Day 8 Malta 2018-04-03 23:06:00


                    TUESDAY 3RD APRIL 2018

Told you not to doubt these young men, these warriors.

Two games today, two wins today. Semi-final tomorrow!

We are fully focused on this now. It was straight to bed last night. No messing. A good night’s rest ahead of a big day. Up for 7.45am today and down for breakfast for 8.15am. There is a steely resolve and determination about them. Everything has gone up several notches.

Philip goes home today. He has been a huge part of the Group and has done a lot for us. He was down to see us off before he headed to the airport. Thanks for everything Philip. We will look after Cian for you.

It was that bit quieter on the bus on the way to the Stadium. A change in mood and focus. The only thing of note is that our big strapping centre-half, Sam O, the same man the Referee yesterday compared to Ledley King, our man mountain at the back, our colossus is afraid, no petrified, of spiders! Sam!

Upon arrival we had a quick look at the Pieta v St. Andrews game. Pieta would go on to win that to top the Group but we were quickly into the dressing room to get sorted and to rest awhile before going out for our warm-up. There was a good tempo and intensity about the warm-up which bodes well.

We were honoured to have the Irish Ambassador to Malta, His Excellency Mr. Padraig MacCoscair attend this game. We had a brief introduction to him before the game and he had a few words for us and stood in a photo with us. It is an honour and a privilege to have the Irish Ambassador come to our game. His presence and the Irish flags in the ground with the ever growing support reaffirms all that we are representing here. We are even more determined now.

                    ADSL    2    :   HAMRUN SPARTANS     1


What a game! What a win!

We made the perfect start (for a change) scoring in the very first minute. Shane Han shot was deflected wide for a corner. Bobby again put in a near perfect delivery (he should be a postman or a pizza man) and Shane K rose highest to head powerfully to the net. Shane’s second goal, but more important a crucial lead for us.

This game developed into a classic. End to end with loads of tension and roared on by two very enthusiastic set of supporters added to the occasion. Throw in some diabolical refereeing decisions and you get a flavour for this match.

We had a good spell with our best chance falling to Ben who came close when his good shot was well saved on 6 minutes. They then had a good spell. We needed Cian to make a very good save on 21 minutes after we too easily lost the ball high up the pitch. Indeed our goal led a little charmed existence for a time when they thrice came close to an equaliser.

However we finished the half strongly and excellent footwork and dribbling from Shane Han created a chance for himself but their keeper made a very good save. The ball went down the other end. They looked offside. Nothing given but luckily for us they failed to convert the chance. The decision not to call offside created its own drama and for a short period a gaa match threatened to break out! Just before the break Danny came close with a decent effort.

It was a good half for us.

Into the second half we had early chances. Shane K narrowly headed over from a Shane Han corner and Darragh was not far away with a snap shot.

In the 6th minute of the half we thought we should have had a penalty. The fact it was not awarded only ratcheted up the tension even further.

Just two minutes later we doubled our lead. Shane Han went on a powerful run then cut inside to fire to the net. 2-0.

Four minutes later it was 2-1. It was a bad goal from our point of view at a time when we were starting to dominate. That goal threw them a lifeline. It also meant that we were in for a tight and tense finale in a game both sides needed to win.

Danny could have taken some of the tension away with a good chance on 21 minutes but their keeper made yet another good save. A few tough tackles. A few dodgy refereeing decisions and one off the ball incident on the edge of their box all combined to turn up the temperature and get both sets of supporters up on their feet. Bobby really should not be hitting the Hamrun defenders’ fist with his stomach like that!. It all made for a dramatic finish not helped by the addition of what seemed a huge amount of injury time.

The last whistle was met with a tumultuous roar! A vital, vital win but still more to do today.

The lads received a standing ovation as they left the field. Well deserved and what fantastic support!

In the dressing room we had a bit more time with the Ambassador. That was nice. Again it was great to be honoured by his presence and gave us a big boost.

Then our focus turned to our next game. Water, isotonic drinks and loads of fruit – bananas and pears. There was also some good banter. Shane K felt that Shane Han goal was in fact an own goal. All the lads rolled in agreeing that it was an og meaning that Shane K was now two goals ahead of Shane Han. Shane Han fell for it and almost too easily. This one ran for a time! Hillarious!

Soon our attention turned to our last Group game. There were changes meaning everybody would play today. We are in this together. Together stronger!

