The Emerald Isle

Posted by chicopeesoccer July 10, 2014 Comments are off 2110 views

 

Chicopee Ready To Go!

Chicopee all set and ready to go!
 

A brief recap of our historic trip to Ireland!

 

…from my notes 

 

Day One:

We Depart!

1:30 p.m. Team arrives at Chicopee High School for our sending off party! King Ward Bus is already at CHS waiting for us. Channel 40 is there: a nice surprise! Everyone is excited to begin our odyssey!  Pack the luggage, get on the bus and get underway right on schedule for the two hour bus trip to Logan International Airport. No traffic at all, things are going smoothly.

Logan.  I’m a bit nervous about the check in procedure for such a large group of people (41), but the Aer Lingus staff are wonderful. Everyone is through check-in quickly and without any issues. Very happy the team is wearing our green Pacer shirts. We head to the security entry gate. After waiting in line for 10 minutes they ask our group to use the first security entry point we passed along the way; we turn around and hurry through.  All passengers make it through security. One step closer!

We are about 3 hours early for our flight! Better safe than sorry! Fortunately, the World Cup Semi-final is on TV! We all get a bite to eat and explore the terminal. Some of the boys meet a traveler from Ireland. When they tell the Irish lad we’re playing the Shamrock Rovers he shakes his head and says they’re really good. The players now begin to realize what we’re up against! This trip is the real deal!

Our Plane to the Emerald Isle!

Our Plane to the Emerald Isle!

7:00 p.m.: We board the plane! Kevin Kelly at Crystal Travel has come through for us! He has arraigned our seating as requested! For many of our players this will be their first flight, for many more their first International Flight! Very exciting indeed! The flight goes smoothly and the guys are able to see a sunset and a sunrise as we cross the Atlantic.

Team Ready for Take off!

Team Ready for Take off!

Shannon Airport after we find the wallet!

After we find the wallet at Shannon International Airport

6:15 a.m.: Team lands at Shannon International Airport. As we are collecting our luggage, the first crisis hits! I hear “Coach, someone lost his wallet.” OMG!! A student reports his lost wallet to the Aer Lingus booth and a very nice gentleman phones the plane. He runs back to the plane and returns a couple of minutes later with the wallet!  Crisis resolved! Whew!  Gave each of the two Aer Lingus employees that helped us a commemorative pin! We decide to take our first Ireland Team photo in front of the Aer Lingus Booth that helped to save the day!

Mike C. is waiting for us. We leave the terminal; pack the motor coach and head to the University of Limerick! It’s about a 25-minute ride. We are now on Ireland time – 5 hours difference!

 

Willow Townhouse in Dromroe

Willow Townhouse in Dromroe

7:30 a.m. University of Limerick

Team departs the motor coach at Dromore Village. Mike says we’ve been given an “upgrade.” Room Key cards are passed out and team members check out the facilities. Six rooms per suite with a shared living room and kitchen. Pretty nice!

 Then, Horror of Horrors!!  Team members discover that there is NO WI-FI in the town-house as expected! Panic sets in!

 8:30 a.m. Team heads to the Stables Club in the University Center for our first Irish breakfast. Luckily there is Wi-Fi available there!

After breakfast we meet David Ward. David is the Sports Events Coordinator at the University of Limerick. He takes us on a very nice and very thorough tour of the campus. The University of Limerick is quite proud of their athletic facilities. Scores of professionals and Olympians train there. (Queens Park Rangers and Celtic will hold camps there in August!) The tour takes over an hour. Plenty of walking to help stretch our weary legs after a long flight! (David was a great help to us during our visit)

University of Limerick Sports Arena

University of Limerick Sports Arena

After the tour of campus we head back to our town house to unpack and freshen up.  Not much time. Lunch in two hours!

1:00 p.m. Lunch is at the University Arena Sports Club. There’s plenty of food and we’re hungry! We have a small area reserved for us to enjoy our meal. We meet Tom the Manager of the Sports Club and he’s willing to help us in any way! Team has a couple of hours to settle in before training this afternoon.

Try to exchange dollars into euros at the campus bank. They don’t take $100’s? Say What? Are you kidding? Mike helps out.

First training session

First training session

2:45 p.m. Team assembles outside Willow Townhouse in Dromroe Village for our first Training Session. Looking sharp in our training kits.  Walk for 15 minutes to the training field. We’re well ahead of schedule. Team kicks around while we wait for the Irish Coaches to begin the session.

