Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

It was the day before our flights when we finally got our tracksuits and it was all thanks to Barry Goodwin. He was just another listener to Spin 103.8 when he heard Jamie’s appeal of sponsorship for gear. He got in contact with us and drove to Maynooth to deliver them to us himself so to him we are so very grateful.

The Irish Football Tennis team

Thank you Barry.

He was in stark contrast to the Buy and Sell who offered us €800 for tracksuits in return for us to change our name to The Buy and Sell Irish Football Tennis Team. Changing our name like that would have ruined the whole story.

So we agreed nothing.

We were thinking of putting Football Tennis Ireland’s soul for sale in the B&S as a kind of ironic middle finger to them but we were too busy being international athletes anyway!

Remarkably some guy in Spin 103.8 also had connections in RTÉ and wrote a proposal to the Aprés Match lads to do a piece on us! One of the proposed features was a “One part aftermath follow up documentary some weeks later showing the boys in Green after the World Cup saga”!

We knew it wouldn’t go anywhere but it was still funny as hell hearing it even being talked about!

Also a quick word needs to be said about NUI Maynooth who got great coverage out of us representing them and the country. They were absolutely no help to us at all. We left messages on the presidents office phone line, sent emails to them, tried contacting the sports department but all to no avail trying to see if they could help us in any way. When it snowed and we couldn’t practise outside on the tennis courts we had to book the sports hall. When we got in at 9am they told us we had to leave because there was no running water or heat. As we left the hall we found the heaters were hot but suddenly nobody around to complain to. As for running water the engineering building thirty feet away had running water.

So it need to be made clear that NUI Maynooth were no help. We had to make a trip into Leixip on the snow and ice covered roads to pay €30 an hour to train.

It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon when we got our flight to Istanbul. A window seat for myself, and the No-Show and Jamie beside me. The rest of the lads filled the seats in front and across from us. We just looked at each other as the plane went into full power;

“I think we took this one a bit far boys”, said Jamie.

“Well we’ve another 3,000km and four days to take it yet”, I said.

And it was there the reality of the situation finally decided to kick in. What we were doing had never been done by Irish people before. We were the first, clueless and naïve, but suddenly there was a lot of responsibility. We actually had to represent the people of our country. These eastern European teams would see the whole of Ireland by what thought of us. So we had to do well. Each one of us.

The triples final between Hungary and Romania

The fixtures were handed out when we got to the sports complex. The first game was Jamie vs. Croatia’s finest – the third best in the world. This was exactly what we didn’t want. We were hoping to get to watch a few games to make sure we had the rules right, but there would be no time for that. The whistle blew and suddenly Jamie had to perform. We said on the plane over it would be great to get a few points and in the first game against one of the best who had been playing for almost ten years Jamie had already achieved that. He lost 11-2, 11-2 but he had done us proud.

In the next game against the Macedonians, who aren’t any less experienced or talented, Captain Jamie was actually beating their best player 8-6. In the end he lost out 11-8, 11-7 but spirits in the FTI camp were high. We had a bit of belief.

Next up was the doubles where Jamie teamed up with Kevin to take on the Turks. The lads were doing brilliant. They were beating the host country 9-3 at one stage and had caused the Turkish coach to substitute both players.

“Come on boys!”

“Ye have ‘em rattled lads!”

Kev’s serves were forcing mistakes from the Turks and were as consistent as the No-Show Sheegar’s ability to not show up for training. But it was tense.

The Turkish subs made a difference, upsetting the lads’ rhythm and eventually they managed to fight back to a 12-10, 11-8 victory. But the lads had won a few fans who were watching on. The Romanian coach was impressed with how we were doing and offered to send on their training program to us. It would be handy enough having the training program of the world champions in singles and doubles!

We were delighted with how it was going but next up were the Hungarians in the triples. These guys were all over six foot, were sponsored by a bank, and played in leagues in Hungary. We decided to stick Jamie and Kev in with myself since the lads were doing so well. That meant swapping them for Emmet and Hynes who I had trained with for the last nine weeks. This didn’t work to our advantage at all as we were not used to playing with each other in triples. We lost the first game something like 11-2 and the second game 11-5 which doesn’t sound that bad but the Hungarians were admittedly taking it easy on us. They suggested a few things to us and were very helpful and we were glad to see them win the triples in the final.

