Tag Archives: England

World Cup 2019 Malaysia – Day 4

I slept in the night thankfully but not before having to go down to the hotel lobby after midnight and meditate for an hour on a sofa about what has been keeping me awake all these nights. I’ve been wound up for months, a lot of it unavoidable in fairness. I managed, after a discussion with myself, to sleep. That’s all that mattered.

Game 1: vs Malaysia. Won 11-4. 

I expected us to win both these games and I hoped we would for the lads because finishing a tournament with wins, no matter who against, always mean a lot. We beat Malaysia more comfortably than the first time which showed some of the progress we’d made.

We had Johnny in the box for this game. At one point I could hear him shouting at me for half-pulling out of a touch. ‘Don’t ever do that again! We never do that.’ It was correct. It was great to have someone calling me out on something. In this team where I’m player/coach, it’s far too rare if ever that that happens. We all need it. You can see that need in our friend from Day 2 Sergio Parisse when he plays for Italy these days, for all the tribute videos to his greatness on Youtube.

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Looks like the edge of this photo is burning in the heat

They are good lads on the Malaysian team, so courteous and friendly.

One thing I’ve noticed here – I know we Irish people think of ourselves as easygoing and friendly. I’ve watched some people here interacting in restaurants for example with Malaysians and I’m struck by how some Irish people come across as rude and (passive-) aggressive in comparison to the endlessly polite Malaysians. We are the spoilt rich westerners. I don’t like it. I think if you are in a place, you should look, listen, try to appreciate and adjust. Try to match their politeness. 

Game 2: vs Belgium. Won 9-3.

The heat on this day was just about to kick in even more. 

They suspended play until the temperature reduced because they judged it too dangerous. Initially, everything was put back by half an hour with the potential for our last game to be pushed till the next day or even cancelled. Weird head space to be in. My concentration drifted off. Then it seemed very quickly we were back on. ‘Leaving for the pitch in 5 minutes’. Damn. Jump up, try to shake energy into your body one more time.

The result was never really in doubt, which it was when we played them in the Euros with a stronger team which was another good indicator.

The heat was mental though.

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Seriously?

With ten minutes to go, when the game was safe and I’d surpassed any try scoring target I’d set; without me realising it, my mind started to let go. Like a train, the exhaustion of all of this came steaming into the station – the combination of the last eight months coaching the Mens Open and ever more involved player-coaching this team, the last 5 weeks flying back and forth out of Ireland every week for work and back for training at the weekends, having a chest infection, sleep deprived, 50C heat, it came in at once. I could barely stand, let alone run. Some of my teammates finished a lot stronger. I have never been so happy for a game to end. I didn’t feel a sense of elation. It was matter-of-fact. I’ve survived. It’s over. That’s good.

I swapped a sodden, sweat filled jersey for a Belgian one with a very nice fella whose name I forgot before it reached my sun-reddened ears.

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Back to the tent. Recover. Muted congratulations to each other. A real sense of satisfaction among us I think.

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I go out later and and stand in the box for the Mens Open vs Netherlands. I feel bad I haven’t been able to give any time to them. I don’t really need to – the coach who’s come over from Australia, also a Jono, has taken it over fully and it’s better for them to have his new voice than listening to me any more. I’d have liked to have been around though to learn from what he’s doing and to check in more. They look good in this game, it’ll be an easy victory. Jono tells me to go for the second half and watch the 40s Final, one he has a personal interest himself having not been selected for the Australian Squad in dubious circumstances. One knows how that feels.

I enjoyed that final. For the first time, I could see and recognise the patterns or nearly all anyway. NZ were 7-1 up when I arrived. Australia got back to 7-6. I could see the pressure points coming one after the other. For me the final game changer, was a minute to go – the NZ defender reads the backdoor runner coming around but doesn’t over-commit, holds his ground and his nerve, waits, waits and goes with the dummy half scooping back the other way and stops the score.


Later, there is other weather… I was back in the hotel when it came. The lift shuddered a little bit it seemed to me. Then my phone started going funny. Like there was electricity in the air. For a moment, it feel like Thanos is coming again. Here to Putrajaya. Maybe he is.