Irish Training Session

Irish Training Session

3:30 p.m. Training Session Begins: Boys are a bit tired, but do well. Having this training session today was a good idea (maybe it’ll help everyone sleep tonight). Interesting to watch the coaches deliver the 90 minute session. Picked up some good tips too!  Interesting to note that the coaches also coach the team we play on Tuesday night!  Can anyone say “Set-up!” Nice chance for them to do a little recon on the yanks!  😉 Coaches Declan and Sean are both very friendly and do a great job with the guys. It was a pleasure to watch them work! Our players showed them a great deal of respect by working hard! Well done!

Paddocks Restaurant!

Paddocks Restaurant!

6:00 p.m. Dinner at Paddocks Restaurant in the University Center.  Great food! We meet Sean who is the head chef there. Just like Tom at the Sports Arena, Sean is equally eager to please! Come to find out Sean coaches a premier level girls team that ranked in the top three in Ireland last year!

9:00 p.m.  I head back to the University Center to use the free Wi-Fi. A group of players approach me.

Obviously the issue and the lack of Wi-Fi at the townhouse won’t go away. The ten minute walk to the University Center to connect with the outside world was just too much of a burden for our players to bear. So the players take initiative to remedy the situation. Aviraj leads a group of four to the University Center to see me to discuss going into Limerick to purchase a wireless router. I now wonder if internet addiction really exists. Aviraj was waving a wad of cash he had collected from team members (and he said he could get more)! He had already phoned a local store concerning a wireless router and had been in contact with a taxi company for transportation!

I had to think fast, as there was no way I was about to let them go into town alone at this time of night to buy a wireless router. They were so persistent that I agreed to go with them. However, by a stroke of luck we found out that the school bookstore had routers for sale! Considering it was almost 10:30 p.m., the Aviraj internet posse agreed that it was best to wait until the next day to purchase the router when the bookstore opened int he morning. The guys would have to spend one night without Internet access…how the heck would they survive??

11:30 p.m. I hear a commotion upstairs. I investigate. A player is locked out of his room. Another player is set to crawl out one window to crawl back over to the other window to open the locked door.  We are two floors up! Are you crazy?? Go to find a security guard to let him back in. I would see this same security guard three more times during our visit to unlock doors! The security guard is always very kind and understanding, just like everyone we meet in Ireland! Wonderful people indeed!

 2:00 a.m. Beginning to regret not giving the guys a solid curfew time for tonight- heck I thought they’d be exhausted! (more likely than not overtired!) Soccer balls bouncing, furniture moving about, screaming and yelling out the windows (100’s of other campus residents from Italy and Germany all helped to make it a chaotic night as the sounds echoed loudly throughout the courtyard). All of this was very harmless of course and not completely unexpected…glad they’re having a good time. Let’s see how they do with their 7 a.m. wake up call!  This should be interesting.

 

Day Two:

Cliffs of Moher and Bunratty Castle!

6:00 a.m. Walk over to Student Center to use Wi-fi and check email. Difficult to do website updates.

7:00 a.m. Begin my rounds to the second, third and fourth floors for wake up call. A knock on the door and three rings of the doorbell should do it!  What a loud, and obnoxious sounding doorbell it is…They hate it…I love it!

7:15 a.m. – round two of wake up calls. Make it up to the senior suite on the fourth floor and I couldn’t believe it when I looked in to the shared living space! The boys had moved all of the mattresses from the individual rooms into the living room! What was this?? They each had their own room but decided to sleep en masse in the living room! Crazy kids! Just happy they get along so well! They’re not too happy about the early start, but they were duly warned!  I tell them with a smile, “Heck you can stay up until two, three or four in the morning if you want, doesn’t matter to me.”  We have business to take care of today! Let’s move it!

7:30 a.m.– Final Wake Up call! All rooms are moving to get ready! Are they ever grumpy and a little zombie-like. Too funny! Hopefully they learned their lesson and will get to sleep early tonight! Breakfast in 30 minutes at the Stables Club! It’s going to be a long, but exciting, day!

The Stables Club

The Stables Club

8:00 a.m. – Breakfast at the Stables. Irish black and white pudding is on the menu! MMMM! …that is, until the kids learn of the ingredients!!

9:00 a.m. – Motor Coach departs for the Cliffs of Moher after a quick stop at the University Arena Sports Club to pick up our packed lunches. Mike C. is not traveling with us today. Guess we’re on our own!

cliffs

Team on the famous Cliffs of Moher!

