Malta Diary 2013-03-31 12:30:00

DAY 1 - WEDNESDAY 27TH MARCH 2013

Shortly after 1.00am they started to emerge from the snow blizzard and frezzing cold. The small groups of one or two soon swelled and the quiet whispers were soon replaced by a raucous excitement and sense of anticipation.

The thirty players from the ADSL Academies were getting ready to depart for the trip of a lifetime to Malta.

The bus was quickly loaded and the players quickly boarded the bus eager to get going as much as to escape the artic cold. Meanwhile the dutiful parents huddled in frozen groups awaiting the departure of their babies for eight nights and nine days in Malta.

The bus departed on time making a stop outside Moate to pick up the last two members of the Group. Then it was onward to Dublin airport as the snow continued to fall.

We arrived in the airport and quickly checked in and made our way to Departures. There was now a giddy excitement which caused time to fly and soon it was time to board our flight for its 6.15am departure. There was a light dusting of snow on the ground as we boarded the flight and everybody was now hugely looking forward to this trip.

The flight was uneventful. Most managed to get some sleep with some needing to be a contortionist to find what looked unlikley comfortable positions.

We landed at just before 11.00am local time in Malta. We alighted to be confronted with a bizzare situation. There was a spherical object high in the sky which was emenating a glorious heat that immediately waved over you! The locals call it the sun!

We don't want to rub your nose in it but it is a balmy 23 degrees. That is about 22 degrees higher than it is currently in Ireland.

Brian and Conor (aka Shane Long) tried their very best not to get into the country but eventually we all made it and were met by Alex, the local host. We were then bused to our hotel.

We were soon checked in to our 15 twin rooms and we were then down for lunch. We were starving and probably would have eaten just about anything but the food was very good with loads of variety and plenty of it. Then we had a quick Team Meeting before going back to the rooms for some much needed rest. That proved a more difficult task for those with views of the Swimming Pool than for those with views of the road. Work it out!

We then met in the hotel lobby at 5.30pm as we headed off for a light training session. The venue in Pembroke was just spectacular sweeping down into the Mediterranean Sea. The temperature had dropped but it was still T-Shirt weather for us and hard to believe that we were training in the freezing cold in St.Peters just this day last week.

After training it was back to the Hotel for dinner. We then went for a short walk to get our bearings and then back to bed for an early night to end what was a very long first day.

We play our first games in the Tournament tomorrow. Our thirty players are divided into two squads of 15 players playing as the ADSL "Saints" and the ADSL Scholars". We are in seperate five team Groups. The teams are evenly matched with no distinction between any "A" or "B" teams.

It was thirty very tired but thirty very happy players who quickly fell asleep dreaming of what the next eight days would hold.

 

DAY 2 - THURSDAY 28TH MARCH 2013

Day 2 started with everybody meeting for breakfast at 9.00am. Again the quality and quantity was good even if it is hard to understand why they warm the milk!

We play today at 3.00pm and 4.00pm so after breakfast each team had seperate Team Meetings. Tommy and Gudgie look after the Scholars while Paul and Sher look after the Saints. Then it was back up to the rooms to rest up.

After midday in a scorching heat we strolled to a Restaurant down on the sea front and on a glorious terrace with spectacular views of the sea enjoyed our pre-match meal of pasta and chicken. It was amazing and made it hard to believe that some people wanted to deny these players this experience and this opportunity.

Our bus collected us from the Restaurant and brought us to the Stadium that would host all our games. It is the Victor Tedesco Stadium in Hamrun. It is very impressive with huge dressing rooms. The pitch is astro-turf but most of the pitches here are as it is difficult to keep a grass pitch with the weather. (Have we mentioned the weather ? Apparently it is snowing and cold back home. It is sunny and hot here!).

The Saints are first in action in the first game in this Tournament, the Tony Bajada Memorial International Tournament.

ADSL SAINTS 0 : SLIEMA WANDERERS 4

This was not the start we were expecting!

The standard of refereeing was just awful but that is not the reason that we lost. We did not play very well, could not really get going and they were a good team.

We had the first chance to score after only three minutes when Adam Neary volleyed just over the bar after a good passing move.

They took the lead after 14 minutes. In the lead up to the goal they hit the post and then the crossbar before finally finding the net to take a 1-0 lead. Shortly after that they hit the post again and then Jordan was called on to make a good save. On 23 minutes Adam Neary came closest to an equaliser when his low shot on the run went narrowly wide.

Then on 27 minutes, just three minutes before the break, they scored again to go 2-0 up. Their player was clearly offside but the goal was allowed to stand. We now faced a real mountain in the second half.