The Hungarian team that won the triples and came second in the singles and doubles

We kept the same triples team for the next game against the Russians though, thinking that the only reason we lost to the Hungarians was because they were so good. Looking back at the Russian game now I think we could have done a lot better if we played with our usual formation. That’s nothing against Jamie and Kev, who were in top form, but our usual formation gave us confidence because we knew what each of us had to do. We didn’t play particularly bad against the Russians but we lost the second game 11-5. They are a team we feel we could beat next time and we had learned our lessons.

That was it for Day 1 and we had learned a lot. We knew we could beat the Georgians and Indians the next day and we were confident we could give the Serbians and good game as well. This was to see who would make up the 9th – 12th places in the competition. But for now it was back to the hotel for dinner and a well deserved pint. These were long days, starting off at 9 in the morning and ending around 8 in the evening and we were wrecked, physically and mentally.

Day 2 and up at 7.30 thinking we were meant to start at 9 but for some reason the bus was late and we didn’t leave until 9.30.

“Could have done with that extra hour in bed”.

But off we went eventually to the final day of games. It was the singles first again and Jamie against Serbia’s finest. After some great rallies Jamie got into his rhythm and beat the Serb 11-7! We were delighted to win a game but knew we had a chance here to win the two sets. Back out on the court the Serb upped his game and so did Jamie but in the end after winning the second game 8-11, the Serbian won the decider 9-11 with two very tense games. Jamie had done us proud again but he wasn’t finished there. The Indians were up next and there was no stopping the Pontoon man! He wrapped them 11-2, 11-2 to give Ireland its first competitive wins in Football Tennis!

Soon after he had to play Georgia’s finest but lost out 11-9, 11-7 after winning the opening set 11-7. It was a very contentious game with several close calls and a very argumentative Georgian but we knew we’d have another chance to beat them in the doubles and triples.

And we did.

In the most tense game yet  Kev and Jamie ended up going to sudden death with the Georgians where the next point won. After a great serve from Kev the Georgians couldn’t control the ball and Ireland had beat them.

Fantastic!

Then it was the triples again. This time we decided to keep to the team we had trained with. Our first game was against the Indians and we should have won it. A large portion of the crowd were shouting for India because they were underdogs but that just shows how much of an impact we made on everybody at the competition.

The Indians are full members but we were favourites. We had lost, but we didn’t fail!

We were disappointed with the loss to the Indians but then we had a good game against the Serbians. We lost 2-1 to them in close games but we hammered the Georgians after. Some great calls from Coach Rogers of where to put the ball from the serve kept them from getting any rhythm and I duly obliged by picking their left foot or serving through the middle. When they did get service Hynes’ returns were controlled and composed and Emmet and the No-Show both won some fantastic points at the net. It was great that our last game was against the Georgians and we won. As we walked off the court the Serbians congratulated us. They were happy to see us beat the Georgians as well!

After that we could relax and watch the finals where our friends the Romanians and Hungarians were competing. The

The singles and doubles winning Romanian team drinking some Romanian poítín

Romanians won the singles and doubles but the Hungarians won the triples. When we got back to the hotel for dinner the Romanian coach came over to our table and offered us some Romanian poitin which could have easily have been just pure white spirits. But the gesture was appreciated, we had represented our country well.

So that was it. After a twelve hour day we had beaten four teams to give Ireland its first competitive Football Tennis wins and finished 10th in the world. The whole thing is documented with over 10 hours of footage of games and interviews with the president of FIFTA and some of the coaches. It might be a couple of months before its all finished though.

But Football Tennis is only getting bigger and a lot of the coaches and organisers hope to have it in the Olympics in the next 5 – 10 years and they want Ireland to be represented there too! Could ya imagine that?!

Relieved, wrecked, and contented we boarded our plane the next morning in Ataturk airport…to a round of applause! A group of Irish people we had met on the plane over there had coincidently gotten the same plane home and gave us a bit of a buladh bos when we boarded! Not only that but we were on Turkish news on the tv screens on the plane as well! So tens of millions of people saw us in Turkey representing our country!Amazing!

So its been some adventure. For now the Euros in North Cyprus, the Las Vegas competition, sports council funding and all that craic can wait. We will sit down together, reflect, laugh, and think about the future soon but not yet. We will let you know of course but Christmas has crept up on us.

The Football Tennis Family

We would like to thank everybody for their great support, it really made a difference. To all the radio stations, newspapers, tv stations who helped carry the story we thank you as well.

Boob.ie also went through an enormous amount of effort promoting the story and mediating between companies about sponsorship so we are very thankful for that too.

And to FIFTA and the Turkish people who were all so incredibly friendly and genuine, thank you for having us!

Football Tennis Ireland: 10th in the world after nine weeks of practice!

 

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