to get the disc working. After five minutes trying I opened up the remote and the batteries were missing!! D’OH!  Cue laughter and much slagging of this physio!
The driver went on to tell us that the last driver on the bus was from Poland and he had switched the language on the Sat-Nav to Polish and nobody could work out how to change it back to English.  This gave us great faith in him!  Again, though, much laughter.  This is going to be a long week.
The kids settled down at the tabled seats to the rear of the bus and the card schools commenced.  I’m not sure who it was but I know for a fact there was much cheating going on down there.  It seems we have some sharks in the group.  I’ll investigate this further later in the week.
We arrived at the Kilmurry Lodge hotel for our lunch at 12.30pm and we settled down to a pre-match meal of spaghetti bolognese.  Of course, there was the usual suspect who doesn’t eat this particular pasta dish so we sorted him out with a meal from the carvery.  The most important thing with kids is that they eat.
So with full tummies we boarded our bus to take the five minute journey to our base at the University of Limerick, which is where all the accommodation, as well as the playing pitches, are.  The players settled into their rooms while the technical staff held a meeting.  At this meeting, we discussed the arrangements for the rest of the day and put the meat on the bones of our itinerary.  We re-arranged our own accommodation so that we could hold all team meetings for the week here.
Then it came to the first match of the tournament.  This game was to be against the Cavan/Monaghan schoolboy league and had a 7.00pm kick-off.  The players collected their kit from the kit manager and got changed.  They then reported for their pre-match briefing at 5.45pm.  Once John, our manager and Declan, our assistant manager went through their team-talk and notes on our shape on the tactics board, we were set to go.
We took the short walk to our pitch at 6.15pm and immediately commenced our warm-up routine.  As per usual, we were the star attraction of the day and large and very partisan crowd turned up to the match.  They were there for one thing, and one thing only: To see Dublin lose!  Well, they went home disappointed as our boys put in a very professional performance and scored a goal in each half to start us off with a 2-0 win.
So, warm-down routine completed, we made our way back to our accommodation where the players showered as we waited for our pizza supper to be delivered.  As I treated players for slight knocks, we had the Shamrock Rovers v Derry City match streaming live from Tallaght Stadium on a laptop courtesy of the fantastic SRTV.
Once the pizzas had been devoured, it was time to get the players in for their post-match de-brief and to be issued with their instructions for tomorrow morning.  With 2 matches to be played tomorrow it is going to be one hell of a long day.  We play at 10.30am and again at 5.00pm in the final group games.  It’s days like tomorrow that you fully utilise your 20-player squad.
Well that’s it for day one.  I’ll be up and at them again at 7.30am tomorrow with 2 players booked in for early treatments.  With spare time in short supply tomorrow I may not get to do a Tuesday update but I’ll certainly try.  Right now, this very tired physio is off to bed. 
Good Luck!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Shamrock Rovers v Real Madrid

It was early May 2009 when the rumours began to surface. Real Madrid were coming to town and we were to provide the opposition. Yeah, right! We're going to be playing Real Madrid!!  A feeling of disbelief mixed with tentative excitement descended upon everybody connected with Shamrock Rovers FC.  

The rumour was soon the talk of the town.  Internet message boards went into meltdown and newspapers began to throw in the odd line about it.  People started to mention it to me in the street and asked was there any truth in the rumour.

The rumours gathered pace and soon the whisper became a roar and reached a crescendo.  Then one night in early June we were called together at training and told that something massive was about to happen to our football club and that we should brace ourselves.  We all knew immediately what this meant.  Those words sent a tingle down the spine.  This was actually going to happen.

On Friday 19th June 2009 a press release appeared on the Shamrock Rovers website.  The first line read "Shamrock Rovers will play Real Madrid in Tallaght Stadium on July 20th." WOW!! I must have read that line alone 100 times.  This was the day that people I hadn't seen or heard of since my school days suddenly wanted know me again, my Facebook page received a glut of friend requests and they all had the same question in mind: "Any tickets for the match?".

So, the excitement had started.  It didn't end here, however.  Exactly one week after this press release, Real Madrid had news of their own which they wanted to share with the world.  The first line of their press release read "Cristiano Ronaldo today completed his world record £80million transfer to CF Real Madrid from Manchester United FC." Cue madness!!

So, Rovers are playing Real Madrid in Tallaght and it is likely that Cristiano Ronaldo, the world's most expensive player will be making his debut.  This was an absolute dream come true for the players and staff and the kind of event that would see our club catapulted into the eyes of the world.

As the weeks passed the excitement and interest in Shamrock Rovers FC built worldwide.  Reporters from the four corners of the world descended on the Dublin suburb of Tallaght.  We had visits from Reuters, Sky Sports, the BBC, Spanish media outlets. It was crazy.  A quick google search will pull up all sorts of interviews and video reports of the build-up to the occasion.

Sky Sports announced that they would be broadcasting the game live to the world, thus giving us a television audience in excess of 90 million people!  For a League of Ireland club this is unheard of.  We were fast becoming a global brand.

On 13th July a private jet carrying the Galacticos of Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo et al, touched down at Dublin Airport to a frenzy of media attention.  They made their way, under police escort, to their training base at the luxurious Carton House in Maynooth on the outskirts of Dublin.  This is where they were to be holed up for their pre-season training camp for the next ten days.

Within the Shamrock Rovers camp, the problem for the team management was keeping the players focussed on important league games in the immediate build-up to the glamour friendly.  For the record, both league games resulted in wins for the Hoops.

