Ireland, Turkey · 19 Days · 56 Moments · June 2017

Eamon's journi to Turkey

8 July 2017

Morning after the night before and there's one or two woolly heads. Terry Cassin showed off that he's a polyglot by singing several Turkish hits for Janner and his bemused Turkish mate who could not make head nor tails of Terry's Musti Custi - dervish twirling, belly dancing act - that had us cracking up. There's a wet rag present - ironically wearing a green top - but he's Spanish and he makes a complaint that we are making too much noise. No one else has complained but this little toe-bag is clearly a sore loser and wants to spoil our fun buy getting us to shut up. El Tel Terr is having none of it and switches to Ballymun Spanish and tells the greasy olive to go fuck himself by jumping off the nearest tall building or else he'll get a Doc Martyn up his hole.. or some other mild diplomatic encouragement to leave us alone so we can party on! He eventually slinks off with the burden of defeat weighing heavily on his poor soul! A sad day in his life no doubt. Cheers to that we say
Poor old Mario is inconsolable and cannot force himself out of his room to congratulate the Irish. He is not seen again as he realises that A - you don't fuck with the Russians and more importantly - YOU'LL NEVER BEAT THE IRISH. There's a great night on the terrace with all the team in attendance and, in fairness, some of the Spanish are gracious enough, to see 'Good Job Ireland' which is only right and proper. The players observe their tee-total abstinence but the vino and beer flow elsewhere and the teams mix freely, the Russians and Ukrainians - are you watching Vladimir Putin - have a photo taken together and no one is killed. There's lots of messages of congratulations from back home..JD rings GD and the FAI supremo passes on his best wishes to players and staff. Everyone is heading for home tomorrow - with the exception of the finalists - and that includes poor Mario - never to be seen again! Would bring tears to a Spanish onion that!
There's another story playing out at the South Russia and Castilla y Leon game where the Iberian Ponys cruise into the two nil lead like the stallions they are. Cocky, arrogant or a complete ass - see all the equine references - they then go and make a complete mare of it - there's another - Castilla Y Leon Generalissimo Mario Sanchez makes a fatal error...and it's vanity really. He thinks his side and he is better... truth is he is no Super Mario at all ..and a couple of subs of his superstars - to rest them in advance of the upcoming final - and suddenly the down and nearly out Russian bear decides to bear it's ugly claws. Pow! Pow! ...just like in the comics and it's 2-2. There's a red it for Spain or is it for Russia...who gives a fuck as our glorious spy friends add a third and we're heading into the final...HAPPY DAYS. Brilliant buzz...lots of hugs ...a few kisses ..ask Hayes and Kelly ...and then the video in the dressing room and the place simply rocks.
No posts for three days? What the hell has happened you might ask and the answer is lots! First of all there's the little matter of qualifying for the Regions Cup final absolutely magnificent achievement from players and staff. It's a very strong collective and everyone has bought into the drill. After the draw with a really decent Castilla Y Leon side, it was down to the final shootout with Olomouc Region of the Czech Republic and the chance of qualifying for the final. Atmosphere in the camp is good but the Spanish think they are top dogs and strut around in their Pony gear thinking it's a piece of paella... and once they turn up, it'll be hasta la vista Irelanda. Think again my Spanish onions, NEVER write off the Irish and so it proves with Kelly Hayes (2) and Carr delivering the goods in a brilliant display of attacking football from the rampant Irish.