 

I spoke to a lot of the Kiwi 40s lads in the restaurant later in the night, very humble, all with their medals around their necks. One lad drunk, smiley and incomphrehsible, ‘Eh, you, I remember you. Middle. Ireland yeah. You.’ He kept nudging into me in what seemed to be a friendly way. It was almost like being in a pub back home. ‘Eh, you, eh?’ Also he had a mullet. We can’t judge too harshly. He’s a champion of the world! I told him so several times!

I think I had one drink and a bit. Maybe. Back to bed finally. A cup of tea like every night.

Watching TV through half-closed eyes. Something about Antonio Banderas being stuck in a cave. My head keeps dropping…

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Have to sleep. TV off with Antonio still stuck down there.

Final Credits for me.

I must google tomorrow if he got out…

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

 

World Cup 2019 Malaysia – Day 3

In the fraught early stillness of the dawn, men walk in silence, each isolated and drawn, inexorably forward, each burdened by thoughts of their impending role in the collective events.

Game 1: vs Singapore. Lost 4-2. 

Today was as deep as I’ve ever gone on a Touch pitch. We were up at 6am and I didn’t sleep badly. I just didn’t sleep. Not a minute. My mind was chasing over and over, not even bad thoughts, just active, active. I wasn’t within 10 miles of relaxing.  My sleep has been all over the place with jet lag and the pressure of trying to get over being sick but this felt like the build up of more than that. I’ve only experienced it once before in my life. It was weird.

Warming up, my body felt empty. I was irritable and silent. Miserable and worried.

What they always say about good players – they seem to have more time on the ball. What happened to me in this game was the opposite process – my brain sped up. I cut down the time for myself. Eg. snatched and threw the ball to ground when there was a clear overlap and just get the ball to hands and a score.

Funny – a couple of the lads said to me after that I played well in this game. Great defence. For much of the game, because I wasn’t thinking straight, ironically, I settled into working hard physically. I did a lot more defending. I drove up and got us to the box, got off the pitch and recovered. Other players ended up leading the attack. In a way I liked it. I felt more part of the team effort, more a cog. We got two scores and I was involved in neither of them. I loved that.

I began to appreciate how hard teammates were working. How, despite the number of errors we’re making, the team is improving, coaching is being taken on board, systems are being run.

At one point, I subbed off in this match and I was on all fours trying to recover. This is horrible.

Game 2: vs England. Lost 8-4.

There was a lingering hangover for me for this game and maybe for others too of the last Euros where we lost 10-1 or something. I had a really poor performance in that game, offering nothing in attack. Now, I should have been excited at the chance to go again. I actually felt ill at the thought of going out to play. The pressure of trying to get back into my attacking game. The responsibility to help the team. The tiredness. The heat. A noon game in 42C.

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My whole body felt prickly like an exposed nerve. Let this be over.

‘Ian, Ian!’ says Fed all excited.

He wanted to show me a video Jim had sent to inspire us. I didn’t want to look at it, I was too burdened down.

‘After Fed.’

‘No, no, it’s good Ian. Watch it. Really.’

‘Oh, whatever, grand.’

A two-word message. Perfect. My addled head could just about manage that.

Jim’s full message – ‘Ok Fed/Ian day 3. It’s getting harder, it’s your time to shine late in these tournaments when others fade. Keep doing all the right things. Your teammates will follow. Continue to hold everyone to high standards we will all benefit in the long term thanks to work you doing right now. Good luck today🍀 Let’s F**kin Go!’

Jim loves Tom Brady almost as much as he loves Tiger Woods.

Another message to our team from one of my all-time Touch heroes Claire Camillieri.

‘I know conditions are really tough, but you looked pretty resilient out there…whatever they threw at you you gave it back in spades. There was some lovely passages of play. Issey diving for that touch, Tonka stretching them all the way across that pitch, James’ cover defence, Jono’s driving…you’re all important cogs that make up the machine. I know there’s tough matches ahead and you end up battle tired, but keep enjoying what you’re doing out there. Throw the ball around and see what happens! Take care of yourselves and enjoy every minute!’ 

When you’re representing people like this, it’s ok to be a bit tired. LETS GO.

