Day 7 2015-04-07 08:23:00

DAY SEVEN – MONDAY 6TH APRIL 2015

 

One could very easily get used to this life.

We were up for our breakfast at 9.30am. Then we walked the short distance to the Sirens stadium for a training session.

We worked as the Saints and the Scholars separately on our shape and set-up and then on our set pieces. It is a glorious way to train. It is pleasantly warm and with a nice, cool refreshing breeze. Beats the wind and rain in the AIT on a Friday night!

Despite the rumours we can confirm that Easter was not cancelled. After training Kevin gave out Creme Eggs and MaltEaster chocolate Bunny’s. (It is true – “Seery’s Do Go Further!” Good man Kev!). A nice little sugar rush after training and to get us back to the Hotel.

Back at the hotel it was back to bed for the players for an hour and an half. Rest and recovery is as important as our training.

Then it was down for lunch at 2.00pm. After that we rested up again to get the bus at 3.30 to head for the Stadium. The bus was 15 minutes late but we still got there in plenty of time. The Stadium is also hosting this week a qualifying Group for the Women’s European Championships. Those games are on during the day which explains why our games are on in the evening. Georgia were playing Malta before us and the referee and her assistants are all Irish. Our focus however was on our games.

Sadly, Jack S injury will keep him out today which limits the Saints options. There was also a couple sick this morning and a few minor knocks but otherwise we are ready for two big games.

Just before our first game we received a welcome surprise when we were honoured by a visit from Mr.Padraig MacCoscair, the Irish Ambassador to Malta. He heard that we were in Malta and came to see us. It was a great honour for us. He spoke with the boys and even joined us in the dugout for the first game and he was treated to a spectacle.

We were delighted that the Ambassador showed us this honour. Mr.MacCoscair was also a gentleman and it was a great privilege for the boys to meet with him. The ADSL would like to sincerely thank the Ambassador for taking the time and the trouble to visit with us and to watch us play. He got a cracker of a game.

             TOURNAMENT – ADSL SAINTS     2     :     SLIEMA WANDERERS     2

 

What a game!

This was a game we should have won, could have lost, but managed a draw in the last few minutes.

We started well and dominated the early exchanges. We were playing well and had a few good chances before we finally took the lead 23 minutes into the contest. Nashir started the move from midfield. Aaron did particularly well to cut in along the end line and pulled the ball back for Stephen to score from close range for a deserved lead.

Really we should have been out of sight by half-time. We had chances and just on half time Aaron first and then Nashir both hit the crossbar, both in almost the identical spot, in the same phase off a corner kick.

However Sliema are a good side. They are well organised and well coached and had beaten Paola Hibs 1-0 in the first game who, everybody told us, were the pre-tournament favourites to win the competition. They came into it more in the second half and we were hit by cruel luck.

Gary was not himself in goal. He was sick this morning in training but we thought he had recovered to play. However he relapsed and was unwell. To his eternal credit he was determined to play and wanted to play. Even at half-time he showed great courage and character in coming out for the second half. With hindsight perhaps that was a decision not best left to him alone.

We conceded a poor goal seven minutes into the second half. That gave Sliema great belief and they pressed forward and with 12 minutes to go they scored again.

We were in trouble. However we did not panic and kept trying to do the right thing. The players were magnificent. However they left it late.

With less than three minutes remaining Trixie floated in a great free kick which found its way to Jayden at the back post. Our captain for the day showed great composure and skill to drive the ball low to the far corner for a goal that sent the huge Irish support (Ambassador included) into raptures. It was a special goal.

We actually pressed for a winner but were beaten by time. Jayden was the hero with his goal but the team did it for Gary.

It was a remarkable game of incident and drama. It was precisely why we came here and will stand us in great stead into the future.

We then had welcome opportunity for a breather as Valletta came from behind to beat the fancied Paola Hibs 2-1 to mean that Group One will go down to the last group games. Both Valletta and Sliema Wanderers have 4 points and they play each other tomorrow. The ADSL Saints are on 2 points from 2 draws and we play the pointless Paola Hibs tomorrow and who were everybody’s pre-tournament favourites. It will be an exciting finale to Group One tomorrow.

Group Two will be as exciting and tense.

The ADSL Scholars had an equally dramatic game.

       TOURNAMENT – ADSL SCHOLARS      1     :     PIETA HOTSPURS      2

 

Another simply sensational game of football.

Simply, this Pieta Hotspurs team is as good as we have played in a long time. They had also clearly watched us play and planned accordingly.

This was a great contest. Frankly, we did very well to hold them scoreless to half-time. We defended manfully but they did rattle our crossbar twice and we needed more than a few big saves from Cian T to keep us in it.

But we were in it and battling away.

One minute into the second half we took the lead. It was a peach of a pass from Adam that put Cian M in down the left but he still had much to do but wow how he did it. At pace he cut inside and then from distance struck the ball as sweet as you like with the outside of his right foot that was only going one place, into the far top corner. What a goal! What a goal celebration! The place was going mad!

Sadly that lead lasted just three minutes when they equalised with a stunning shot from distance.

We were under huge pressure and had to counter-attack as best we could from limited opportunities. It seemed that we would hold out for a draw until less than two minutes from time. Even then Cian T made an incredible save diving to his right but even he could do nothing about the rebound.

It was cruel to lose so late.

In the other game Hamrun Spartans beat San Gwann 3-0. All that means is that Pieta Hotspurs top the Group on six points and should make that 9 points against San Gwann tomorrow. The ADSL Scholars and Hamrun, the host Club, are tied on three points apiece and we play them tomorrow in a straight shoot-out for probably second spot in the Group. Hamrun enjoy a one goal better goal difference than us so we will have to win to make the semi-final.  A draw will do that for them.

Amid all that excitement and intrigue the real beauty of sport was also played out. It was uplifting to see how our players greeted Jake, the unfortunate San Gwann goalkeeper who broke his wrist in our game last Thursday. It was a joy to witness their interaction. All the ADSL players had signed a Get Well card for him and got him a new pair of keeper gloves. His old one had to be cut off his hand last Thursday. Jake, in turn, had a card for Seamus in appreciation for all his help.

The true significance of the beautiful game was never so resonate.

After the games the players feasted on pizza. The trip back on the bus was upbeat. We are all looking forward to tomorrow.

Back at the hotel the lads were quickly to their beds or tended to what needed to be done to best prepare for tomorrow.

What a day!

Yes, you could indeed get used to this life!

Tomorrow (Tuesday) the ADSL Saints play Paola Hibs at 5.00pm (4.00pm Irish time) while the ADSL Scholars play Hamrun Spartans at 7.30pm (6.30pm Irish time). 





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