5 July 2017

I'm off looking for Brendan O'Connell to do an interview and a gentle knock gets no reply..and the silence from within is a 'Fuck Off Scotty, we're sleeping' type of answer, so I hear a few voices and Pierce Foley, the hardest working Irish physio in Istanbul has a queue of clients..but while Hoggie is teeming with acupuncture needles and the sound of electricity buzzing through the interconnected wires...there's honorary Irishman Janner and new cap Doody getting first class professional treatment from the hardest working Irish physio in Istanbul. Janner has done his calf and has a cold pack while Doody is close to falling asleep but has some thing a majig that requires soft hands and a back rub......will they be ready for the next big encounter? Expect an FAI release just before the Six One News. Tony O'Donoghue is in transit from Dublin to report live on this developing story......tune in for later bulletins.
WEDNESDAY - and it's a massive day for soccer - well for the technical staff - not the players as the Turkish FA Select take on a Combined UEFA National Team Select - or CUNTS for short.......but it turns out to be an entertaining encounter with FAI on tour doing themselves proud. Leading the charge is 'skipper'. Terry 'Messi' Cassin who goes through his player initiation by doing a version of ASLAN's Crazy World as he makes himself comfortable down in 'player central' at the back of the bus. Head coach Gerry Davis is joined by Chris 'Missing His Missus' McDonnell, Paul 'Techno Rapper' Doody and Robbie 'Golden Gloves' Fay. Pre-match discussions is how long Terry will last but the roll-on crawl off substition arrangement suits El Tel to a tee and in fairness his cameo displays - first as a libero defender and then as a striker in the hole has positive returns - no goals conceded and then he goes up front and drills one home across the despairing dive of the awful Turkish keeper.
So we're back to the hotel and Chris McDonnell and Paul Doody go through their player initiation ritual of singing a song...we do have the video footage....but Doods has issues with being filmed and we soon discover why ...and we're honouring him by refusing to let anyone look at it. (Lucky escape!!) I spend 40 minutes doing up and album and miss lunch...but discover that a couple of egos have taking a hammering because Herald Striker forget to mention them in the 'first take' so I can go down and get lunch before they clear all the food away sort of way. I barely make it but then have a diplomatic ticking off from Chris that Robbie and Roberto del Fay were a little miffed that there was no mention of them in the report ..and by the way Chris isn't mentioned either off I go to fix the dented egos and throw up a couple of flattering pics of them making a great contribution to this stellar international success.
The goals flow and Davis, McDonnell, Doody and Cassin all find the net while Robbie Fay blocks out all attempts on his goal in a display that the likes of Pepe Reina, Brad Friedel, Steve Ogrizovic, Willy Caballero and Fabian Barthez would be proud of!! Back to El Tel and his scoopy up style of play and his goal celebration which was significantly enhanced by pulling his jersey over his head while still wearing bifocals and then having the Gaffer come from behind and jump on your back - all while you are blindsided by the white of your adidas kit. Terry is sure to have image rights issues as the Toplion terrier is clearly wearing adidas gear and is definitely enjoying it. Could this have been his great downfall....a full time career might have gone down the pan simply because he was wearing the wrong brand. Has the making of a mini-series that one. Son from the 'Mun who could have been someone!
Robbie decides to change into his alter ego and becomes Roberto del Fayo and skits around the park picking passes and supporting the play ...and the hope is that he'll score a goal or two but it just won't come. Meanwhile Gerry Davis has decided to don the gloves and take on Dennis Cruise..sorry scrap that....he goes in goal and is managing to keep a clean sheet until he decides to have a tactical chat with del Fayo only to see himself chipped from the halfway line. Ouch - wasn't in the coaching manual that one. The game ends in a comprehensive win and the Turkish FA team clearly have followed orders to make their visitors look like world superstars so they will go home ranting and raving about how good international football is as they look forward to their caps presentation at some five star restaurant back in Dublin.

