We’d only one game today against Sweden so here in no particular order are my top 5 Swedes:
1. Eric the Red – since he and his friends pillaged and plundered in Ireland and my red hair probably goes back to him at some point.
2. Alfred Nobel for inventing dynamite and giving himself a prize. I think that’s what happened.
3. Anita Ekberg for that scene in La Dolce Vita in the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
4. ABBA. Thank you for the music obviously. But I also got to thinking from watching footage of their recent tour, their first in forty years, where they used avatar versions of their younger selves to perform ‘live’ in concert.
Is there a way I could use their technology and get an 30-year-old avatar version of myself to play out on the Touch field? Then we’d be in business. Surely that technology can’t be far away.
5. Bjorn Borg because he was cooler than cool.
Many times I’ve thought about and backed away from wearing a headband and sweatband like him. The one time I did try it playing Touch was in a tournament in Berlin a few years ago, and as you can see, I immediately got confused about where the sweatband should go.
I’ve never played against Sweden before and it is such a excitement in these tournaments to come up against different countries. I keep thinking of how as a kid I loved history and geography, I was obsessed with maps and the peoples in those countries and how different they were from the world I knew.
When I was growing up, travelling around Europe was not something I expected to be doing. The first time I went travelling by myself was to Barcelona in 1997. There were no direct flights so you had to get a transfer through London. I still remember the tickets cost IR£214. This is about €269. If you factor in inflation since then, about 90%, that would be about €511 now. I just checked on Ryanair now and could get a return flight to Barcelona next week for €83.99. We’re living in lucky times.
That really struck me at that Capital Cup back in Berlin in 2018 that I mentioned. The tournament was in the grounds of the old Olympic stadium.
The images of the stadium and its towers were burned into my brain from the iconic footage of Hitler and his cabinet walking across the fields during the opening ceremony of the 1936 Olympics, the young girl running to him and presenting him with flowers and giving the NAZI salute.
At one point, I stood up on the hill looking down on all the teams from around Europe playing on different pitches and thinking how fortunate we all are to be living in a time of peace, playing a sport that we love.
Of course, that has an extra poignancy now, when you think in another part of Europe not far away, people are plunged back into a horror comparable to the second world war. It shows how fragile the world and civilisation we take for granted can be.
Game vs Sweden: Won 11-6
The Swedes came at us strong in that first half, roaring up the pitch like a Volvo, carefully constructing their attack, every piece fitting into place like an IKEA flatpack. Score!
They came at us again, turning up the heat on us like a Celsius thermometer, mixing their plays like a Spotify playlist, and scoring with the style of a H&M shirt!
We expected to beat Sweden and before we knew it, we were 3-2 down. Luckily half time arrived because we were imploding a bit and also I’ve run out of Swedish references to describe their play.
An impassioned speech from our captain at half-time to get our act together. It may have been what was needed.
I was more in a a calm state of mind myself. I’d been unhappy with my mental preparation going into the French game the day before, I got on top of myself a bit. For this game, I was feeling lethargic beforehand, struggling again to get myself into the right place mentally. Is this where I am now? All the stupid thoughts as that go through your head before a game. What am I doing here? I can’t do this anymore. It’s too much. I’m done with competitions, just get to the end of this Euros. I’ve no energy, I can’t get my body moving, my back is tight, I feel terrible.
Then I ran on the pitch in our first defensive set, I was shouting instructions, getting up in their faces, feeling energetic. Suddenly enjoying it again, thinking, OK, maybe I’m not finished yet.
So I was pretty calm and confident at half-time.
We were much better in the second half.
Will got his first score for Ireland. I enjoyed the fist pump at the end.
I was satisfied with my own attack in this game, talking and trying to structure the attack. In this team I’m a setter, not looking to score myself.
I was particularly happy with this pass. It’s not one I could have done a couple of years ago. I was never a great passer but with practice and practice, I’ve got better. That was satisfying.
And finally, you can’t beat experience, our wily captain who’s been playing this sport longer even than me, creating a try from nothing on last touch. I can’t believe they fell for it, but fair play!