Touch Home Nations, Albert Park Dublin, Saturday 22nd, June 2013
This will give an idea of how great the whole event has been:
Game 3 Lost vs England 10-4
The first half of this match was my worst 20 mins in an Irish shirt. My was a bit all over the place. I hadn’t slept well and I was grumpy and negative and giving out on the pitch. I didn’t help that this was such an early morning kickoff but that was no excuse. I was very annoyed with myself. In the second half, I just tried hard to get it together and contribute. Which I did. So I suppose I had to be positive about that. I set up a try with a switch pass near the line so at least I felt good about that. I’m sure it didn’t look so bad from the outside but internally I felt as low as I’ve ever felt in an Irish shirt after this game. I couldn’t even tell what the game was like in general. I know we lost.
Game 4 Lost vs Scotland 8-1
This was another loss against the European champions but on a personal level, this finally was me out there on the pitch. And I felt as a team we did well too. We were energetic, relentless, positive and hard-working. Thankfully. As the sun changed to pouring rain and back again. I just remember running so hard. And in the middle of it all, trying to figure out what they were doing in attack. It’s a different style from Wales, much less static line attack through the middle. I could see the moves happening but not quite figure out what to do to stop it. I desperate to study it after the tournament and understand what they’re doing. Even though the scoreline doesn’t show it, we are a better team than we were at the Euros last year.
Game 5 Won vs Guernsey 11-5
Finally, in the very last game we got to some the progress from the Euros. We drew with this team 8-8 in Italy. And confidence in sport being what it is, we worked hard to keep the opposition it. We went from 2-0 up to 3-2. Error after error. We kept giving the ball back to them and giving them another crack at attacking out line.
Personally, the main thing I concentrated on was talking to the players around, on the sideline in the box. Then when I was back out on the pitch, all my thoughts were to defend, defend, defend. Hold them out. Don’t give up scores. Then when we get the turnover, drive up the pitch – direct and hard. Then get off the pitch and get my breath back. And talk again. Keep being positive. In pressure situations, it’s such a natural tendency to stop doing the simple things right. And it can become a case of not who wants to win it more but because of tension and nerves, who wants to lose it more.
In the 2nd half we began to pull away and I even got to do a bit of attacking. And finally scored a try. I’ll admit I enjoyed it.
So… this was a different experience from the Euros. I can’t say I come away from it having learned loads of new stuff as I did then. It’s more a case of it reinforced lots of things I already knew or half-knew. It reinforced all the things we need to do to close the gap to the top European nations. That gap is big and that needs to be recognized in Irish Touch. Not one Irish team made a final. There has to be some realism there. But once you acknowledge that, closing the gap is doable. From talking to other players across the teams, I think there is a realization of all the work that needs to be done at all levels of Irish Touch.
My own performance: I’m still not near as good a player as I want to be but I am a better player than I was at the Euros.
Finally, to quote a text from a friend who watched us lose 8-1 against the Home Nations winners, Scotland. “In 2011, Donegal were ranked 29th out 32 counties in Ireland in Gaelic Football. 12 months later, they were All-Ireland champions… You’re not as far away as you think you are lad!” I like that. But it won’t just happen because we want it to happen. We have to work!
Well done to everyone involved in the amazing organization of this tournament. It went so well that there was immediate talk of the 2016 Euros being held here.