11:30 a.m. Approaching the Cliffs of Moher. It’s cloudy, rainy and miserable weather for viewing vistas. Quite upset at the moment. Trying to figure out a way to control the weather! Not sure where to go when we arrive on location. Bus driver directs us toward the gift shop. Half the team goes in, the other half heads to the cliffs. The split then makes a group photo impossible. Not happy! Visibility on the cliffs is ZERO, disappointed we go back down and shop in the gift store. After a while of shopping I decide to take a peek outside the door and my eyes widen in excitement!  The dense fog seem to be rolling back! It’s clearing up!! Have to hurry – this may be our only chance! We get about a 45-minute window of time to marvel at Nature’s beauty! How lucky are we! Quickly went from being miserable that the trip to the Cliffs of Moher was a wasted opportunity to being overwhelmingly happy when the weather cleared! I’m very glad the boys were able to see it all! It is truly a wonder of nature! Head back up to the cliffs. Meet up with a group of players already up there. Concerned that some of the guys are moving a bit too close to the edge. They seem to have disregarded our warnings. Not sure how they missed seeing the monument placed in the center of the path along the cliffs dedicated to those “who have lost their lives on the Cliffs of Moher“! (the Irish describe the dangers the cliffs pose to visitors as “Natural Selection”) Can’t decide if the feeling of invincibility is a blessing or curse of youth!

cliffs_sign

This is serious!

How many more warnings do you need?

How many more warnings do you need?

cliffs_edge

Um, Excuse me??

Don't Lean Back!

Don’t Lean Back!

View of the Cliffs of Moher

View of the Cliffs of Moher

Getting Close to the Edge!

Getting Close to the Edge!

I'm telling your parents!

I’m telling your parents!

 

1:15 p.m. Back to the bus. Do a quick head count to make sure no one fell off the 600 foot cliffs into the Atlantic. Thankfully all are present. Distribute the packed lunches and then we’re off to Bunrattry Castle and Folk Park!

Team in front of Bunratty Castle

Team in front of Bunratty Castle

2:15 p.m. Arrival at Bunratty Castle! Set up for a guided tour. Tim and Tanner chase the chickens on the way to the Castle. We take a team photo in front of the castle and are urged to quickly enter the historic building to begin the guided tour before another group comes through. Tour guide was outstanding! He provides an interesting and lively history of the castle. Team has time to explore the castle and Folk Park grounds on their own!  In Massachusetts, we have Old Sturbridge Village; In Ireland they have 1,000 year old castles! Puts things into perspective! Really beginning to love this day!

Guided tour of Bunratty Castle!

Guided tour of Bunratty Castle!

4:30 p.m. Back to the University of Limerick for Dinner at Paddocks. Big Game tonight at 7:30!

Team buys the wireless router at the university store and set up their Wi-Fi network. Calm and Order have been restored!

6:30 p.m. – Team meets in front of Willow Town House for walk to the University Sports Arena locker rooms to change for the match. The Under Armour uniforms look sharp! Quality! Great Quality! Team is on the pitch kicking around as members of Geraldines AFC begin to arrive. Excitement and anticipation fill the team! We don’t know what to expect. This is it. Game Time!

Team in their new Under Armour Uniforms printed by Whips Sporting Goods! Looking Professional!

Team in their new Under Armour Kits printed by Whips Sporting Goods! Looking Very Professional!

7:30 p.m. – Cody takes the coin toss at center field and exchanges team banners. Kick off. Dave scores only 15 seconds into the match with a blast from 23 yards out. The goal sets the tone for the entire week! Cody makes it 2-0 going into the half. Geraldines ties it at two-all in the second half before Dave and Mike bring it home with goals to make it a 4-2 victory for Chicopee!  Team hands out commemorative pins and take a group photo! Good spirits all around. Referee is really happy to get a pin!

Geraldines AFC and Chicopee Soccer!

Geraldines AFC and Chicopee Soccer!

9:30 p.m. – Team returns to the locker room. Not much time to get the uniforms washed. We leave for Dublin early next morning to play Shamrock Rovers FC! Mr. Skiba, Mrs. Szmyt and Mrs. Berube offer to take uniforms to campus Laundromat to wash them.

Many folks head to the Stables Club after the match. Irish and American Coaches have a “coaches” meeting to discuss football tactics and sort out world affairs! My wife Kathryn and I return to our room. It’s been a long day.

