Day 8 2015-04-08 00:42:00

DAY 8 – TUESDAY 7TH APRIL 2015

 

From very early this morning it was clear that this was going to be our hottest day so far. There was scarcely a breath of wind which made it feel even hotter.

Oisin sends birthday greetings to his Dad. Happy Birthday Mark!

Bryan sends regards to Toby. Toby has been unwell lately and is undergoing major rehabilitation and convalescence. He apparently is doing well and should make a full and complete recovery. Toby is a dog, by the way!

Zach meanwhile has had a fresh consignment delivered by his Spanish associate and now has enough Coco Pops to last him until the end of the trip so long as he goes easy on the stuff. We have all learned that Zach is a different animal once he has had his fix of his Coco Pops.

So after breakfast Zach was chilled and happy out. All he needs now is a Lidl sausage cooked by his mother and he would be in heaven! There is however an unsubstantiated rumour that Zach himself is dealing in Coco Pops and that he may be selling or supplying others at extortionate prices. They are only rumours however and anyway it is believed that he is dealing only to feed his own habit.

After breakfast we had a training session. It was very light. Gary and Stephen stayed in the hotel minding the babysitter. A few more with niggles took no part but the good news is that Jack S trained and is good to go this evening.

Then it was back to the hotel to rest up. Lunch was at 2.30pm. We also had a few jokes and laughs. Meanwhile the undisputed and unbeaten World Staring Champion, Ryan successfully defended his title and for the umpteenth time on this trip.

Then it was back to our rooms and onto the bus at 3.30pm to head to the Stadium.

Little did we know what unbelievable drama would follow.

                     TOURNAMENT – ADSL SAINTS      2    :     PAOLA HIBS      0

 

The Saints task was simple. Win the game and by two clear goals or more. Otherwise Valletta and Sliema could afford to draw their game immediately after ours which would see both of them qualify for the semi-finals. If we can win by two goals or more both of them will have to win to qualify with us.

Knowing your task and achieving it are two very different things.

We started okay but the tempo was slow and we did not always press as well as we should. The performance in fact, if anything, got worse. Yet Aaron did hit the post after 11 minutes.  As against that we were rescued by a brilliant save from Gary on 15 minutes and by an even braver stop to claim the rebound. On 20 minutes both Ryan and Nashir came close after a great delivery from the right by Jack S. However it remained scoreless into half-time.

We were transformed in the second half. Eoin K went out on the right and he changed the game. Suddenly our tempo was up and we were really at it.

Four minutes in Daragh put a great pass out to Eoin K who put in a super low cross for Aaron. His shot was saved but Nashir connected with the rebound but hit the post.

We finally scored 15 minutes into the half. Gary started the move with a pin point pass out to Eoin who picked out Nashir who passed out to Jordan on the left flank. Jordi skipped to the end line before pulling the ball back for Aaron to score first time low and hard.

However we needed a second goal.

We had loads of chances. Aaron flicked Eoin’s cross just wide. Then Aaron hit the side netting after another outstanding cross from Eoin. Then Naz thundered an effort off the crossbar.

It seemed we would have to settle for just one goal. But the lads never gave up. Two minutes into injury time we forced a corner. Jordi put in a super delivery from the left. Trixie’s powerful header was saved but the rebound fell to Daniel and Danny blasted home first time for the most important goal he has ever scored. The place went mad.

There was only time left for them to centre the ball when the referee blew the last whistle. The scenes of celebration had to be seen to be believed! “O Danny Boy, O Danny Boy, We love you so!”

The Saints are in the semi-final.

What a game! What drama! What unbelievable tension! What a finale! What a finish! What a feeling!

Then time to gather breath. Valletta went on to come from behind to beat Sliema 2-1 to top the Group on 7 points but the Saints are unbeaten on 5 points in second place and in tomorrow’s semi-final.

Could the Scholars join them there in the other semi-final and perhaps set up the prospect of an all ADSL Final. The Scholars simply had to beat the hosts and the defending champions Hamrun Spartans to finish second in the Group. Hamrun needed a draw by virtue of a better goal difference.

More drama was to follow.

           TOURNAMENT – ADSL SCHOLARS    2   :   HAMRUN SPARTANS      3

 

Football can be so cruel.

The Scholars played their best football of the Tournament yet somehow lost this game.

In truth 3 errors cost us dear and we were punished for all three. Otherwise our performance, and especially in the first half, was just about perfect.

We started with great purpose and intent. Our captain Cian M set the tone. His energy was infectious and spread to the rest of the team. We played beautiful football but with a purpose. Cian M had an early effort cleared off the line as we held the upper hand.

But on 21 minutes they took the lead against the run of play. A rare stray pass gave them cheap possession but their pacy No.9 latched onto it, sprinted away from the cover and beat Cian T with a low shot back into the opposite near corner.

We kept playing. On 24 minutes in a bit of a goal mouth scramble we had claims for a penalty for a handball and then the ball was blazed over from close range.

On 28 minutes we were level. Cian M proved there is no such thing as a lost cause when his persistence won a free kick near the corner flag. Owen K put in a great delivery to the back post where Oisin scored with his second touch for 1-1 (and a great birthday present for his Dad).

It was all that the Scholars deserved. They were excellent and it looked as if they would go on to win the game.

We had a penalty claim early in the second half. Jack O’B also had a great chance after good work by Oisin. We were still the better side and in total control but the lead goal was proving elusive.

Then with ten minutes to go and in their first attack of the half they scored. Again a rare stray pass gave away the ball and boy were we punished. Again their No.9 raced clear and finished superbly.

To be honest we panicked. We had time but we rushed things and took needless chances. They wasted time whenever they could. A few of their tackles bordered on reckless. We just could not score. Then, just on the call of time we gave the ball away again allowing that No.9 again a clear run on goal and a one on-one with Cian T which was converted for 3-1.

Still we would not give up. We did get a goal back when Mono got a touch but it was not enough.

The final whistle was greeted with utter devastation.

It was hard, very hard to take having played so very well. No words can really console the Scholars but in time they will reflect with pride on a very good performance that deserved better but will also rue with regret what might have been.

It is a painful learning experience for the Scholars.

The Saints will now play the all-conquering and very impressive Pieta Hotspur in the semi-final tomorrow morning at 10.30am (9.30am Irish time).

The Scholars will contest the 5th/6th Place Play-off against Sliema Wanderers at 1.15pm local time (12.15pm in Ireland).

The Saints will play a second time either in a 3rd/4th Place match at 2.30pm local time or hopefully in the Final at 4.00pm local time(3.00pm Irish time).

It was some day. We then had pizza before returning on the bus. We mustered a sing-song even if every heart was not fully in it.

Another busy day tomorrow.





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