There was a little plastic seat in the subs box for some reason, I kept sitting down on it with an ice towel around my head. I didn’t even look at our defence. Too much to take in. Narrow the focus. I sat there, zoned out, waiting for my time to sub on. Switch on. LETS GO!

Straight at the England middles, test them, quickie set up, drag them apart, gap opens, dive in. I’m sure I’ve got the ball down. In reality, it’s probably 50-50. ‘Touch made,’ ref says. ‘That’s six. Turn over.’ ‘What?’ Quick glare. Defend. Off. Sit. Recover. LETS GO. Check their middles again. That gap appears again. Dive and I make sure it’s a score. First time I’ve ever scored against England. LETS GO. Middle attack again. They correct their defence, middle shuts in. Link too slow. Pop pass to Jono running supporting line. His first try. If ever someone has deserved to score a try in the history of Touch, I’m happy for him in this tournament for what he has done in getting us here.

We lose against a good English team but with the team we have, weaker than in the Euros, where we’ve lost five of our six middles from then, these two games today have made this tournament for me. We competed well in both when I thought we might be overrun. This team, made up as someone said ‘from every spare rusted part you could find around your garage’ has come together, got better day by day, shown spirit and fight and you can’t ask much more than that.

It took me hours to get over these games. I still haven’t. Overheated. Sweating. Exhausted. But all that aside, perfect. Not an ache. Not a bit of strapping. Not a moment of the physios time taken up. Mentally, if I was going to have a crisis of confidence like I do in nearly every tournament, today was the day to crash. I was grand.

I like how long it takes you – maybe it’s just me, some lads seem to have it pretty much straight away – to properly become an international player. It only took 50 odd caps.

World Cup 2019 Malaysia – Day 2

MALAYSIA 2019

Game 1: vs New Zealand Something to them. 1 to us. 

I’m sitting in the cafe tent, the coldest place in the playing fields. It’s like a fridge. When I came in here yesterday, it still took me an hour to stop sweating after our games, I was so over-heated. Today I’m finding the weather grand, like an Irish spring day.

Looking around, all the shirts of different teams, Cymru. Papua New Guinea. Fiji. The white feather of New Zealand. Waitress with their black headscarves on. I sit scribbling away in the middle, headphones on. I chat briefly to two ex-rivals from the French SMX. ‘Are you writing your blog?’ One of them, the mountain man smiles, carrying his young daughter. Sitting here, I couldn’t be happier.

The two things I wrote down in my goals which our captain Jono asked for, ‘to be supportive to the team and to be true to myself’. The first one yeah, in overdrive. I enjoy trying to do that.

The second, I went on a rant before the New Zealand game. There were things I didn’t like in our build up. I said, I’m going to say this now and preempt myself getting pissed off. We are representing an Irish jersey in a World Cup. International sport is brutal, it’s supposed to be. Vicious. Tries on the wing are not ok. Play with a smile or not… I don’t care but do not yield to another team ever. I don’t care where our capabilities take us but we give nothing. Nothing. Make them take everything. And I’ll respect them because they’ll never take their foot off our throat till the end. I can’t go onto the field worrying what people think about that, when I’m trying my best in an Irish shirt. I have that fire in me. That’s being true to me.

They took everything anyway. Scored a lot, a lot. They were good. Our defence was awful. Our capabilities didn’t take us so far but that doesn’t matter. We fronted up. Stayed together. And I was happy with that.

Personally, I loved it. Testing yourself against pretty much the best in the world. I didn’t feel outmatched individually. I was surprised how easily I could stand them up in the touch, how easy to step them and make yards when they weren’t working hard enough and got lazy, how we could get at their middles and set up attacks.

After the game, I was thinking of Conor O’Shea, the coach of the Italian Rugby Union team – how he talks to Sergio Parisse about in ten years time when they’ll share a beer together and look back at what they built, something which started during so many defeats and hammerings when things looked bleak. Other players will reap the benefits but it will be because of the work they’re doing now. Parisse is Italy’s most capped player and has the a record of losing over 100 international matches. As we were rolled on by New Zealand, and I thought I played really well against them on my 52nd cap, I felt a bit of kinship with Sergio. This is our service to Irish Touch.