10:00 p.m. Team members are in a great mood! First international match for any team from a Chicopee High School and along with it the first Victory! It’s still light outside! (gets dark late over here) Players shower and have time to relax. Begin to think that I should have given them that curfew! They are a bit rambunctious. Just keep telling myself “I trust them, I trust them.” 

10:30 Take a walk to the little pizza shop next to the dorm room, which has Wi-Fi. Then from behind, I hear “Coach we have a problem!” Oh boy, now what I wonder? The laundry machines won’t work! Mrs. Szmyt and Mrs. Berube are frantically trying to resolve the situation. No lights in the room; they use a cell phone light! The machines eat our 25 euros. (Mr. Skiba is able to recoup this loss later in the week.) Now what do we do? We have 24 sets of dirty uniforms with little time left to wash them! I quickly run back up to the “coaches meeting” at the Stables Club to see if I could catch Mike C. before he left the University. Luckily he is still there. He offers to take the uniforms to his house to wash and dry them for us. He says he’ll have them ready in the morning!

2:00 a.m. – Most of the boys are still awake and having a grand ole time! Have to turn a fan on to help drown out the noise! (the loud German and Italian students don’t help things) Long day tomorrow; need sleep.

Day Three:

Dublin and the Shamrock Rovers F.C.!

This is the day the entire trip revolves around. So very, very excited!!

Shamrock

Team at Tallaght Stadium!

6:00 a.m. Walk over to Student Center for 30 minutes to use Wi-Fi and do some updates.

 7:00 a.m. Begin the rounds to the second, third and fourth floor for wake up call. Today is going to be more difficult to get everyone going! I like a challenge!

7:15 a.m. – round two of wake up calls. Notice guys in the third floor suite are all sleeping in the town house hallway? What is this?  It’s because the hallway had the strongest Wi-Fi single! Oh my!

7:30 a.m. Final Wake Up call!  I head up to breakfast.

 8:00 a.m. Breakfast at the Stables

8:30 a.m. Team is set to depart for Dublin. Mike has the uniforms ready; we distribute.

Many of the players were up quite late last night. The reason? Wi-Fi usage! They are tired! Oh, well! Too bad boys! Kyle brings a pillow with him on the bus!

9:00 a.m. A quick stop to pick up the packed lunches and we’re off to Legendary Dublin for our encounter with the Shamrock Rovers F.C.! Mike C. follows in his car. He’s staying over in Dublin for a couple of days.

10:00 a.m. All the boys are sleeping in the back of the bus as we make our way to Dublin. I decide to give them a bit of their own medicine by stomping up and down the aisle mimicking the same thing they did all night in the dorm rooms! My antics woke ’em all up! They weren’t very happy with me (snicker, snicker)! Point made! That was actually a lot of fun! Consider doing it again, but no, we have a big match coming up- let ’em sleep!

Team arrives at Tallaghat Stadium

Team arrives at Tallaghat Stadium

11:00 a.m. – We arrive in Dublin at Tallaghat Stadium, home of the Shamrock Rovers F.C., nearly an hour behind schedule. Club officials Mr. Robert Goggins and Mr. Fergus Desmond are waiting to greet us. Team departs bus and has time to visit team store to stock up on Shamrock Rovers gear and souvenirs. Think the Shamrock Rovers players may be able to get a pay raise after the sum of money our group spends in the store! Several players take photos in the trophy room. Mr. Goggins and Mr. Desmond are great hosts! Original plan was to head out to the stadium for a walk-around tour after we visited the store, but that’ll have to wait. We have a game to play and we’re behind schedule! We board the bus and head over to the field. About a 10 minute drive.

 12:00 p.m.– Match is set to begin at 12:30 – we’re running late! I don’t like to be late! Team arrives, changes in changing room and heads out to the pitch. Team has a five-minute warm-up. Shamrock Rovers lost a player the week prior to our arrival so before kick-off, a minute of silence was observed in his remembrance.

Pre-Match Moment of Silence

Pre-Match Moment of Silence

Cody takes the Coin Toss

Cody takes the Coin Toss

Tim Saves a P.K.!

Tim Saves a P.K.!

Mike D scores the equalizer!

Mike D scores the equalizer!

Shamrock Rovers Schoolboys and Chicopee Soccer!

Shamrock Rovers Schoolboys and Chicopee Soccer!