4 July 2017

After lunch it's off to the Grand Bazaar .... or to give it its proper name - Mahmutpasa Kapisi and we go in the main gate after working our way up though a jungle of shops and stalls ....selling an incredible array of goods, clothes, spices, kebab shops...fruit, name it and it's here and most of the 15 million inhabitants of the city seem to be here. The bazaar opened in 1461 - we're a little late getting here but Janner the Turkish liaison officer and Dennis Cruise know the routine and we're given a couple of hours to browse and haggle with the merchants. There's an amazing array of products, smells of spices and new sights at every corner you turn. I take a few photos and a little bit of video but you simply cannot do the place justice. You've heard about the Grand Bazaar but until you see it, you cannot comprehend just how vast and what an absolute variety of products from the mysterious east. We meet people from Khazakstan and Mongolia.
THere's a bit of R&R later today - but not before a light blow out and some pool recovery out at the Turkish Football Federation. We also have time to say goodbye to Jim and Stephen Morley who are heading back to Dublin. The session is lighthearted and there's a good buzz in the air.. Terry Cassin takes on Gerry Davis is a game of foot tennis....and straight away it gets competitive...wind and not Terry's normal hot wind proves to be a problem ..there is also cloud cover today and you wonder where the fucking sun has gone that has been torturing us for the past few days. Terry gets an early head start but Gerry reels him in and even though they switch ends - to level out wind advantage - but Gerry gets the nod and jumps into Noel Fitzroy's arms....and lingered just a second or two too long. A tender moment for all in attendance. The UEFA film crew are also on board and the squad are getting some decent attention..and why not, they've been brilliant on and off the park to date.
The opportunity of a dip in the Turkish Football Federation and there's a bit of an initiation ceremony where you have to enter the 'cold' pool...which is actually fucking freezing. Shane Daly Butz must have veins full of anti-freeze as he penguins off to dunk himself time after time and emerges from his submersion with a big grin on his face while everyone else emerges with a pained expression and a desire to get the hell out of the near icy water. It does have beneficial properties apparently and the squad are all on the same page and embrace the routine without question. The attraction of the main pool however is a most welcome bonus and relaxing and simply so bloody relieving when you struggle in the heat of the day. Small privileges that will be memorable when you look back on the trip.

3 July 2017 HERE YOU GO SHANE....GIVING IT SOCKS WITH DAVE STACK ON SOUND!!! Copy the link and paste in your browser.... for a Dave Stack boy band try out............with a little help from, Smith, O'CONNELL K AND Collins.......

2 July 2017

Tomorrow's Herald Striker....... (Please do not post on social media for at least 24 hours...VIP)
Sunday is also a work day for me so after a coffee with the gaffer it's time to lock my self in my room and tether to the Indo via the World Wide Web...that's a first ; Herald Striker being produced in Istanbul.I put on the old 'Do Not Disturb' sign and get stuck in to the 16 page pull-out ..make sure to tell everyone back home to buy the Herald....I need to keep a roof over my head! Anyway, the production logistics is that Barry (Massey) works back in Dublin and John (McMahon) assists in Belfast and we stay in contact through text and phone calls. I'd love to give the Regions Cup more space but I'm limited because the GAA is kicking off big time ..but there's a spread with a good pic of Eoin and Dave Stack makes page 1..... all possible though a little laptop up here on the 7th floor of the Limak Eurasia. Wonderful stuff is technology.... Mr Stack might feature on the blog with his rite of passage 'boy band' impersonation down the back of the bus yesterday. It's being worked on!
Sunday is an early start. Didn't get home until 3.15am and we up for 8.30pm to go over to take a pic of Gerry presenting Jim Morley with his official jersey. We're been to an Irish bar but it took us 25 minutes in the taxi at an average speed of about 70 miles per hour and you had to ask the question was there not a decent bar anywhere between the hotel and where we landed back in Istanbul. Remarkably the answer is no ....and that's something that would never happen in Dublin...nearest boozer over 20 miles away. These Turks need a lot more Irish influence and that's what we decided to do and hit the Belfast Bar where the best sight to behold was actual draught pumps and wrapping your hands around a cool pint. Forget about all the amazing looking women...the Irish DNA kicks in as you sink the old Amber Nectar with a couple of well measured quaffs! Lovely, fucking lovely ..and Terry has met Phyllis and Celine and he's straight into chat up mode.
WE're up and running....and as clean sheet to boot. Great start from Munster Connacht thanks to Eoin Hayes 26th minute goal...but also a huge defensive operation on the part of the team and subs who came in. Spain will be super tough but we have every reason to feel confident and there is every reason to be positive about the outcome of the game against Castilla Y Leon. Poor old Jim Morley wasn't able to attend in case things got too exciting but in actual fact the real excitement came later. Be warned Istanbul taxi drivers are a breed apart...they are also fucking lunatics...driving at 80 miles and hour across five lanes of traffic while steering with their knees and texting as they go. I kid you not and I thought at one stage I was going to end up in a bed beside Jim Morley. Thought all of this the young taxi kamakazi pilot had this grin from ear to ear as he raced two colleagues to see who could get to Istanbul's Temple Bar equivalent first!

