European Touch Championships, Nottingham. Days 3 & 4

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Day 3 Game 1 vs Belgium

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Perception is everything. We played Belgium in a tournament in Brussels in May. I was coming back from injury, I was still struggling, and had played almost no Touch in months. We didn’t have a full team and they beat us well. I couldn’t handle the speed they were coming at us and couldn’t believe how good Belgium had become.

In our game today, I was watching the first couple of sets from the box and everything seemed manageable. I went on the field and felt very in control, nothing that stressed me unduly. This was a comfortable performance.

Watching back at the video, I’m happy with how I’m responding to mistakes. I’m agitated about the error, giving away a score when I’m on the pitch pains me. I could analyse about three things wrong here straightaway.

Intercepting and dropping the ball on last touch is unforgiveable.

I’ve got better at getting straight back in the game and not compounding a mistake with another one.

Diarmuid arrived in today for the tournament and it’s great playing with him. I combine with him here and a few other times. I’d never really played with him before but the understanding is immediate.

You can see the experience and intelligence, making simple things look easy. No drama. Score.

I did score a try myself. An easy finish really.

FULL MATCH: Men’s 30 | Belgium vs Ireland | European Championships 2022 – YouTube


Day 3 Game 2 vs England. Lost.

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There’s not too much to say about this game but weirdly I kind of loved it. We were playing a specific game plan with certain limitations so we really weren’t threatening them at all in attack which meant it was just a case of how long or not we could hold them out for. By the end of the second half, not.

They threw a lot at us, well-drilled and efficient. Coming at us in waves, quite relentless. I haven’t played at this speed of Touch in a while and I felt I prospered. I was in the middle of it processing everything, yes, this is what they’re running here, that’s what they’re trying to do here.

This was one of our early defensive sets. I was happy with this snipe, it was short side but I think the attacker had got the step on Declan. Defending as a link is still relatively new for me.

I didn’t feel disheartened at all in this game. Coming on each time with energy regardless of the score line. It wasn’t really a case of ‘keeping your head up’ for me, I think of it as ‘keeping your head IN’ the game. Don’t be dominated, don’t go in on yourself. Run everything with the same energy and speed you normally would. Practice your processes properly. If something is the right thing to do at 0-0, it’s right when you’re scores down. If it was wrong at 0-0, then that’s a different situation.

If we’re to do something in this tournament, we’ll have to get much better. Your money would not be on us at this point, but it’s not impossible.

FULL MATCH: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frDpO1SrpJI&feature=youtu.be


Drama

Most of the real drama was off the field today. I can’t talk in detail because it was in another team but this was the conversation I had with someone about Kaja’s godfather.

After listening to the situation, I said ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’ ‘Listen, I’m completely on his side. Just find him and give him a hug.’ ‘I’ll do that,’ I said and did. I was quietly seething but I think he handled it and himself really well. I’ll leave it at that.


The other drama is that we have one more player coming in to join our squad tomorrow but not the player we expected. The legend plays again.


We need drama in our lives of course and for the moment this Euros is filling the hole left by the demise of another one.

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Here, the squad are seen punishing themselves in an ice bath to distract from the pain of knowing that Neighbours is no more.


Day 4 Game 1 vs Switzerland

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Everything was going against me this morning. Kaja was upset and I had to keep her strapped to my chest all morning, so I didn’t get a chance to stretch and massage my back before heading down to the fields. When I got down there, I realised my bottle of water had leaked all over the seat of her pram so I couldn’t put her in there till it dried out, which meant I wasn’t able to put on my strapping till the last minute. And because I’d spilled all my water, I had hardly any water to drink and… anyway, not the best preparation but none of it an excuse for the game.

This was the strangest game I’ve played on a personal level in a long time. I know most of the Swiss team really well. I’ve played alongside them and coached lots of them. There are a great group of lads.

So, of course I wanted to put on a big performance in this game against them, personally and as a team. I remember Paul O’Connell once describing how Munster and Leinster players could come together to play in an Ireland shirt while at the same time killing each other in the Leinster and Munster matches, ‘when you’re playing in the back garden against your brother, you love him but he’s the person you want to beat more than anyone else in the world’.

I had the opposite of a big performance in this game. For some reason I was on the pitch very little and had almost no influence either way. I wanted to be on. I felt I could make a significant impact when I was. It just never happened. We made a lot of mistakes, Switzerland played very well and grew into the game. You could see their energy and confidence rising along with our anxiety. I felt pretty helpless. The referees must have disallowed two or three tries on each side, some I had no idea why.

It was a draw. I felt kind of sick and embarrassed, I’d done nothing in game. I presume a lot of Swiss I know were watching the game. This was how I and we had represented ourselves. I really felt we were the stronger team and we hadn’t shown it. And now we were in the more difficult side of the draw for the quarter final, semi-final.

I couldn’t speak after the game. I wondered have I ever felt this bad in a jersey after an Irish game, as nauseous. Will this feeling pass? I shook hands with all the Swiss players after but I couldn’t engage more than that. I was happy for their performance, for them.

I have actually felt this bad many times. Nauseous was exactly how I felt after my first ever international when we lost to England in the last few seconds.

The feeling now did begin to pass the moment we realised that we’d still finished ahead of Switzerland by virtue of scoring one more try in the previous games, so we would meet the sixth team in the table, Sweden, in the quarter final.

SECOND HALF: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6STxvNRJ_bk


Day 4 Game 2: Quarter final vs Sweden

Damn, I’ve used all my best Swedish references in the previous blog but here, let’s try…

So, with the pounding energy of an Avicii soundtrack, Sweden came at us hard from the tap off, their attack connected up like they were all on Skype together (invented Sweden 2003).

They manipulated us around the pitch with the dexterity of a computer mouse (invented Sweden 1968).

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Then they drove hard and effectively to their subs box to snack on some Swedish meatballs…

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Nah, I’ve lost it. Suffice to say, we won well. This was a good performance, 8-2.

FULL MATCH: https://youtu.be/G6ISBI8UY7U

Apparently, I showed great energy in this game. After it, a serious exhaustion set in. The energy reserves were gone. I stumbled off the pitch and Kaja was waiting there for me to be looked after with lots more energy.

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Maybe, it’s just because I mentioned him already, but her expression here reminds me of Paul O’Connell when Ireland won the Grand Slam on ’09. Ok, I really am tired.

Semi-final tomorrow vs France. Midday. 

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