1:00 p.m. – Match kicks–off. Shamrock Rovers Schoolboys control the match in terms of possession. They are pretty technical. This could get ugly! Guys look tired (wonder why!) Kory saves a ball off the line with a last minute header. It was a sure goal. Ten minutes prior to the half time break, Shamrock Rovers earn a penalty. Tim makes the initial save, but they score on the rebound. 1-0 to Shamrock Rovers at the half. Darn it! Much of the same for the second half. Shamrock Rovers have most of the possession but don’t pressure goal much. Things aren’t looking good until Mike D. scores the tying goal! Sweet! Chicopee 1 Shamrock Rovers 1! What a result! The guys didn’t quit and gutted it out! Outstanding! Proud of them!

Shopping in the Shamrock Rovers F.C. store!

Shopping in the Shamrock Rovers F.C. store!

R_Goggins

Mr. Goggins signs copies of his book.

Chicopee listed in Shamrock Rovers F.C. history book!

Chicopee listed in Shamrock Rovers F.C. history book!

Mr. Goggins and Mr. Ferguson present a crystal plaque commemorating our visit!

Mr. Goggins and Mr. Desmond present a crystal plaque commemorating our visit!

2:30 p.m. Team heads back to Tallaghat Stadium. Mr. Goggins and Mr. Desmond accompany us out to the stadium field! What a fantastic grounds! (Of note: Cristiano Ronaldo and Benzima both made their international debuts for Real Madrid playing against the Shamrock Rovers in this very stadium!  The boys sit on the visitor’s bench hoping some of that magic will rub off on them! – Click here to see Cristiano make his debut at Tallaght Stadium!) Mr. Goggins honors the team with autographed copies of his book A Chronological History of Shamrock Rovers F.C.  Each player receives a copy! One of the boys notices that a picture from the 1961 Shamrock Rovers visit to Szot Park is included on page 93. Mr. Desmond also gives each member of the team a copy of the last match day program. The Chicopee Soccer visit to Ireland is mentioned in it! Mr. Goggins and Mr. Desmond then commemorate the occasion of our visit and present the team with a beautiful crystal plaque. This will go in the school trophy case for sure! We present Mr. Desmond with a Chicopee Soccer banner. He proceeds to place it in the Shamrock Rovers F.C. trophy case! Wow! He loves the colors “It’ll stand out”! I cannot express how happy I am with they way this day has unfolded. Difficult to express how much I appreciate the kindness shown by the entire Shamrock Rovers organization!  This was such a special moment for me, our team, and for Chicopee Soccer! It. Was. Perfect!

Dublin!

Dublin!

4:00 p.m. Off to Dublin!  Time to shop! Dublin is a massive city. A bit concerned about the guys going off on their own. Instructions are issued. Can’t do any thing else but trust them. Experiencing what Ireland has to offer is what this trip is all about! Enjoy the city boys!

7:00 p.m. All present and accounted for. Bus departs Dublin for the return trip to Limerick.  Once again the boys sleep on the bus.  Encourage them to try to stay awake! It would be nice for them to sleep when normal people sleep; at night!

9:00 p.m. arrive back at the University of Limerick. Have a word with the team after departing the bus. I initiate a 12:00 p.m. curfew. They had three nights to have their fun! Time to bring things back down a bit! Dinner is waiting for us – food services delivered meals to each room so we could eat when we returned! How nice! Sunday is going to be another long (but exciting) day!

 

Day Four:

Blarney Castle and Cork City

There were a couple of time gaps in our original itinerary so I decided to supplement our activities by booking a trip to the Blarney Castle and then to Cork City.  Busy boys are happy boys as far as I’m concerned. After all, we didn’t come all this way to look at dorm room walls and with the cost of this trip for our group of 41 people (generating an economic stimulus of more than $100,000.00 and probably much closer to 125K) I’m determined to make sure we get our money’s worth! In addition to our day trip to Blarney and Cork, we booked a River Cruise as well as a full day in Killarney! We have one shot while in Ireland and we’re going to make the best of it!

6:00 a.m. Walk over to Student Center to use Wi-fi to check email.

7:00 a.m. Same ‘ole routine! Make rounds to the second, third and fourth floor for wake up call.Two players are locked out of their room this morning. I try to find a security guard. Tim has a key made for them.

7:15 a.m. – Round two of wake up calls. Just LOVE ringing that bell nine or ten times every morning knowing they hate it so much! Sweet Retribution!

7:30 a.m. – Final Wake Up call!  We walk to breakfast.

