Saturday saw the kickoff proper of the Belgium GAA B-team’s foray into the Benelux tournament.
The panel, which was a mix of youth and age, was:
Martin – Johnny
Conor – Alan
Dave – Dominic
Ruairi – Ollie
Bobby – MikeyBaínisteoir: Conan
Conan and Dave had us well prepared for the day. We had an early setback when we were robbed for the 1st game of our wily corner back Martin Crowley due to transportation issues on the Red Cow roundabout just outside Den Haag.
This meant a re-jig to the lineup and a recall into the corner back slot for the Baniestoir/Maor uisce and all round GAA man Conan Mac Oscair.
Our first match was versus Amsterdam, a solid team and with a few good additions from 2008. It was part of the learning curve as we found over the course of the match that changes in positions were needed, meaning a switch from backs to forwards for Alan and Bobby going in the opposite direction and also some fine tuning in our approach.
In the 2nd half Martin, having negotiated the traffic issues slotted in and solidified the full back line with Johnny, resulting in less scores conceded. In the end Amsterdam ran out winners with our sole score coming from the reliable boot of Mikey Keane.
Our 2nd match was against the pre-tournament favourites, Den Haag A. Having learned from the match against the Dam, we settled on a better lineout and despite coming out on the losing end we had Den Haag rattled at points in the match and they were made fight for every score. The back line put up intense pressure and this caused Den Haag to send a lot of efforts wide of the target.
Dominic and Conor also put in a lot of heavy hits in the midfield, Aonghus and the defence were solid and by the end of the match we’d taken enough of positives to allow us to go into the 3rd match with increasing confidence.
The break between the initial 2 matches and 5th/6th playoff enabled us to regroup and review what went well and where we needed to improve. In the first 2 matches we were undoubtedly up against better/more experienced footballing sides and this showed in the distribution of our ball from time to time. They did the simple short passing, whereas under pressure we resorted to a long clearance more in hope than intent. In the half forward line we also needed to improve on winning the kickouts and give Aonghus more options.
Den Haag pulled a stroke in playing one of their A-team in the playoff and despite a diplomatic delegation trying to overturn this, the powers that be decided to allow it. This resulted in a non-diplomatic / this-is-how-we-deal-with-this-in-Finglas team talk from Martin and words from others, all of which had the effect of bringing the team together more.
We tore out of the blocks in this match with the plan to work together as a team and support each other in moving the ball forward. We clocked up some early scores giving us further confidence and with Conor, like a typical Meath man putting in tackles which Graham Geraghty would be proud of we started to win a lot of midfield ball. Dominic was also bursting forward and taking time out along the way to let the Den Haag lads know he was in town for the day. Johnny was like a conductor in defence and with Martin, Ollie and Bobby taking man, ball and all else with them we nullified all the Den Haag threats thrown at us.
With the increased confidence we started to execute our short passing game well and this resulted in a nicely worked move out of defence resulting in a layoff from Conan ‘the Gooch’ MacOscair (who had come on for Dave who’d taken an injury) laying off a pass to Ruairi to finish to the net via a Den Haag deflection. We mixed this with direct balls into the FF line and Alan and Mikey were winning all balls going into them. One of these long balls resulted in Dominic punching 🙂 our second goal. Between this we tacked on a few nice points and ran out 2-8 to 0-1 winners……and 5th place
All in all it was a good learning experience and while we had 2 defeats, we can take enough from the improvements throughout the day to go forward to Luxembourg and beyond with increased confidence.