TCG World Games 2016 Report
Tir Chonaill Gaels participated in the 2nd ever World Games this month and acquitted themselves very well over the course of the week. The Tournament is played at 9-a-side with a panel of 13 players.
On Tuesday, we were drawn in a very difficult group and with 4 matches over 8 hours it promised to be a tough day at the office. We played Europe at 9.30 a.m. on the opening day and, after a long delay due to a serious injury incurred by a European player, we were able to get the better of them on a scoreline of 2-10 to 1-3. Next we played Abu Dhabi, in what was a fantastic game to watch, emerging victorious on a scoreline of 1-8 to 0-9. Then we faced Middle East 2 and we did well to come away with a draw after a below par performance and a missed penalty for the opposition. This one finished 1-6 to 0-9. This draw was enough to see us through to the next phase and we concluded the day with a less than convincing 1-8 to 0-6 victory over the group minnows Jersey. As we were playing 9's, which is a very different format to what we were used to, the players and management alike were all learning as we went along but we were happy with our first days work which saw some big teams such as Canada, Europe and Australasia eliminated.
If we thought Tuesday was tough then we knew that Wednesday promised to be a mammoth task with all of the best teams in the World as our opposition. We had an even earlier start on Wednesday morning, facing Middle East 2 at 9.00 a.m. but having played them already we were confident that we could get a positive result and went out and performed brilliantly to take a 2-4 to 0-3 victory. Next up was New York, a team that had run Roscommon to a point in this year's All-Ireland Championship. We saved our best performance of the week for this match and defended manfully while displaying no shortage of skill to take a well deserved 1-6 to 0-4 victory. We were on Cloud 9 at this stage and maybe got ahead of ourselves as we were undefeated in 6 matches and Croke Park was so close we could smell it. We were brought crashing down to earth very quickly as with little or no break we played Middle East 1, who had notable County Players such as Ryan Bradley and Aindreas Doyle in their ranks, gave us a lesson in how to play 9's and comprehensively beat us 1-9 to 0-5. This left us with a winner takes all clash against Abu Dhabi on Wednesday evening with a place in the Final and Croke Park at stake, it doesn't come much bigger than this. After we were able to re-focus and prepare ourselves, we started the match at 100 miles an hour and got a couple of points ahead but unfortunately missed 3 great chances. Abu Dhabi showed all of their experience to claw us back and once they took the lead were able to see out the match on a scoreline of 0-8 to 0-5. We were crestfallen and words cannot describe how we felt at the final whistle. We had come so close to the Holy Grail of reaching Croke Park but fallen at the last hurdle. It was a bitter pill to swallow after some fantastic performances but a great experience and learning curve for all of young players and hopefully something that will benefit us as the season goes on and over the years to come.
On Thursday we took part in the Plate and defeated Jersey on a scoreline of 8-9 to 1-2 in the Semi-Final and then defeating Middle East 2 in the Final on a scoreline of 3-9 to 1-4. It was scant consolation to our boys who set high standards for themselves and didn't want anything less than the top prize.
Our record over the 10 matches that we played was 7 wins, a draw and 2 losses and the panel that travelled was Eoin Higgins, who was outstanding in goal and only conceded 2 goals in 8 matches in the Tournament proper, our defence was brilliantly marshalled by Philip Butler who gave an education to everyone in attendance of how to defend and he was ably assisted by Rory Jennings, Ryan Kearney, Gerard Geraghty and Paddy O'Connor. Our midfield was easily the standout pairing on show with Anthony McDermott and Ronan Breen in imperious form while surrounded by all of our energetic and willing runners. In attack, Marty McCoy and Kieran Clarke sparkled while Killian Butler caught everyone's eye with his silky skills and point taking ability but it was our Captain and inspirational leader that was the player of the Tournament with Liam Gavaghan giving virtuoso displays match after match, day after day. He is really is a gifted footballer with a seering burst of pace, power and he almost scored at will throughout the Tournament.
Overall, it was a hugely successful Tournament for Tir Chonaill Gaels with 9 of our 12 players after coming through the underage ranks within the Club and many of them came of age at the World Games. It is fantastic to see the calibre of player that is being produced in the Club at the moment and that is down to the hard work of many coaches/parents over the years. It was also heartening to see two of these young players, Eoin Higgins and Killian Butler, go on to make their Senior Championship debut at the weekend and hopefully many more of these young players will go on to play Senior Football this year and in the coming years.