8:30 a.m. – Motor Coach Arrives at the U.L. to pick us up. We are missing one player? Are you kidding me? Send several players from his townhouse apartment to see where he is. “He’s a heavy sleeper” is what I hear from his teammates. Twenty minutes later the tardy player arrives slightly embarrassed that he ‘slept through his alarm’ (not to mention my three wake up calls!) Sorry bud, you missed breakfast – get on the bus! He didn’t let that happen again! Mike C. doesn’t travel with us today.

Bad News from our Motor Coach driver! Cork City is host to the Hurling Championships today. It’s biggest game of the year! Dick, our driver said we wouldn’t be able to get into the city; we’d have to make alternate plans. I was very disappointed. It was for the best however. Cork would have been filled with 40,000 plus people, and it could have been slightly dangerous for the guys walking around anyway with those rowdy fans.  Dick suggests we go to Blarney Castle as planned, then back up to the town of Adare. If there was time after Adare we could go into Limerick City. We all agree!

More Bad News! Another possible problem for today is that it’s also the set-up day for the “Travelers” annual fair and horse sale in a little town that we’d need to drive through on our way to Blarney Castle. Dick is concerned that some of the town roads may be blocked off to through traffic to accommodate the influx of “Travelers” and their horses. If so, we’d have to take a lengthy detour, which would cut into our time even more. Let’s see what happens! Never a dull moment!

Good News! Coach Masse and his girlfriend Shelley were engaged to be married last night! Everyone applauds the announcement! What a wonderful moment for Ben, Shelley and our entire group! #IrelandMagic!

 9:00 a.m. We pick up our packed lunches then depart (a bit behind schedule) to kiss the Blarney Stone!

We drive through the town in which the “Travelers” are using for their Annual Horse sale. Lucky we’re going through early in the morning and the roads are still open. Tents on both sides of the narrow road set up with various articles for sale. We keep going!

The Irish country side is as beautiful as advertised! Shades of green rolling hills! It’s hard to imagine Ireland has a population of only 5 million people (Massachusetts has 6.6 million!). Weather today is magnificent!

Team at Blarney Castle!

Team at Blarney Castle!

11:00 a.m. Team arrives at the Blarney Castle. I hurry ahead to beat the crowds to purchase group admission tickets for the team. After waiting, and waiting, I become concerned. Where is everyone? The path to the Blarney Castle from the motor coach was twisting and could be somewhat confusing so I returned to the area of our bus and see our group of players emerging from the Blarney Woolen Mills Gift Store! The team had been cut off from the rest of the group by a line of entering motor coaches. By the time the busses had all passed our guys didn’t know which way to go. So they went into the store thinking we were in there! Luckily Mr. Skiba was with them! I handed out the admission tickets and we entered the Blarney Castle grounds.  We took a team photo in front of the castle, and then upon performing a player count before we proceeded to the Castle we noticed two of them were missing! Crisis! Are you kidding me?? I ran back to the Woolen Mills Gift Store and found the two missing players shopping! We reunited with the team and found our way to the long line waiting to enter the castle.

Walking through the Blarney Castle!

Walking through the Blarney Castle!

On top of Blarney Castle!

On top of Blarney Castle!

Waiting to Kiss the Blarney Stone!

Waiting to Kiss the Blarney Stone!

Eloquent Speech Awaits!

Eloquent Speech Awaits!

The team entered the Blarney Castle and weaved our way up to the top! The views of the country side were magnificent! The weather was clear and sunny! Everyone who ventured to the top kissed the famous Blarney Stone and we headed back down! The long line to get to top of the castle, combined with the missing players, meant we were slightly behind schedule. Original plan had us meeting at 12:15 to leave for Adare. Plans changed, and we moved the meeting time to 1:15. All were on board for 1:30 departure. Packed lunches were distributed and we headed to our next destination, the picturesque town of Adare.

On the way to Adare we had to drive through the “Travelers” horse fair again. Many more people were in the town now and their horses and buggies were everywhere. It took a bit longer for the massive motor coach to navigate through the small town road packed with people. Dick does a great job and gets us through!

Driving through the "Travelers" horse auction

Driving through the “Travelers” horse auction

Picturesque town of Adare, Ireland!

Picturesque town of Adare, Ireland!

If Tim asks me one more time “how long the bus ride is” I’m jumping off the bus! 

2:30 p.m. We arrive in Adare. A very small town. We have to be back at the bus for 5:00 p.m. It’s nice to not have to rush for once! Some went to a pub to watch the Hurling Championship match being played in Cork. Others did a bit of shopping! The guys were on their own to explore the town. Everyone was back to the bus on time and we were on our way! Interesting chant breaks out “No one let Tim take a shower”. A bit odd, but ok, at least they’re having fun!

