|Uist & Barra defy odds to impress in Ireland|
Last week an Uist & Barra JFC select side took set off to participate in the Galway Cup, Ireland. The trip is part of an annual excursion for the group of young footballers from the Western Isles. You can read about last year's trip to The Netherlands by clicking here.
'After leaving Uist on Monday 6th August and an overnight stay in Glasgow, we departed on our hired coach to Cairnryan on Tuesday 7th August (courtesy of LA Travel of Kirkintilloch) and caught the afternoon ferry to Larne in Northern Ireland, where we were met by Erik Haartman Coaches and a 5 1/2 hour trip to Galway, which is in the South of Ireland and were met very warmly by Tournament Organiser Denis plus another couple of the party who waited up for us (we arrived around 1am), to give us keys to the 6 apartments we had rented at Galway University Complex (6 x 5 = 30 in total).
Other guests included Moscow Dynamo, Malaga, Aberdeen and Manchester City and the lads met none other than Peter Weir, an Aberdeen Cup Winners Cup legend, who was a lovely man. We were given boxes of sandwiches, fruit and drinks which was a lovely gesture and after a good night's sleep we were ready for our opening match against Mervue Utd, who had just won the North Regional Cup and were a team who were obviously very decent!
It was an early game and we were comprehensively beaten 5-0 and we all thought if this was the tournament standard we were in for a long week and qualification for the main Galway Cup and the Galway Plate (3rd and 4th) was going to be a struggle. Mervue Utd were a class team, big and strong but with pace and skill in abundance, not a weakness at all in that team! It was only afterwards that I talked to Denis who told me that they had 750 youngsters to choose from and only picked those of the highest quality, plus 4 were already snapped up by Shamrock Rovers and another 2 by Drogheda Utd.
It was now game on... 2nd game and 2nd day and we had to beat Cavan Monaghan to get us back into contention, again against a team who had only recently drawn 0-0 with Mervue Utd but spirits were better and the lads felt stronger after a good mornings training and although the weather was scorching we were confident we could take something from the game. We played superbly, won 5-0 with goals from Neil Sinclair, Ally Downie x 2, Ali MacDonald and Calum Murray and the spirits in the camp were lifted.
Back to the complex and a swim in the nearby lake plus a few hilarities and a team meeting and we were ready for games 3 and 4 on Day 3, against local side Salthill Devon and Foyle Harps (Paddy McCourt of Celtic's old side). Our first game against Salthill started poorly and we were 1-0 down at half time but after a few constructive words the lads came out fighting the Uist way and 3 second half goals from the impressive Ally Downie, captain Ally MacDonald again and a Joseph MacInnes header and we were really in contention to qualify as other games had gone in our favour and we knew that a draw with Foyle Harps would get us into the Galway Cup Final.
What happened in game 4 was and will not be forgotten by adults and the kids alike, it was what football is all about with regards to drama. Foyle Harps were another class side and put us under the cosh from the outset, with their slick passing and sheer movement. They went a goal ahead just before the break and try as we did in the 2nd period to get that elusive equaliser, we just couldn't break the strong defence of the Harps.
With seconds remaining and the referee checking his watch and putting his whistle in his mouth to blow for full time, up stepped captain Ally MacDonald who broke free and eluded numerous tackles and slipped an exquisite ball through to Ally Downie, who burst into the box and with an 'Aguero' shrug of the shoulders slipped past the last defender and slipped the ball under the keeper. 1-1.
What a scene enfolded with the whole party going beserk on the sidelines as well as the pitch and spectators from all over descended on our match to find out what all the fuss was about! You had to feel sorry for Foyle Harps who were devastated and were all flat out on the pitch for what seemed like an eternity but still had the dignity to shake all the players hands. The sound of the announcer and 'Uist and Barra JFC' from the Western Isles in Scotland qualify for the Galway Cup U17 final' really was music to the ears.
That was us with another day of destiny against our foes, Mervue Utd tournament favourites but we all felt better now and were confident that we could give them a really good game in the final on Saturday morning.
Saturday 11th August on the main pitch with around 4000 spectators, mostly supporting the Irish side although we had made numerous friends during the week with the likes of Donegal Utd and Aberdeen FC and they were their to cheers us on as they had both been knocked out of their respective competitions. Aberdeen had been put out by Moscow Dynamo in the U15 elite Trophy and the Russians were the eventual winners, defeating the Republic of Ireland in the final.
We eventually got beat 4-1 by Mervue Utd after starting well and with Dodoos MacPhee powering home a header to make it 1-1 just before the interval we looked in contention but the 2nd half was tough and 2 late goals against the run of play put paid to any revival and Mervue deservedly ran out as worthy Galway Cup Champions.
No complaints from the Uist and Barra party but what a great experience, what a fantastic tournament, superbly organised. The pitches and facilities were superb and the hospitality was faultless. Easily the best tournament we have attended over the past 18 years of travelling and the highest standard of them all football wise.
A huge thanks to all the lads who were brilliant to work with as always and to my fellow adults, Willie MacAulay, Matthew MacDonald, Craig Cooper, Ross Sutherland and Paul Carlin and to the others at home who supported us all week, really appreciated!
Roll on Derry and the Foyle Cup in 2013.