Zurich in the eloquent words of Sylvia McCarthy:
“If the sky, that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
All the mountains should crumble to the sea”
Trips to Zurich are never straightforward. Even this year, with direct flights from Brussels, there were glitches. Our brave Cherman, although fortified by the contents of her hip flask, faced the challenges of broken bus windows, unfriendly security guards, slow Quick service, crying babies and stormy weather over Basel. Never again, she proclaimed, and she did not go back on her word. The most valuable cargo came by car: all the hurleys and helmets, as well as the twins and their parents. Others fared better, imbibing beer and chocolate en route, while the worst fate faced by Aisling was my lack of nightwear. Never again, she proclaimed.
Unfortunately Belgium was the only camogie team that traveled to Zurich. This meant that on Saturday morning, a) we didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn and b) when we finally got to the pitch, we had a skills/coaching workshop with a trainer from Armagh, before our matches took place. The natural competitiveness of the Belgians had Irene worried that we would burn ourselves out before the sun was even high in the sky, so she rotated around the group, keeping our fluid levels up and telling us to calm down on the jab lifts.
According to the ECB rules, a tournament, even between two teams, has to consist of at least an hour’s play. In this case, the captains agreed amicably to play two half-hour matches, in addition to accepting that we would take two brand-new camogues, Daniela from Lugano and Julia from Dresden, for their first camogie matches (hopefully the experience will encourage them to gather more players and to travel to more tournaments!). We started off playing 12-a-side (until Daniela took out a Zürcher). This old-school formation was new to most of us, consisting of a goalkeeper, three full backs, 1 centre half back, three midfielders, 1 centre half forward and three full forwards. In European terms, we created history with 24 players on the pitch and were able to put into practice all the skills our cherished captain had drilled into us since January. Burning on the goal-line, Maja kept a sharp eye on the ball and on her backs, Eimear, Aisling, Sylvia and Caoimhe. Eimear defended any ball foolish enough to cross her path, while Caoimhe and Aisling made savage attacks into the forward line. There were some fantastic overlaps with Margaux in midfield, clearing up every ball with speed and earning herself a deserved Player of the Tournament trophy. Coop, also in midfield, undid all the rest and relaxation of her holiday by turning into a beast. In the forward line, Jelena and Caoimhe D launched attack after attack on the Zurich goal, using defensive skills to score goals. While everyone else ran their legs off, Irene, our talented captain, chose her wise moments to pop score after score over the bar. By the second match, the sun was high in the sky and baking down on our helmets, so the full time whistle was welcome relief.
It was a pleasure to play Zurich, they are friendly and enthusiastic and appreciated us traveling to play them. The game was by no means a walk in the park, everyone played their socks off and this was reflected in the immense scoreline of 10-11 to 2 points. There is no room for complacency though, Luxembourg is only around the next corner and we need to be on top form for (hopefully) teams from Holland, Luxembourg and Paris.
The day ended with a walk back along by the train tracks, blustered by the high-speed trains gusting past. Waiting on the platform in the evening sun, slurping beer and ice-cream, I knew that I would stand by these women in battle and they would stand by me. Roll on Luxembourg and woo hoo Belgium!
Our humble reporter failed to mention her own powerful performance that earned her a mention among POTT contenders.