6:00 p.m. Dinner at Paddocks: David says some nice words as the team presented Coach Blain and Coach Bobala with gifts for coaching them during the week’s games. Very nice! The team and parents then presented me with an exquisite Waterford crystal clock and an Irish woolen blanket! Completely unnecessary, but very much appreciated! Jason says a few nice words and I have to fight back the tears as I think how truly lucky I am to be able to share this experience with them! This week is going perfectly! Two more days to go!

Contact the charter bus company to make sure everything is all set for Killarney; it is!

6:30 p.m. Team heads over to the futsal field for a pick-up game.  They had a great time playing in front of a group of international spectators! Intense! World Cup match starts at 8:00 p.m. – Where is the team? Went to find them they’re still playing soccer! Team joins us at half-time in the Stables Club to watch the second half of the game with the rest of the group. Tried to start a couple of chants and songs. (Rumbleseat USA supporters definitely kicked butt in comparison!)

 10:00 p.m. Players head back to the dorms to shower and change. Tomorrow they can sleep in! Breakfast is at 9:00 a.m.

 

Day Five:

Hurling and River Cruise!

No morning wake up calls today boys! You’re on your own-enjoy your sleep! I head into Limerick for an early breakfast.  Gave me a chance to recon the transportation route into the city. Might take guys there later today if they’re interested. Many players sleep through breakfast. Return to campus to participate in the GAA Hurling Clinic with the team. Offer to bring anyone into Limerick after the Clinic if they want to go. The bus ride costs 1.90 euros and takes about 15 minutes to get into the city center. Pretty easy process. Majority of players sleep through breakfast.

11:00 a.m. Team meets to attend the GAA Hurling Clinic in the University Sports Arena. Coach Deidre helps the guys understand the rules and how important this sport is to the Irish. We watch a short video and ask some questions.

Hurling Clinic

Hurling Clinic

Hurling Instructions

Hurling Instructions

11:45 a.m. Team heads out to the field to have a go at Hurling! Almost two hours! What a fun sport! Arthur tears it up!

1:30 p.m.:  Lunch in the University Sports Arena. Time is short; a couple of players are nursing injuries so we decide to cancel the afternoon training session in favor of some free time to visit Limerick or for guys to just chill. Their choice!

2:15 p.m. Several players meet at the bus stop for the trip into Limerick City. Others stay on campus. We have a group discount at the local sporting goods store so players purchase Hurling sticks, Rugby balls, and team jerseys. Ruben asks if they sell “basketballs”! What??? Later I find out the question was part of the “odds are” game the guys have been playing. Uggh! The hour and a half we had in Limerick City is more than enough time for the guys in this rather small city. Not sure what the guys would do for an entire day here. Things worked out great! Everyone is on time to take the 4:15 bus back to Campus to make our dinner time.

I almost get hit by a car for the fourth time! Have to remember to look to the right when crossing the street! They drive on the other side of the road in Ireland! Yikes!

5:00 p.m. Early Dinner at Paddocks.

river

On board the Spirit of Killaloe

Beautiful day for a cruise!

Beautiful day for a cruise!

 

5:45 p.m. Group departs University of Limerick for Killaloe, Ireland and our River Cruise! Jim the Captain offers the group a 1.5 hour river cruise aboard the Spirit of Killaloe on the Lough Derg and Shannon River! (normally it’s a one hour cruise) All 41 participate. The weather is glorious compared to our previous days in Ireland! How lucky are we! This is a great chance to see some outstanding vistas of the Irish country side from a very unique perspective!

8:45 p.m. Group returns to U.L. from the River Cruise. Players have already booked the futsal court in the athletic complex and play soccer until 11:45 p.m.!  Awesome!

12:00 p.m. curfew still in effect for tonight. I have no concerns about the guys, they’ve been fantastic all week! Very happy with the way they’ve handled themselves on all aspects of this trip so far! Time to get some much-needed sleep! We’ll have another long (and exciting) day tomorrow.

 

Day 6:

Killarney, Ireland.

We arraigned this trip just two days earlier! Joe Lawlor of Lawlor Coach lines was a fantastic help, not sure we could have set up the last three days worth of activities with out his services! I was also very thankful that David Ward and the staff at the University of Limerick were able to accommodate our schedule changes. They let us eat breakfast early and provided a packed lunch on only a couple of hours notice!