Conor Lynam pushed up into midfield and that made a difference. Eoin Egan continued to play well. We had a good chance when Adam shot wide after a good move and then Eoin had a half chane before the game was put beyond our reach on 9 minutes when they scored again, this time with a quick counter-attack to lead 3-0. We were badly missing the injured Brian Derwin but kept playing to the bitter end which got even worse when they scored a fourth goal in the last few minutes for a miserable start to the Tournament.

However we came here hoping for good testing contests and we certainly got that.

The Scholars were very next on the pitch for their first game.

ADSL SCHOLARS 3 : BIRKIRKARA 1

The Scholars clearly benefited from watching the first half of the Saints game and started with an intensity and urgency that they lacked.

Like the Saints the Scholars had the first real chance but were blessed by better fortune taking the lead after just four minutes. Their keeper could not hold Harry Cornally's shot with Conor Farrell pounching on the rebound to score for a 1-0 lead and the perfect start.

The Scholars were playing well and might have doubled the lead on 13 minutes when Niall Murray won a good ball and played a neat pass onto Luke Kelly who crossed to the back post to pick out Conor Farrell but his shot was well saved. Their keeper made another good save to deny Harry Cornally in the 15th minute.

The Scholars went 2-0 up just two minutes before half-time when Conor Farrell put in a great delivery from a corner kick which Daniel Heavin powered to the net with a great header. 2-0 and well deserved.

Birkirkara were not a bad side and had a few very good players. They got a goal back just two minutes into the second half with a good finish to a very good move.

There was no room for complacency and the Scholars kept playing. Conor Layng was unlucky not to extend the ADSL lead in the 12th minute but his good low shot hit the side netting.

We finally made the game safe in the 17th minute with a beautiful goal. Only Luke Kelly could score such a goal from a spectacular free-kick out on the left that just flew into the top corner. A fantastic goal as Luke will never tire of telling you.

Their keeper had to also make a smart save to deny Conor Layng a fourth goal but another close and compelling contest ended 3-1 and with a first win for the Scholars. This is going to be a tough week but that is why we are here. Daniel Heavin in defence and Cormac Gavin and Cialan Dollard in midfield had huge games for the Scholars.

After the games it was back to the Hotel for a quick shower and then back down for dinner and some more rest and relaxation after a hectic second day. There were not many who opposed the idea of an early night.

Despite the mixed results it is a very happy Group who turned in after a busy day.


DAY 3 - FRIDAY 29TH MARCH 2013

There is no football today.

The proposed training session was postponed in favour of a days rest and enjoyment.

It all kicked off after breakfast as we hit the two Pools in the Hotel. Neil Macken was the first man in and his face was a picture as he first encountered the cold water despite the temperature in the low twenties. The indoor pool became a more attractive alternative but most went from one to the other. It was simply mighty craic!

The good fun was only interrupted by a visit to Pizza Hut for lunch and then back to the hotel and to the Pools for even more craic and fun. It was great to see all the lads really enjoying themselves and each other making spectacular memories that will last them a lifetime.

Today however is also Good Friday and so at 4.00pm we departed to go to nearby Mosta to view the Good Friday Procession.

Before we left, one player, who shall remain nameless protested that he was an athiesist and did not have to go to the Parade. He was immediately corrected by another player, who shall also remain nameless, who affirmed that it was not a Parade, that it was an "Easter Recession!"

Anyway it was an interesting experience. The period dress, the obvious pagentry and solemnity was most impressive and very different.

After the Procession we returned to the Hotel for dinner and then went to the nearby cinema to see "A Good Day to Die Hard". It was good fun even if the ending of the good guys winning out over any number of bad guys while also reconciling previous differences took everybody by total surprise!!!

It was then back to the Hotel for bed to finish a quite brillant and magnificent day.. Life just does not get much better for 30 young ADSL players. Good night! Sleep tight!

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DAY 4 - SATURDAY 30TH MARCH 2013

Another remarkable day and easily the hottest day of the trip so far. The number of parents and family has also grown overnight and we are now a huge group.

After breakfast we were given free time. We could go to the pool but most chose to take it handy with two games in the afternoon.

We headed down the town for lunch. Pasta and chicken for the pre-match and again it was lovely. Gudgie wanted to go to Supermacs! The star of the ADSL, little Fred Cornally got a new T-Shirt. It is class. Wear it with pride Freddie!

The bus collected us on the Promenade and we headed for the Stadium. What a day it would be. The Scholars were in action first against the host club, Hamrun Spartans.