I’m pretty happy being the age I am but I was also thinking I wish I was 25. I’d love to go to New Zealand and play touch the way these lads play it. It’s much looser and very fluid. Their passing and ball skills on the run at speed are so good, they never give you a chance to get set in your defence.

Game 2 vs Malaysia – Won 5-2

One of our mottos is ‘No ego, we go!’ I like it.

That’s how I normally try to play. A few weeks ago, we played a tournament in Belgium where there were more skilled playmakers on the team than me. I didn’t score all day and just worked for them and didn’t care. I enjoyed every second of it.

Here, I have to the playmaker, and in a way I have to foster that ego.

‘Give me the ball and I’ll score.’ I strut around. Look the defence in the eye. As if to tell them I can see exactly what they are going to do next. To my teammates, ‘You defend for me and get me up to the line. Give me the ball and I’ll score.’

It feels so weird for me but it’s the best way to serve the team. We scored 5 tries vs Malaysia. I was involved in them all. No ego, we go! Sort of makes sense to me.

Men’s Open

The team I’ve been coaching. In the Euros they finished fourth, France 3rd, Wales second. This morning they drew with France in the morning. I was really disappointed when I heard the result. Apparently they should have won and the conditions didn’t help, lashing rain. But a win would have been a big indication of the progress they’ve made. And give them a lot of confidence.

I was nervous and excited for them for their game vs Wales. It was at the same time as ours vs Malaysia. I came back to the tent and somebody told me they’d won. I went outside fist pumping like a mad lad and then somebody else told me, ‘No they’re still playing, it’s very close.’ ‘What field is it on?’ ‘Eh, over there somewhere.’ I was running around still soaked in my playing kit, desperately trying to find the field or someone who knew. I met some of the Mixed Open Team, ‘Yeah, they beat them 8-4. They were so slick. You should have seen them.’

Yeaaaaaahhhhhhhh! And goodnight.

World Cup 2019 Malaysia – Day 1

Nottingham 2018 – End of blog

15. AND NOW

Where next? Will I lead? Be led. Want to be involved. Will I be part of the solution? End up drinking bottles of whiskey alone?

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MALAYSIA 2019

ARRIVAL & ACCLIMATISATION

The long haul flights and stopover through Abu Dhabi Do. Watching five films, an episode of South Park and a documentary about whales. The kit will be there apparently. And so much other of the crap from 2018? We’ll return to that later. I’m amused. I’m relaxed and determined. And driven. And I’m going to play the best tournament I’ve ever played. I accessed some fire in my abdomen, found a drive I was afraid to access before. I couldn’t. I’ve been ‘breathing like a motherf*****’ like Wim Hof and Federico Black said. And it’s been working. And I’m going to be a coach as well as a player now.

Arriving wrecked and jet lagged Thursday morning. Staying awake through the tiredness. Terrible nights sleep. I have Freddie Mercury ringing in my head from one of the five films on the trip over.

Out into the heat and humidity to play a first practice match vs. Malaysia. Running around in a slow-motion version of yourself, but not in a ‘movie-style glamorised with epic background music’ type of slow-motion, more in a ‘having a bad dream running away from a monster can’t get legs to move’ slow-motion.

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Comparing tans with Jeff post game

Back to the hotel. Felt sick. No injuries at all this time so of course I have a chest infection I’m getting over. There’s always something. So a mix of that, jet lag and exhaustion all giving my body a kicking. I went to bed and slept for six hours. Woke up and still felt awful. Slept more. So I didn’t train for the next two days. The carefully planned 4-day getting used to the conditions and heat comprised of sitting around the nice air-conditioned hotel.

I did walk down to the mall nearby and have a coffee. A mall is a shopping centre by the way, for some reason we’re all calling it a mall. Not in my Ireland gear, not with any Touch people. Looking around. I find this experience interesting. How to stay strong and focused and a sports person and how to stay open to the experience of being here. What’s the balance?

The bits of yourself you bring all the way over here. Wherever you go, there you are. The people you like, the people you don’t. The focus. The bubble. The ‘Avengers Endgame’ grand fight between good and evil which we will refer to again later.

