Maastricht. Scene of two of our finest moments in our short history. Our first tournament victory on the corresponding weekend last year and the place we won the European Championship last November. Hopefully, it will be the place we find the spark to ignite our season on Saturday. Its been a long and treacherous season so far for those who have travelled to Amsterdan, Den Haag, Lux and trained away so many nights in the Parc. Injuries, Babies, Work,Girlfriends, Departures are amongst the reasons why our season has been so. However, the year is long and the real business starts with the Pan-European Championship first round in Munich at the end of July. A season can turn in a week with the arrival of new players or the return of injured ones.
Hopefully saturday is a start. John Quinn, a young minor from Donegal arrived yesterday to work for his cousin Conan for the summer. It will be a novelty to have his youthful energy around the place. Returning this weekend are Ciaran Hudson, Kevin Keary and Emmett Devine. However, Eoghan Kelly, Eoin Sheanon, Phil Cushen, Micheal O'Flynn and Olof Gill are just some who will be marked absent. We will travel with two teams but those absentees joined with other missing men would be a formidable team in their own right.
Its a disaster but its great. A disaster because no-one likes to go into battle minus their big guns and its great that we can still field two teams even when missing 13/14 regulars. We've come along way this year in that sense and should probably be pleased we have churned a reasonable level of committment out of so many to do so.
Saturday is an exercise in preparation for the upcoming Pan-E Championship. Our defence will need to use the opportunity to get to know eachothers ways. We have not even been able to get them together to train on the same night yet. Keary and Emmett will need to stand up, lead and guide them through the challenges. Enda, our Mr. Consistent, will be paired with yet another midfield partner. Our attack is still TBC but will need to take alot of burden on its shoulders, some of whom would take offence at being called a forward!!
I'm reading 'The Last Season' by Phil Jackson at the moment. It chronicles the LA Lakers 2003/04 season. His team had won 3/4 of the previous Championships and expected to win again. Their season was ravaged by injury to Kobe, Shaq, Karl and others They bickered and complained throughout but still retained belief that it would be alright on the night, when playoff time rolled round. It wasn't and they failed.
To some extent our season has mirrored theres. Although to say there was bickering would be too extreme, just alot of frustration at times. It goes to show though, there is a relationship between the input and the output and we've seen it so far. First and foremost however, Saturday is going to be a very enjoyable day. We're lucky to be able to play over here and we should enjoy every opportunity we get. Our focus will be on playing as well as we can and working as hard as we can. We will be very positive. If we do those three things we can go home content that we did our best. If its good enough to win, which I believe it would be, then we will be very happy. If its not, we'll figure out why and get it right for Munich.