1 July 2017

So there's a dress code 'faux pas' from Hughie O'Donovan and Hoey calls him out and tells him to carry my Pelli Case out to the bus as a penalty. Now truth is that if Hughie asked me for a jockey-back to the bus and he was carrying a flight case on his back, I'd probably oblige..and I'd still be lugging my own photo gear. But Hoey's Skip...he's Top Dog and I'm a little embarrassed as Hughie takes off with my 30 grands worth of equipment with me close behind. Hughie proves to be a great 20 second man-servant and the idea of having a bat-man of sorts for a slightly longer period begins to have a degree of appeal. Hughie is a master of the simple game. Take it in , let it out and max what you do with the ball. He who is bottom Of the 'diamond' will dictate how bright it sparkles. HOD is the man just to do that and his input will be vital as the metronome of all that is good about Ireland's play at these finals. He who carries the water carries the team..Hughie O'Donovan!!!
It's 3am in the morning and I've been working... my wife thinks I'm on holidays, my boss thinks I'm on holidays and the guy at the bar tonight thinks I'm on holidays..and it was difficult to say no to that last G&T. So here's my 'gift' to you...and it's a simple enough statement for you guys to realise that your country asks you to do a favour today and that is simply to stand up and be counted. I saw a guy from Coolock in Dublin take on Russia without a second's thought when he challenged the Ruski spy-bollix. I saw him backed up by a guy from Ballymun. So here's the strange thing...Ballymun and Coolock never see eye to here's these Dubs sticking up for ye Munster and Connacht guys just to make sure the biggest, baddest nation on the planet did'nt put one over on Munster and Connacht...because Dublin really cares about the provinces!. Great to see everyone in Green under the one flag! Go to Fucking war boys! PC: the Herald has a great 'spy' exclusive today
I'd really like to play today....but that's not going to's the player in me thinking I can have an influence once I cross the white line....but I'm knocking on 60 and my best days are 35 years behind me. I'd settle for a spot on the substitutes bench but a little voice in my head tells me I don't even qualify because I live in Dublin. Now there's a stat which could really fuck me up alright! Stick to the spy novels and picture taking or you could find yourself out of a job. I beat myself up for a laugh and decide to let the good guys have a go. Time to get real and leave it to those best suited and booted to represent their country. I've seen the birth of this team, I've seen the growth of this team, I've seen it scale heights it thought impossible and I've seen the team qualify for the finals in an honesty and style that let's me get up this morning brimming with hope.

30 June 2017

Thursday is a day I'd like to try forget. I had major issues with 3 - my phone operator. They left me high and dry with no service because I'd gone over a limit of 200 they shut me off from the job, my family, friends...really frustrating. I get onto a 'live chat' with Srinijistan in Mumbai in India or some god forsaken outpost of the sub continent.... he can't help me because he only looks after pay as you go and because I'm business I can go jump in the fucking Ganges. What a bloody set-up...but hold on Srinjistan tells me that 3 have a dedicated business team who will be only too happy to help 12 hours time after they've had their fucking beauty sleep. What a load of cock and bull to put it mildly and I've made a mental note to end my contract at the earliest convenience and get as far away from 3 as possible. Rant over!!!
Today is Friday and there's an early start with a 10am training session and all is going well until a Russian spy is spotted lurking among the leilandi and the session is stopped straight away. Davis was going over his set-piece list when the soviet shithead was spotted and the coach makes b-line for the low life weasel. The boss asks where he was from and when he says Russia, Davis tore into the spy with a dollop of industrial language which roughly translated into 'get the fuck out of here' you low life cunt. Serious stuff though that South Russia have disrespected their opponents and the game itself by a little bit of espionage on their opponents. Davis points in the direction of the exit and assistant kit executive Terence Cassin then adds in his bit of 'Mun encouragement to also get the fuck out of town. Terry's command of the language is good and he fires little bullets of caustic wit as quick as a Kalashnikov ..and our Russian renegade slinks off with his tail up his arse

