Requested to meet in the bar of the Ibis Hotel at 19:30 on May 5th, only some of the squad made it. Was this a sign of things to come? Fortunately not, with the skipper, Dave Blackmore’s car reaching the car park at 19:01 and others soon after, things began to look better. We’d lost Colin Warne (injured), Mike Leatt (tested positive for Covid 19 on Tuesday) and Graeme Menzies (injured and food poisoning) so we were down to a squad of 12 with a few welcome partners in support. Steve Hewitt had stepped in to replace one of the injured – I bet he wondered what he’d let himself in for. Pasta, pizza and beer were consumed by some and plans emerged for meeting the next morning at the tournament venue.
DAY 1: Assembling at the ground on Friday – a cool but sunny morning – seemed to be going well though we were concerned for Webby who had a flat tyre. Apart from being our only ‘keeper, he had the first aid kit and defibrillator in his car. But all was well in good time for our first match v Alliance and we warmed up by the paddle-tennis courts (while Webby looked after our kit). You could say our performance was adequate, not spectacular. A 3 – 0 win with open play goals. The first was from Steve Hewitt in his first match on his first LX tour followed by two from Terry Duffy.
Next up was Germany – a hard game with attack and counter-attack being broken down by solid defences at both ends. Dave Blackmore was tireless in keeping their star player at bay. There were chances at both ends and a breakthrough came when Steve Crute scored with a great shot from a PC just inside the left post. There were a few minutes left and the Germans equalised from a stroke (Smoggy was hit on the shoulder from short range and a stroke was awarded despite Webby being behind him.) The game ended 1 – 1. After a late lunch, the sun-cream was being applied and hopes were high for a good result against Shamrocks.
Shamrocks had to borrow players as they had arrived with a squad of 8 or 9. It was another adequate, not spectacular performance ending with us just one goal ahead from Tony Taig – a neat 1-2-3 starting with Dave blocking an Irish clearance, pass to Robin who drew the defence, he slipped the ball to Tony for a tap-in Our energy was a bit low and it was David’s first day of hockey since having Covid. Our defence was solid, Lee and Des often stepping forward to intercept the Irish long passes on our left, Martin and Smoggy matching them on the right.
The Italian buffet at the club was well attended and plenty of pasta was consumed along with a few pitchers of beer and the odd bottle of wine.
DAY 2: An earlier start on Saturday meant we could get on the pitch for our warm-up. It didn’t help as we ground out a 0 – 0 draw with Thistles. That said there was a fantastic goal line save from Steve Hewitt’s follow up at a penalty corner goal mouth scramble.
Robin had become hop-along (injured by one of our own team) but kept going – even covering as left back when Des saw green. A pattern was emerging with warm-ups and warm-downs in the shade (while Webby looked after our kit).
Netherlands A were next – after 4 games they had 4 wins and a goal difference of 15 or more. They were certainly a sharp team, intercepting any less than perfect pass and our defence did sterling work. Eventually Netherlands went ahead (mutter mutter umpire had a blinder) when the Dutch slotted a shot inside Webby’s right post. We fought back and Steve Crute’s short corner strike (almost identical to his strike against Germany) put us back on level terms. Our luck didn’t hold as the Dutch countered and scored from a part clearance smashed back into the goal with Harry blocking Webby’s view.
It looked like rain as we prepared for the game against Netherlands B – and sure enough the rain came down in buckets with just half the game played. We were just on top before the rain was too heavy with a goal from David Blackmore at a PC. The deluge all but made play impossible for several minutes during which we peppered their D and goal though the water on the pitch made it impossible to get a good strike. The rain was easing at the end, a dubious penalty corner for the Dutch led to a penalty stroke – once again the Dutch equalised and the final whistle went.
Soaked players and spectators gathered in the club for a post-mortem on the day over a few beers. After drying out we returned in better mood for the evening meal and music. Robin did a grand job organising and re-organising the taxis which allowed those with surplus energy to spend more time on the dance floor.
DAY 3: The Shamrocks’ final game on Saturday put them third; ahead of us so we needed a win against Belgian Old Lions to get back in the top 3. Central timing was ignored as we were ready to start but the umpires would not let us as the Belgians still had players strolling over to the pitch. It probably didn’t make a lot of difference as were not exactly on sparkling form and at times it looked as though we weren’t sure whether we were in red or white shirts. Nevertheless, we did enough to pop in a couple of goals courtesy of Tony Taig and Crutie. The second was a shot at short corner which was blocked, came back and then smashed into goal. It was initially disallowed for being above the backboard but the other umpire confirmed that the goal was good.
That put us third in our round robin pool and our final match play-off was against Shamrocks. Everyone was anxious to maintain our third place overall and we made good forays into the Irish defence. There were a few goalmouth scrambles – Terry Duffy opened the scoring giving us the confidence to keep pressing. Goals from Tony Taig and Steve Hewitt saw us comfortable winners. A great finish to a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. Eight games, 4 wins, 1 loss and 3 draws.
Smoggy and Dave did a great job – to quote Crutie “Just say that the whole team was magnificent and that there was professional sampling of the hotel beer and a critique of the glasses!”