ADSL SCHOLARS 1 : HAMRUN SPARTANS 0

What a game and what a game to win and what a way to win it!

This was a good Hamrun team but in their own competition in their home with two club linesmen we were really up against it.

The Scholars again started well. Harry had a chance with a header off a Callum corner kick. Luke K had a chance from a Conor Layng pass and then Conor had a chance himself from a Callum cross but headed just over. Cialan Dollard was having a great game in midfield spraying out passes with one such pass picking out Luke K who pulled the ball back for Fitzy to shoot over. It was great football.

Just before half-time Niall Murray passed out to Kevin Loonam who picked out Cialan who played in Luke K who was unlucky to see his shot go just wide. It was a great move and deserved a goal.

It was more of the same in the second half. The home side offered little in attack but were resilient and resolute in defence and brought a growing degree of robust physicality to the contest the longer it went on. The refereee let most of this go and missed most of the off the ball stuff. Tensions were rising. They had a great centre-half and an even better keeper. He made a number of outstanding saves and despite all our possession and chances it seemed that the game would end in a draw until the last minute.

Then the ADSL were awarded a free out on the right. Conor Farrell struck it and "struck it" is the best that can be said for it as a thunderbolt of a shot just flew in under the crossbar. It was a magnificent goal cheered to the echo by the huge ADSL crowd in one of those never to be forgotten moments. Brillant!

It is now two wins from two for the Scholars but nothing easy about either.

The Saints are next in action against the leading nursery club in Malta, Paola Hibernians.

ADSL SAINTS 0 : PAOLA HIBERNIANS 1

This game made the last game look like an Under-9 Fun League jolly.

The refereeing was again poor but the practise of having club linesmen calling offside against the other side is just bizzare. We were called offside repeatedly in the first half. Brian Derwin alone was pulled five times and was clearly onside on four of those five occasions. It was very frustrating.

Despite that we had the better chances. Brian Derwin had a good shot well saved and Matthew Nally had a good shot saved. An excellent Jonathan Moloney cross picked out Brian but his header was just wide. A good move involving Luke Gavin Mangan and Adam Neary gave Brian another chance but his shot was saved at the expense of a corner.. Luke Gavin Mangan got his head on the end of the again excellent Eoin Egan's free kick and then in the closing moments of the half Conor Lynam came close with a terrific rising shot from distance that just shaved the crossbar. But no goals to show for all that effort.

The second half was unreal and at times surreal.

The level of physical intimidation and heavy challenges was bad enough but after they took the lead from a corner kick in the 13th minute of the second half the amount of off the ball messing was just unacceptable.

Happily the ADSL boys refused to descend to that level or rise to the provocation. That only seemed to make it worse. Both sides were first reduced to ten men. Our player did allow himself to get involved but was pushed to the ground from behind for his troubles and was sent off unfairly by a poor referee.

Moments later both sides were reduced to nine. This was a joke with the ADSL player sent off for allowing himself to be pushed around and offering no resistance. An abysmal referring performance was crowned when somehow the ref blew the final whistle with still five minutes of regulation time to play.

It was not good enough and this was made clear to the organisers in no uncertain terms.

To their credit the ADSL boys refused to become involved in this messing. They were a credit.

It was a tough and testing environment but the experience will stand them in good stead into the future. They will be better, bigger and stronger for this experience.

We then returned to the hotel and for dinner.

Then there was free time. Ten lads stayed around the hotel with parents while the rest went down to the Square and found a Games Place. It was mighty fun. There were a few high stakes games of Pool and Air Hockey with the vanquished having to buy ice-cream for the victorious. It was fantastic fun.

It was then back to the hotel and to bed by 11.00. The clocks go forward and so we lose an hour but it is also the start of summer time. We could do with a bit more sun. It fell to 24 degrees there at one stage today!


DAY 5 - SUNDAY 31ST MARCH 2013 - EASTER SUNDAY

Happy Easter!

It is also Jonathon Cunningham's and Conor Farrell's birthday today. Niall Murray's little sister (everyone is little to Niall) Abbie also has a birthday today.

So Happy Birthday Jonothan, Conor and Abbie!

Today is a fun day. After breakfast at 9 we hit the Pool in the glorious sunshine. We had a simple game of Water Football. The Saints played the Scholars on the pitch beside the Pool. When one side scores they nominate a player from the other side who must go to the pool where he stays until his side scores and so on. It was great fun and drew a huge crowd of intrigued spectators.

This went on with great fun and craic in the Pools until midday when it was time to get out and head off for lunch and then go Go-Karting.

This was epic.

We'll bring you more updates as soon as we can.





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