                            ADSL     4   :    MTARFA       0

This result puts us in the semi-final tomorrow and really the outcome was never really in doubt.

It did take us a time to settle into it but we passed them off the pitch. We almost opened the scoring in the 9th minute when Sam O headed over from Darragh’s corner kick.

We took the lead just 4 minutes later. It was a great shot from distance from Shane Han up and over the keeper. 1-0. (Shane K argued that the keeper got a touch on it and that therefore technically it was another own goal!).

Two minutes later Joseph came very close with a headed effort from another corner. We were totally on top now. We made it 2-0 in the 19th minute with another good goal from Shane Han. (Again Shane K felt it should be referred to the Dubious Goals Committee!).

Then just before the break Joseph made a great run, was superbly picked out by Brian, to race clear but his shot was well saved.

We kept at it into the second half. Shane Harr made a super run and pulled back an inviting ball which Joseph put over the bar. It was good football. Shane Harr then had a free kick saved as we piled on the pressure.

In the 21st minute of the half we got the insurance score. Cian on as a “winger keeper” put in a fantastic cross from the right for Joseph to rise highest to head to the net for his first ever ADSL goal. He deserved that for all his hard work and effort on this Tour and over the last few months. This was a very popular goal.

As for Cian. Well you have heard of the “Sweeper Keeper”. Now the “Winger Keeper”! An assist for Cian!

Danny got on at the end and he had to score. And he did. In the 25th minute of the half Shane Harr this time put in a fantastic cross which Danny duly headed to the net. 4-0. Game set and match!

This win puts us in tomorrow’s semi-final.

That is great and it is even more pleasing that everyone played a part today. A real squad effort!

There was little time to dwell on it. We packed up quickly and then got a quick bite to eat and then back to the hotel. We in fact took to the bed and most slept for a good hour and a half or so. We are tired but preparations for tomorrow starts here.

As the players slept it was all hands on deck elsewhere. The Donegans took the playing kit to the laundry – a feat performed in previous days by the Campions and the Harringtons. We are getting such great support and practical help from the parents. It really is all hands on deck in support of the collective effort. It is very humbling and very encouraging. It is not by accident that these boys are as good as they are. Good people.

Then it was out to the Pool. David must have been a Camp Guard in a previous life as he seemed to enjoy a perverse pleasure in the cold sea water recovery session! But we need it and it will stand to us. We also have a few knocks and bangs but hopefully all will be well for tomorrow. A big semi-final tomorrow.

In fact it was all a cunning plan. If we topped the Group our semi-final would be at 9.0am tomorrow morning. By finishing third our semi-final is at 10.30am. A 90 minute lie-in for us! A cunning plan indeed!

Except we didn’t finish third in the Group. We finished second. We expected to finish third on the same points but a worse goal difference than St. Andrews and so met them in the semi-final. But remarkably Hamrun beat St. Andrews 4-2 this evening to pip them to second spot and leave us in second spot on our own.

Our reward is a semi-final meeting tomorrow at 10.30am to host club, Hamrun Spartans and a very early reacquaintance after todays dramatic game. Interesting but we were not expecting to play them again. But we will be prepared.

Then after some time with our phones it was down to dinner. It has to be said the food in this Hotel is excellent and we have ate very well these last 8 days. Again tonight it was superb.

It is remarkable how many other guests come up to enquire how we are getting on or to congratulate us or to wish us well. Indeed the boys have made such a favourable impression that one couple took time out from their holiday to go to the second match today and were delighted they did so. Such is the positive impression these boys have made.

After dinner we started to watch the beginning of the Champions League game between Juventus and Real Madrid but had to leave it for a Team Meeting as we are playing in the Champions League tomorrow ourselves!

Before that Meeting Player/Manager Abdul held another Press Conference. He has sacked Eoghan as his Assistant which came as news to Eoghan. He has appointed Ben in his place and stated that he had every confidence that Ben would last more than one day! He reaffirmed that his best player was “Brian Connell” but refused to comment on reports that his players have not been paid while he bought his fifth Ferrari and a Hotel in Malta from the Russians!

We reviewed video footage of today’s game with Hamrun at our Meeting and sorted out a few things. Then we collected our kit and off to bed per chance to dream of what might happen tomorrow.

We are into the last day of the competition still in contention. All that anyone could ask.

We will do our best tomorrow.


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