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Second, our team accomplished a great deal. Although our record of 1-3 is disappointing to our players and coaches, the experience we gained by playing such great competition, playing all of our players, gaining experience in different line-ups, formations, and philosophies was truly invaluable. Murray, who coached with our group four years ago, again did a superb job in relating to our players and coaches providing fresh eyes, new perspectives, and different insight for our squad.
We are also grateful for all of our parental support, both from the parents and families on the trip with us as well as the parents, friends, and fans that followed our every step at home. They were great on the trip and while our trip was soccer focused, our passengers/supporters were fully understanding of our goals and managed a great time on their own.
While our coaching staff has led multiple trips abroad over the past decade, this is the first time that many of these players have left the US or North America. It is amazing to see the players taking in the sights, soaking up the history of Ireland, relating with people from different nations (a bit of healthy banter went on between Murray (from England) and our bus driver Kevin (from Ireland)). It is not often that we enjoy long drawn out breakfasts and dinners here in the states that promote community and conversation. It was quite a pleasant experience in that regard.
After talking with many of the players, some of the highlights of the trip include the great swim caps (which we were required to purchase for 3 euro and wear them at the pool), the Cliffs of Moher (where Drew freaked everyone out with his daring escapades on the side of the cliff), serious card matches on the bus (except when the door flew open, we ripped the mirror off a Land Rover at 80 km/h, nearly took off the top on a short bridge, etc), the Ailwee Cave, hiking at Wicklow Mountains, learning about the history of Dublin, seeing where U2 rehearsed and became a sensation, attending a professional match, etc. The list can go on and on and every person has something that made a connection with them.
It is hard to believe that our trip is done. A great time was had by all. While we are sad to see it end, our players will be back on campus in two weeks and ready to begin training for what hopes to be a great season. There are certainly exciting times ahead in 2009 for Hope Soccer.
Returning to the hotel, we ate dinner and prepared to watch an Irish professional match between the first place Bohemians and third place Cork City. In an ancient stadium filled with classic Irish enthusiasm, we cheered as action picked up in the second half and the Bohemian side scored. All were in jovial spirits (except Aaron Van Andel who had decided to cheer for Cork City) as we returned to the hotel to have our final group meeting. Gifts were given to Murry, Kevin, and Catherine, the wonderful people who assisted us with our trip. Speeches were made, jokes were told, and perhaps a few tears were shed as things wound down before everyone began to pack for our early departure tomorrow morning.
Ireland is a beautiful country and we have truly been blessed with the chance to explore it. The greatest gift was coming together and being able to share this experience as a group. We not only got to know each other better, but we also bonded with the coaches and parents. The NCAA better look out, because this team means business. National Championship here we come!
Following the game, we shared soup and sandwiches with the opposition in a beautiful sports complex on UCD's campus. A quick change of clothes and a short drive later, we were in downtown Dublin! Players and families were treated to a two and half hour walking tour of Dublin's historic buildings and landmarks. Thanks to very informative tour guides, we all walked away from the tour with a better understanding of Dublin's important role in gaining Ireland's independence, and plenty of pictures! Following the tour, some players and families took time to see downtown Dublin at night! This trip has shown us all, just how unique Ireland is. One day we're walking through caves and on the edges of cliffs, the next night we're enjoying the small town of Ballinasloe (w/ Paul Austin's favorite Cow), and now tonight we walked the streets of downtown Dublin, a city of 1.2 million people! Tomorrow we look forward to a couple training sessions, and a tour of the Irish National Stud far and the Japanese Gardens. Paul can't wait to see the gardens. Thanks for following our trip on here, we appreciate the support of, and interest in Hope College Soccer!