Same old morning (but fun) routine! Three wake up calls to each room! Let’s Move It!! Time is wasting!

7:45 a.m. Breakfast at the Stables Club (normally open at 8:00 a.m.!)

8:15 a.m. Bus Departs for Killarney, Ireland. The driver, Dick has already picked up our packed lunches saving us some valuable time! Thank you! We have a two hour drive through the beautiful Irish Countryside! All the boys sleep through it, such a shame!

Sleeping on the bus again!

Sleeping on the bus again!

Horse Carriage Ride

Horse Carriage Ride

Water fall on the grounds of Mucrass House in Killarny, Ireland

Water fall on the grounds of Mucrass House in Killarny, Ireland

11:15 a.m. Arrival at Mucrass House in Killarney; it’s Ireland’s first National Park with more than 11,000 acres! Several players take a horse and buggy ride to the waterfall.  Team meets at 1:15, has lunch and departs for the main town of Killarney.

Wonderful Killarney!

Wonderful Killarney!

1:30 p.m. Drop off in Killarney center. Two and half hours to explore and shop! Massive shopping district! Lovely! Could easily spend 1-2 days here! Just hoping all of the guys find their way back to the bus ok! So glad we added this to our itinerary! All players are present and accounted for and we depart Killarney for the U.L.! Ask the guys to begin packing and cleaning rooms. (many are concerned they purchased too many gifts and will surpass the luggage weight limit)

5:00 p.m. Dinner at Paddocks!

5:30 p.m. Depart U.L. for last match away to Corbally AFC!

6:30 p.m.  Corbally Match Kick off!  Team quickly goes down 0-3! Oh my! Jacob gets cracked in the nose. Ice and compression! Team rallys to win the match 7-6! Members of Corbally AFC and Chicopee both score great goals in this game! Rupacz scores three times, Mike had two, Brendan and Kory hit one each! What a comeback! Corbally AFC players receive a commemorative pin and our remaining Under Armour Soccer balls as well as Under Armour Air Pumps. Corbally AFC players are very happy; so are we!

Corbally AFC Welcomes Us!

Corbally AFC Welcomes Us!

Corbally AFC hosted the team after the match to a cookout in their clubhouse! It was fantastic! At first the team members stayed separated, but after we belted out a Chicopee salute and a loud cheer to them this all loosened up! Looking around I thought; this is what It’s all about! Players began to mingle and chat and then it was time to leave to go back to the U.L. Bus ride back to campus is lively! Team is in great spirits and sing and chant as we make our way back to the University.

Corbally

 

Corbally AFC Reception

Corbally AFC Reception

Chicopee-Corbally old fashioned group chat!

Chicopee-Corbally players participate in an old fashioned group chat!

Have to remember to talk to the seniors to thank them for a great week tomorrow. They have been outstanding! Appreciate the way the entire team behaved and represented Chicopee Soccer. Very proud of everyone this week, couldn’t have asked for any more from them! Truly a dream realized!

 

We go home tomorrow!

 

Received a note from David Ward upon our return: 

“It was great having you over with the Chicopee group. I’m delighted to hear that you all enjoyed the trip. The teams behaviour and attitude towards a new adventure in Ireland was nothing but exceptional and they are a credit to you and your staff.”

 

A few of the highlights of our visit to Ireland!

  • Training in Ireland by Irish FAI Coaches
  • Trip to the Cliffs of Moher
  • Trip to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park 
  • Match vs Irish Side Gerladines AFC
  • Trip to Shamrock Rovers Tallaght Park
  • Shop in the Shamrock Rovers store and snap photos in trophy room
  • Play a Shamrock Rovers Youth team
  • Tour the Tallaght Stadium
  • Receive Signed book by the Author on the history of the club!
  • Sit on the same bench Cristiano-Ronaldo and Benzema sat on!
  • Visit historic city of Dublin
  • Participate in a two-hour Hurling Clinic
  • Travel to Limerick City to shop
  • Travel to Blarney Castle to Kiss the Blarney Stone
  • Travel to visit town of Adare
  • Take a Cruise on the Shannon River
  • Travel to Historic Mucrass House in Killarney
  • Visit the city of Killarney
  • Play a match against Corbally AFC
  • Attend an after match reception by Corbally AFC and make great friends!

All of this in one week!

What a fabulous experience!

I am so very very lucky!!

 

Shamrock Rovers F.C. Facebook page with photo’s from our visit (click here)

Shamrock Rovers F.C. Website with a story from our visit (click here)

 

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