29 June 2017

Thursday, from a footballing point of view was very noteworthy and that's down to Mssrs Horgan and O'Connell - Legal Eagle O'Connell and not flame haired O'Connell of Mayfield fame. It started during the training game in the later session with Hoggie's on-field remark to Bren that there was not enough vocal communication on the pitch. Queue water break and O'Connell's call to arms. The Cork notary launched into the collective with a bollocking that Roy would have been proud of..mentioning that European finals don't come along too often in your playing career and people needed to step up the plate and take responsibility and push themselves forward. You can't expect to get to within touching distance of the summit and expect to get away without opening your gobs. 'Hoggie's right' boomed Brendan as he flexed his courtroom skills clearing his throat and launching into a dressing down of those 'hiding' falling short of info nuggets to make the communicating reach the required levels.
The only crumb of comfort is that Doc Slattery also retired Chalky Walsh three weeks ago I can now go round telling people that it was the same injury that ended my career as Chalky. Birds of a feather...... Gerry Davis asks me to check the temperature on my phone and is clearly unaware of my career ending injury so we just carry on and determine that we are in the high 20s and it's getting hotter. The attention to detail kicks in again and Davis is ensuring that everyone in the squad is on the same page as he runs over a plethora of game scenarios. The players listen intently, you don's want to slip up anywhere along the line and he recalls how recently we were 'opened up' by Jersey off a throw in ...and you just get the feeling that a similar type goal is not going to happen here. The players go off to be weighed in and out and the maths formula then kicks in..someone has lost two kilos in weight in the session and it all needs to be replaced. Time to go to the H2O
While the players are being weighed Denise Cruise, Ray Anthony and Tadgh O'Neill along with FAI Junior Council President Noel Fitzroy indulge in a game of 'football bowls' trying to get as near to a 'jack' as you can. It's suddenly a competitive exchange and Ray is in the zone fairly quickly and picks up a couple of 'ends' I manage to nick one 'end' and soon Cruiser calls on Premier AUL C Golden Gloves man Robbie Fay to go into goal for a penalty shootout. Robbie is quick to oblige and takes position. Little did I know it was about to be a near 'final' kick as I do some type of injury just above my right knee on striking the ball. That same leg that had unlocked many a defence and picked a perfectly weighted delivery over the years is suddenly cast on the scrap heap. The confirmation comes from Doc who has a quick look and confirms a possible tear and his best advice is to retire NOW. Never though it would end like this.
The Journi app is still wrecking my head...just want to be able to post a few paragraphs and move on ..I've emailed them looking for support but there seems to be no one out there is digisupportland. I'll plough on and try get a few updates posted...but if things don't appear in chronological's the app, not me! It's hotter today and the mercury is definitely on the rise. I've had another semi uncomfortable night... I think I heard someone calling for prayer at some ungodly hour...but then again it must have been godly for someone to be up in the middle of the night. Maybe it was a dream ...but the dogs in the street are real and they seem to get more active or frisky when the sun goes down. Night owl dogs they are. We're off to Riva and the Turkish Federation HQ again and everyone is looking smart in their FAI gear. The Turkish FA are always very welcoming and the coffee is always of a serious high quality.
The little 'sample' bottles that the Doc will be able to determine hydration levels as well as a vast array of other maladies of the body, I'm sure.
So here's comes the science. The second session increases in intensity and there's a close eye of fluid loss. This requires a weigh in and out and a mathematical formula to determine how many litres of fluid needs to be replaced. So after an intense game of 10 a-aside everyone heads back in to be weighed and the loss if from .7 of a litre to 1.5 litres of fluid....all though sweating. So some people sweat more than others....and it's not just about workrate, it's physiological issue and some just sweat quicker so they need more fluid replacement and that's what is being determined with the maths and calculations. Doc is unavoidably delayed so Doody is trusted with the calculator and all the players have bottles of liquid replacement to take on board. It's not a particularly appealing exercise and while the players accept the amounts to be taken in, skipper Hoey leads the charge in describing the 'hooch' as being as close to baby formula as you can get. He's not a happy camper!
So our Saipan moment is over. We'd waited on the skips to arrive after Ramadan and the word was 3pm..and lo and behold the skips..including a bath and every other conceivable bit of soccer paraphernalia arrived in the back of a couple of vans. Relief all round while the dogs ...bastards. ....slept though the mid afternoon heat. I think I' going to buy a dogs bollocks alarm clock and set is for about 2.30pm and wake those fuckers up and get a bit of payback. It coming down the tracks, just need to find a dogs bollocks clock shop in the Grand Bazar. It's all hands on deck as the skips are wheeled though reception dodging the metal detector at the door which would have picked up a sporting arsenal of items that might be construed as weapons of sort. The bath makes its way up to the 7th floor and some wag suggests that is be left in the bathroom. Well done Sherlock on that one. Maccer and his apprentice are working OT at this stage and it's good to see them earning their crust.
Journi..this fucking app is wrecking my head...every times I try post a 'later' post, it dumps it down in the middle of older one, so the script does'nt run in a chronological way. It's beating me up and I think I'm going to fuck the ipad out the fucking window and cut the dogs in two down below...then I realise I've got to keep the wife happy with a few emails, so the dogs escape...but if they start barking in the middle of the night I'll fucking strangle them...... And when I complain, the text goes to the top of the page......fucking technology my arse!