by Gabriel O'Mally (aka Gabriel Courey) and
Jeffrey Meagher (aka Jeffrey Stusick)
Once our hearts were beating again, we were able to enjoy a nice, quick lunch of tea and crumpets at one of the areas quaint cafes. We then loaded onto the double-decker bus once again and traversed toward Aillwee Cave, but to Paul Austin's dismay we were unable to transport his new "squeeze," an "utter" beauty of a lass. Once we arrived at our destination, we explored the Cave of Aillwee and learned of Andrew Goorhouse's fear of closed quarters. After a 35-minute tour of the cave and a quick stop in the gift shop, we were on the road again back to Ballinasloe. The rain picked up and our tour through the Irish countryside included winding roads, old stone walls, and many narrow streets that our expert driver Kevin was able to navigate through. On our way back, traffic was held up by many cows crossing the road which almost brought Paul to tears in memory of his girlfriend that he left on the Cliffs of Moher only several hours ago. We arrived safely back at the hotel where Paul's girlfriend surprised us all as she met us for dinner, and boy did she taste great
We are all looking forward to tomorrow's travels to Dublin where our trip can only get better...
Having heavy legs from our first match less than 24 hours prior, Salthill was able to hold our strong Dutchmen squad to a scoreless first half. Coming off of an abbreviated halftime we made a few small adjustments and made quick work of finding an opportunity. "White Lightning", aka Jeff Stusick, found the best of the opportunity by catching Salthill's keeper off his line and bent one into the back post by bouncing it off the post and into the net. Shorty after our first goal, Justin Bailey made quick work of their defense, racking up the meg count and finding Ausable Schwiebert inside the six to take a 2-0 lead. As the clock was winding down Paul Austin found a prime opportunity to earn himself his newest nickname with a smooth heel-to-heel pass, resulting in the boys deeming him the "Smooth Operator". Finding J. Bailey in the corner, Bailey found a two-pass combination pass to setup Sam Joyce for a side volley, which ended the game 3-1, your Dutchmen prevailing on top.
The boys are now back in the hotel enjoying some downtime with an opportunity to explore the streets of Ballinsaloe. We look forward to tomorrow's adventures, exploring the beautiful landscape of Ireland, with sightseeing tours planned for the cliffs of Moher near the Aran Islands. Tune in tomorrow for our adventures with the commentary of Riley Byrnes, Aaron VanAndel, and Shaun Groetsema.
We headed back to our hotel around 3 p.m. Traffic was slow and we ended up getting back to the hotel just in time for a quick dinner. After dinner we headed to the field to play our first match of the trip against Ballinsaloe FC. Being our first game of the season we came out a bit slow, which allowed the opposing team to score two quick goals against us. The score remained 2 to 0 at the half. We gave up a third goal early in the second half.
Soon after, Shaun Groetsema dribbled his way into the box making swiss cheese of the opposing defense. Shauny then took a dive comparable to that of Greg Louganis which then gave us a penalty kick which Justin Bailey capitalized on. The game ended with a score of 3-1.
After the game we came back to the hotel with the delight of a buffet and the opportunity of networking with the opposing team. Our night ended with a curfew at 11 p.m. because of an early game the team has scheduled Saturday. The team is looking forward to rebounding after an unfortunate loss.
The 6 1/2 hour plane flight consisted of me trying to find a comfortable sleeping position and looking for the sun on the horizon. Paul Austin had no problem with the long flight as it let him dive into his newest romance novel (Drowning Ruth). After finally making it through customs we were greeted by Murray Jones and Catherine Murphy, our tour representitives. We packed a double-decker coach bus full with our luggage, including Riley's curling irons, and made a 2+ hour trek out to Ballinasloe, a small city in the western region near Galway.
Once in Ballinasloe we checked into our hotel, the Carlton Shearwater Hotel and spa, and then headed right out to the soccer fields. The fields are about a 10 minute walk from our hotel and are also where we will play our first game tomarrow against Ballinasloe AFC, the towns semi-professional team. The whole town is rooting against us and happily let us know. After practice we had a great dinner catered to us at our hotel and then explored the town before heading to bed for some much needed sleep. We're looking forward to what Ireland brings tomorrow as for many of us it still hasn't sunk in quite yet.
Which leads us to where we are right now.... John is currently passed out in the bed muttering statements that don't make sense and I am typing five words per minute trying to stay awake. We are so excited for what this trip has in store. It's such a great opportunity being able to do this as a team. Ireland is such a beautiful country and we hope we can take in as much as we can while we are here. Although the competition sounds tough, it doesn't sound like anything the Flying Dutchmen can't handle. Peace