Then the big day arrived.  Monday 20th July is a day that will live long in the memory of everybody involved with Shamrock Rovers FC.  We met up for our pre-match meal at the Maldron Hotel directly facing the Stadium at 4.30pm and there was a real buzz about everybody.  We all knew that this was a special day and that the night ahead would be something we would cherish forever.  One thing was sure, though.  We weren't here to make up the numbers and whatever happened, the world and Real Madrid would never forget the night they came up against Ireland's most famous club.

We made our way across the road to the stadium (a one minute walk) and the road was already thronged with excited fans.  Security was tight.  There was a group of Spanish students who were in Ireland for the summer to study hanging around outside the stadium all day.  They were now at fever pitch!  We made our way through the crowds and entered through the Players Entrance to the inner sanctum of the home team dressing room.  Our away kit (the referee had insisted we change from our regular green and white Hoops) was laid out in preparation and we all just sat and started to soak it up.  We took the traditional pre-match pitch walk and, it must be said our unfinished Tallaght Stadium looked fantastic that sunny Monday night.

So the players retreated to the dressing room to prepare for the game.  Meanwhile I was walking the corridor from the gaffer's office to the dressing room when the Players Entrance door swung open and they were here!  I stepped back to allow the players that I was so used to watching on television pass me by.  They were all here: Dudek, Metzelder, Guti, Raul, Higuain and that man Ronaldo.  As they walked past I got hellos from most and a handshake and smile from Ruud van Nistelrooy.  Now I'm not one for being starstruck but this was different.  There was something special happening right here, right now, in our little stadium in Tallaght.

Then it came kick-off time.  As I said before, we weren't here to make up the numbers and we proved this right from the start.  We had barely taken our seats in the dugout and the lucky 9,000 fans packed into the ground had hardly settled when Pat Flynn had smashed into Ronaldo and the stage was set!  The first half was a tight enough affair with Real Madrid doing their best to get past our resolute defence while we tested Dudek on a couple of occasions.  The crowd, in particular the young girls, were going mad for Ronaldo who was doing everything in his power to give them something to cheer about. 

The game was scoreless at half-time and this was about right on the balance of play.  Both sides made changes at half-time and the game started to lose its fluidity as the usual raft of friendly substitutions took place.  We had 2 glorious chances to break the deadlock when Dessie Baker was twice put through on goal but unfortunately he couldn't convert.  The score remained at 0-0 until the 87th minute when Real substiute and debutante Karim Benzema  was put through on goal and he managed to slip the ball past our substitute goalkeeper Robbie Duggan to score the game's only goal.

Afterwards the Real players posed for photos with us and there was the traditional swapping of gifts and jersies.  It must be said that the Real Madrid people were very complimentary and gracious towards us and a friendship has been cemented forever.  Then, just as quickly as they had arrived, they were gone.  As he left Ronaldo turned to us and said "Thank you very much boys.  All the best for your season".  As their coached pulled out of the stadium car park we were left to reflect on what had gone before us.  The whole world has now heard of Shamrock Rovers Football Club and this one match helped to put us back where we belong at the top of the tree.

For the record, the team line-ups that night were as follows:
Rovers: Murphy, Bermingham, Flynn, Maguire, Sives, Robinson, Rice, O'Connor, Amond, Gal Andrezky (triallist), Jurco (triallist). Subs: Madden, Price, Twigg, Bradley, McGill, Cahill, Treacey, Duggan, Baker, Purcell, Coleman.
Real Madrid: Dudek, Torres, Metzelder, Pepe, Marcello, Gago, Diarra, Guti, Ronaldo, Raul, Higuain.  Subs: Salgado, Heinze, Garay, Sneijder, Parejo, Drenthe, Van der Vaart, Benzema, Negredo. Injured: van Nistelrooy, Robben.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

My current life in football

Well, my life in football currently sees me working as a physio for the Shamrock Rovers Reserve team and the Dublin & District Schoolboys League Under-13 team.  For those of you that don't know, Shamrock Rovers are a professional football club based in Dublin, Ireland.  We are the current League of Ireland Champions and we are the record League winners in Irish football history with a total of 16 wins to our name.  As you can imagine, this keeps me very busy.

The Dublin & District Schoolboys League (DDSL) is the biggest League in Europe for underage players, both boys and girls aged from 6-18 years.  They enter teams at every age group into various representative competitions where they compete against the other Leagues in Ireland.  I am currently working with the Under-13 team where we have the elite players from that age group coming together to compete in the prestigious Kennedy Cup tournament.  This takes place in Limerick every year and this year's tournament takes place next week, June 13-17.  I will keep you up to date on our progress while at the tournament.

Preparations for the Kennedy Cup tournament are now almost complete.  We will get the group together early on Sunday morning to put the last details in place and then we travel on Monday morning.  Straight after DDSL training on Sunday, it will be onto the M50 motorway to head for Rovers home ground, Tallaght Stadium, where I have a reserve team game against FC Carlow in the afternoon.  We currently lie in second spot in Group 2 of the League of Ireland A-Championship, which is the name of the Reserve League.  Hopefully 3 points can be achieved here as we will be giving competetive debuts to a number of brand new players who have signed for the club during this transfer window.  Before all that, however, we will have a training session tonight where I will assess the fitness of several players ahead of the game on Sunday and will continue the rehabilitation work that 2 of our injured players are currently undertaking.

Well, that's just a little about me to get started.  I'll post more soon.  I'd love some feedback so if you have any comments or questions, please post them below.  Thanks.

Good luck!