28 June 2017

Lunch is excellent....the food in the Limak Eurasia has been top notch...even if the Doc is leading a boycott of the salad bar. Can't fault the hot stuff though and there's plenty of it. We've been graced with the presence of his Magnificence Ray Anthony from the Cork Shipping League and he's also agreed to be the squads Guv'nor and Head of Security. He's wearing a fetching trilby to go alongside his deep suntan but he's coming into boss Gerry DAvis' crosshairs. You can be an hour early, but don't be minute late or you've feel the wrath, bile and caustic Davis wit coming at you in a volley of mocking distain. Ray has a presence...a bit like my brother Sylvest... but he's proved a popular presence and he arrives just in time for the bus pullout for our second training session...this time in official FAI gear ...our Saipan moment is gone, the gear is here and there's work to be done... let's head for the hills and the Turkish Federation HQ....
Dinner is top notch once again and you can see a few more UEFA officials turning up ...we're getting closer. It's now 3am in the morning and I realise the dogs have stopped barking...or maybe someone has poisoned them...but before I hit the cot, it's worth finishing the day on a really positive note and that is the 'ceremony' to present the squad with their individual jersies with their names emblazoned on the back and the FAI crest proudly displayed up front. This is a huge honour for any player and each and every member of the squad is applauded by their squad mates. It's a rite of passage but also a clear signal that the bonds are strong and will be even stronger by the time South Russia come over the hill. It's been a good couple of days ...and for me the prospect of a few hours in bed without a dog barking in the background seems like a opportunity to go tackle a pillow!
And so we arrive at the Turkish Football Federation HQ...fully funded by the footballing body with no government assistance and it's a remarkable temple to the game of association football. Perfectly manicured pitches, a stunning building with pictures of all international players who have won over 50 caps. There's photos of former managers and a brilliant collection of trophies and gifts from other associations all perfectly laid out like you might see In a museum. The building is spotless, there are dressing rooms, saunas, doctors rooms, a laundry room, gym, pool area and upstairs accommodation for visiting players. It's all set in a neatly manicured area and the players and technical staff are rightly impressed. The pitches are brilliant, laser level and each with its own clock alongside dugouts with 20 seats each. If the players are not impressed, they are missing the point, but I don't think they are. The Regions Cup is UEFA's way of paying tribute to grassroots' finest.
There's wild dogs outside the hotel and last night there was a lengthy hooting and howling session. There's a pair of them - Barney and Beanie - and they sleep up in the shade beside the revolving door of the Limak Eurasia Hotel. It's a little bit frustrating with a somewhat sleepless night in Istanbul but the air con is working and the room is nice and cool. Simple pleasures but the dogs are a nuisance....although I don't think I'll be going too near them. We are in Asia and you never know what you are dealing with. Breakfast is varied with cereals juices...nice coffee and they also have a variation on Halloumi - a Cypriot cheese that is grilled and browned and it's delicious. There's a 10.15am departure for the Turkish FA headquarters which is about a 20 minute bus journey. There' s a nice view of the city and the waterfront but we climb up into a green valley and you can see that despite the mid 20s heat that somewhere along the line this place gets a fair bit of rain.
There's a lowkey initiation to, a bit of fun, a bit of group dependency with a lot of laughs and the banter and spirit is top class. The players are buying into the occasion but Paul Doody and Chris McDonnell are cranking up the wheels and as the session evolves so too do the demands on the players. They're all wearing grey tops and they prove to be perfect indications of the level of sweat and fluid loss that is going on in the session. Nothing is lost on the technical staff side and while this morning is a relatively easy blowout, the later session will prove to be up another notch or two. The drills have a purpose and group reliance and team co-operation are very much part of what is going on. It might have stated with trying to nick the ball off your opponent but now your opponent if your team mate and you need to bond and work together ..or your asses might be exposed to a volley of size 5 adidas balls reining on you!
ALL Daly Butz wants for Christmas!
All Daly Butz wants for Christmas.....
The FAI Regions cup squad is actually staying in Asia. Never been before, so it's a first for me to cross the Bospherus and pitch my tent this side of the waterway which separates Europe from our new home in Asia. Another thing that has also cropped up is that we've got caught up in the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan and tomorrow will tell a tale. There were problems in Saipan waiting for kit to arrive to the Pacific island base in advance of Japan and Korea in 2004 but now the FAI Regions Cup squad have discovered that the 26 skips sent out well in advance of these championships are waiting to clear Turkish customs. Many of the customs officials have been off over the past four days as the end of Ramadan is celebrated...and the hope .and prayers ..are that they have been fed and will turn up for work and the skips will clear early tomorrow and be available for Gerry Davis' first training session in Turkey....not too sure if that will be in Europe or Asia, we'll wait and see