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Even if it was just in a shopping centre/mall, I was trying to get a sense of the place, the people. So interesting. Right now, I’d rather talk to anyone here than any person involved in the Touch World Cup. (Until I get back in the bubble of course and I’m 100% in that. Completely.) I talked to a waitress, she didn’t have great English but just a moment, to connect, feel something of here. Outside of banal superficial, ‘thank you sir’. To acknowledge each other as people.

The smells and the tastes of the food. Watching the faces of people walking by. The couples in love or lust. The mothers and fathers with young children. How they interacted. Sometimes grandparents too. The fashion. The heads stuck in phones. The occasional obesity. The general smiles and friendliness. I absorbed as much of it as I could. And it’s just in a stupid shopping centre. But it’s still people. The feeling of being a little part of it.

What a joy it was. Disconnected from everything. I went to the cinema to see Avengers. I was so excited. It felt like the first three hours I had to myself to relax in about six weeks.

Ania gave me a really good definition of extrovert/introvert. Extrovert – you get your energy back by being around people. Introvert – you get it back by being alone. In that sense, I’m definitely more introvert. I love being with people. And it’s good for me. Helps me get over myself. But I need my Ian-time too.

So, hanging around a hotel lobby for hours waiting for a photo with some ambassador, and other ‘team’ stuff like that. No thanks. Good team stuff. Yes. I went to the jacuzzi.

So games start tomorrow. I came here in two roles – as a player with the Mens 40s. I know in advance that this is a development team, we have 5 new caps and other less experienced players. There are times (lots of them) when we’ll struggle to be really competitive. In many senses, this team has achieved by actually arriving here. But still, I have my competitive instinct. I will have to be a big leader and playmaker in the team. The person who has made this team happen, and who has made it all completely worthwhile for me, Jono, asked us all to write down our personal goals and put them in an envelope. Mine were – ‘Support my teammates. Be true to myself.’


DAY 1

Game 1 vs Japan. Lost 7-1.

You cannot believe how stressed out I was worrying whether I’d get a good nights sleep last night. If I don’t, my chest infection will come back, the heat blah blah. I woke up for three hours in the middle of the night but then went back to sleep and slept for six more hours. Once I got that out of the way, I was on easy street. Ish.

Lads that was quare hot. My head was throbbing like when Thanos joins all the six Infinity Stones. Boom. Boom. BOOM. All I see is red. More ice towels please. Japanese lads half my size, half my weight, one after another running at me. All trying to bring you down. How many minutes are gone? What temperature is it? What day is it? Who am I?

This is living. I can’t underestimate how much I loved this game. Playing in a World Cup in an Irish jersey again. I was in my element. I loved it.

Got a try in the last minute as well. Threw in the little fist pump as well. Good to be back. Even if it was only as part of a big loss. But it was good to get a score on the scoresheet.

 

vs. USA Drew 5-5

We should have won this game. Don’t have time to write about it now but we were 5-4 up and let in a score with a few seconds to go. Their players were a bit mental during the game, screaming at each other. I quite enjoyed it. Fair play to them. I’d say they were delighted to get a draw. They’re sharing the hotel with us so I’ll probably be going home with some US gear.

Off to catch the bus. Nice easy one today vs. New Zealand who beat Japan 14-1 or something. Then Malaysia.

Euros 2018 Nottingham – Final Postscript: Newton, Ibsen, Scorpions, Cultural Self-Stereotypes, Jerks & Good Fellas

15 things I heard, read or reflected on in the days following the Euros.


1. Billy Jean is not my lover…

This I heard former World Number 1 tennis player Billy Jean King say on a Desert Island Discs podcast and I like it.

‘Three of my principles in life are: 1. Relationships are everything. 2. Keep learning and keep learning how to learn. 3. Be a problem-solver.’ Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Euros 2018 Nottingham – Day 2 ‘Herding Cows’

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Three seemingly unconnected things happened around the 1870s. Food refrigeration techniques for food were vastly improved. Transatlantic boat crossings became faster and safer with the advent of steamships. And, crucially, barbed wire was invented in the USA. Continue reading