Euros 2018 Nottingham – Day 3/4 ‘The familiar ebb and low and unfamiliar rise’

So, a week late. An account of the last two days of the tournament. There are reasons. Always reasons.

Day 3

We beat Jersey 9-1. I scored 2 tries.

Lost to France 13-8. Didn’t score.

Lost to Wales 8-5. Didn’t score.

This day contained the personal challenge I’d set myself in this tournament and I failed. The self-doubt came racing in. Seriously? Again? This is boring. Not scoring against France and Wales. I can’t do it against the better teams. I went into my shell. Choked.

I know I’m being hard on myself. I worked hard of course. I defended and drove but I didn’t direct attacking plays well or score myself. Hmm. The Wales game was streamed live. I watched it back. I looked so tired, making uncharacteristic mistakes.

Match at 7hrs 45min.

This night we went out for a meal as a team and I decided to stop writing the blog. I was exhausted but it wasn’t that. You’re always tired in tournaments.

More than that, I just got dragged down, not by my team, by the whole thing. What is the point in setting your own standards high when you’re surrounded by ineptitude? When seemingly no one cares. When people can apparently do and behave how they want. Not provide kit for their players. Blatantly flout the rules of the organisation about player selection. And nothing happens. Who cares then? What’s the point in pretending all this actually means something? That representing your country, Ireland, actually means something special.

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I had the thought that this is what it must be like for people with genuine integrity working in Trump’s White House trying to do their best for their country and limit the damage Trump and his sycophants can do. (Chief of Staff John Kelly maybe? For sure there are others) Knowing it’s a thankless task. Knowing that you’re the oddball and troublemaker in that environment because you have principles.

I decided that if I was thinking like this, thinking that I didn’t even want to write the blog, I needed to take a step back and take care of myself. I’m really glad I did.

Day 4

My friend who was on another Irish team said to me, a few people from his team said to him, ‘Why is Ian so grumpy? He takes too much on himself.’ We both shrugged. ‘That’s who I am,’ I said. ‘I know,’ he said and smiled. He was making sure I was OK and when I was telling him I was OK he was saying, exactly, I knew you were. I love my friend.

I went off by myself early in the morning to have a coffee but the coffee place was closed. That turned out to be a good thing. I spent two hours hidden in a corner of the university campus where there were no Touch people, no people at all, and just sat there.

The first thing, slowing down like that, I realised that despite how much I was managing my body, I was seriously dehydrated. There was a vending machine beside me and I drank four Lucozade Sports in a row before I felt normal again.

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Then I meditated.

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You know the way alcohol stirs up demons in certain perfectly nice people? You’re thinking, where did that angry lad come from all of a sudden? (Not me, by the way, I’m externally Hemingway, internally pure Mary Poppins, happy, smiley and in love with the world and everyone in it.)

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Or have you ever experienced that the early stages of a romantic relationship unexpectedly force you to confront insecurities you never knew you had? And again you’re thinking, woah, where did that come from? When did I become a mentaler?

Anyway, international Touch tournaments fulfill a similar function for me for some weird reason. A lot of baggage comes up.

So, sitting in a corner of Nottingham University campus, with one eye half open in case anyone came along and saw me, I meditated. Connected with all the chakras. A process I find very useful. Practicality and Trust. Creativity. Power & Self-esteem. Love & Healing. Communication. Insight. Spirituality.

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I shed a few tears. I promised to be nice to myself. Made it ok whatever happened. Accepted. At the end I felt a stone lighter. Felt cleaned out. I bounced down to the fields.

We lost our semi-final to France. 11-3.

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Post-game with French team.

We lost the Bronze Medal playoff to Wales. 10-8.

The statistics look similar to Day 3. For me as an individual, they were a world apart. Disappointed as I was after, I also felt so relieved.

One personal little goal coming into this tournament was to score in my last game which I haven’t come close to doing in the last three tournaments.

I scored three in my last game here, my best attacking game of the whole tournament. I didn’t get in my own way. Didn’t choke.

It means nothing to anybody else, but the little things. I scored one diving try on the run wide to my right. That’s a diving movement I’ve always struggled with. I’ve practised it over and over on the hard ground of this sunny Irish summer over the last couple of months when I didn’t ever really feel like doing it and now I executed it. That is very satisfying.

And if you’ll forgive a little continued self-regard. It’s just I’ve spent years trying to make myself a better attacker and I was never able to do it and I’ve beaten myself up so many times about it. This time, finally, I did it. I went from 13 tries in 6 previous tournaments to 16 in this one alone.

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Number 14. Played 11. Scored 16. Three MVPs.

I’ve never been a scorer so it was really weird to be now and suddenly I was checking all the statistics, how I rated against other players etc. It was all new for me. I was like a little kid.

Anyway, that was the role I needed to play to really help the team in this tournament and I did it. Phew.

We had good moments against opponents, respect given and returned. France deserved their win. No arguments about any of the teams. I enjoyed and appreciated playing against them all, the ones we beat and the ones we lost to. It was a pleasure and privilege as always.

And about our team… we were well beaten by a very good French team and couldn’t quite do it against a very decent Welsh team. But, overall, I haven’t got a bad thing to say. Great lads. We did everything we could. ‘We just didn’t have the horses’ to do more.

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One joy of Facebook crap, is after the tournament seeing what the tournament all meant to some of my newer teammates who I didn’t know so well. Each of them had their own little moments like mine above that no one else would know about.

I hope I said it to them during the tournament, and I think I did, all I’d have to say to my teammates is a big thank you for sharing it all together.

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As I was throwing my Irish jersey into the washing machine after the tournament, I only felt a sense of pride at what we achieved together. I don’t think any team could have worked harder. Great camaraderie. Five or six new international players. Even though I think the white singlets we were forced to wear for the whole tournament are a piece of crap, the dirt and sweat we imprinted onto them representing our country can’t be tarnished by anyone.

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