27 June 2017

There's a team meeting after dinner and everyone in the Irish party along with our Turkish liaison officer is invited into the team meeting room. There's serious stuff ahead for the players in terms of a tactical review but Dennis Cruise, FAI Junior Council Secretary and Noel Fitzroy, President of the FAI Junior Council welcome everyone and wish the players well in their quest for European glory. You sense that Gerry Davis wants to get on with his own work and the legislators along with this Herald hack vacates the room to let the serious work commence. There's a tournament programme for everyone in the audience and a great souvenir for the players to have. It's packed full of information and it'll be a go to source over the next 10 days or so There's a little bit of work to be done before any relaxation, but we're here now and the build-up to Saturday's match with Russia can commence straight away. Bring on the Irish!
The city is sprawling and if Rome was built on seven hills, Istanbul is on 27 hills. There are buildings everywhere interspersed with the minarets of mosques leaving you in no uncertain understanding that Islam is close at hand. The Limak Eurasia hotel is base for the next couple of weeks and checking in is a smooth process and we're soon in our well appointed rooms - trying to master the air conditioning and basically orient yourself to your new surroundings. Chris Higgins knocks on the door and I am reconnected with leads, batteries, cameras and a bunch of other paraphernalia I need to work with. They are all important but already I can see problems with the baggage allowance on the return journey ...and we've only arrived. Dinner is an experience and the Doc tells me I'm the guinea pig as I sample the salad on offer. Hopefully all is well in that department, last thing you need is a dose of the runs...but I know Doc is just across the corridor if anything should come up later up
We've landed in Istanbul after a four hour flight from Dublin. Usual teething problems like overweight bags...Higgy and Brendan O'Connell bail me out. The legal eagle from Cork and Rockmount then discovers he has a duplicate boarding pass for Ken Hoey. Are there two Ken Hoey's?... that could be real trouble for the opposition but the red tape is eventually ironed out and as Archbishop Diarmuid Martin passes by we take a group shot to post on Herald Striker Facebook. Istanbul airport is a bit of a culture shock. First, someone left the oven door open and then you see a lot of burkas...lots of them in the airport concourse. We're met by a Turkish liaison office and he smoothed our passage though and out into the early evening heat. There's car horns blowing, there's movement all-round us and you're trying to take in the sights, smells and atmosphere. We're here for football but you can't help but linger a second to take in all the activity around us.

21 June 2017

So Region Cup? what is it and who is eligible? As the name suggests, the competition is broken down into geographical areas which are called 'Regions'. Under the FAI jurisdiction UEFA has determined that we should be broken down into two separate Regions. That resulted in a 'test" game which saw a Munster Connacht side defeat a Leinster Ulster select one-nil in the AUL Complex where a Dave Hoban goal was enough to swing the game the way of Region 2. That determined who would represent the FAI and under coach Gerry Davis a series of trials along with a comprehensive trawl of the best players in the "region' before settling on a squad which represented Ireland in the qualifying campaign in Gorgonzola in Italy. With a 'rookie' squad .....only Brendan O'Connell, Ken Hoey, Jimmy Carr and Chris Higgins had previous UEFA Regions Cup experience, but Gerry Davis ' young guns took to international football like a duck to water and topped the group to book their spot in the final.
So Region Cup? what is it and who is eligible? As the name suggests, the competition is broken down into geographical areas which are called 'Regions'. Under the FAI jurisdiction UEFA has determined that we should be broken down into two separate Regions. That resulted in a 'test" game which saw a Munster Connacht side defeat a Leinster Ulster select one-nil in the AUL Complex where a Dave Hoban goal was enough to swing the game the way of Region 2. That determined who would represent the FAI and under coach Gerry Davis a series of trials along with a comprehensive trawl of the best players in the "region' before settling on a squad which represented Ireland in the qualifying campaign in Gorgonzola in Italy. With a 'rookie' squad .....only Brendan O'Connell, Ken Hoey, Jimmy Carr and Chris Higgins had previous UEFA Regions Cup experience, but Gerry Davis ' young guns took to international football like a duck to water and topped the group to book their spot in the final.

19 June 2017

Saturday at the AUL Complex and the Regions Cup squad is on the main pitch. There's a constant arrival of flights into nearby Dublin airport and some of the players seem a little distracted as the behemoths of the sky fly in overhead. On the ground the temperature gauge is up at 24.5 degrees and you can feel the heat in the Clonshaugh air. Terry Cassin strolls after some loose Umbro balls, but in the midst of the players, coach Gerry Davis is barking out instructions. This is about shape..shape defending the ball and shape when in possession. It's important..very important when it comes to the heat of battle that everyone understands the game plan, that everyone understands where they should be, small details can suddenly be magnified..and it could be down to fine margins...inches or millimetres. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail so in some respects we're embraced the Keane mantra and the attention to detail is not lost on the players as they tune in despite the overhead distraction
There was a cap presentation on Friday evening at The Clayton Hotel and a photo is taken as some of the recipients proudly display their cherished international memento. UEFA insist on a medical prior to players travelling and Dennis Cruise, the FAI Junior Council's Secretary...and recent UEFA Champions League final delegate for the Real Madrid versus Juventus tie in Cardiff, has proved his efficiency again and all that necessary red tape requirement is now behind and everyone has come through with flying colours. It's a relief for all the players and another way marker passed as the UEFA finals now begins to loom large of the horizon. After South Russia there's a game against Castilla Y Leon from Spain on July 3 and Olomouc from the Czech Republic on Thursday July 6. The hope and the dream is that by that date we'll be looking forward to a final outing on Sunday July 9.....but one step at a time and let's get through the training session today.
The two keepers Brendan O'Connell and Mark Power are being worked out by Robbie Fay..Rob...he's got a smile on his face after picking up the AUL Golden Gloves award at the AUL awards. Davis does a lot of instructing, pointing out what he's looking to achieve and ensuring that if need be he can recreate the situation so everyone is on the same page. It's important now and it'll be important when the FAI Amateurs represented by a Munster Connacht Select take the field on July 1 at Sariter.YZ Onis against South Region of Russia. That date is now seared into the minds of players and backroom staff. It's a date with destiny for these mighty men who will be led by Ken Hoey of Rockmount FC There were 17 Munstermen and three Connacht based players but in a late change Eoin Collins of St Mary's in Cork has been drafted in place of Niall Brennan of Boyle Celtic who has had to drop out of the squad with just Conor Griffin of Calry Bohs and Westport United's Dave Hoban flying the Connacht flag.