Seville – February 25th 2012 – Iberian Championships 1st Round
The first round of the 2012 Iberian Championships was celebrated this past weekend with 5 men’s teams and 4 women’s teams travelling to Seville. On the women’s side the tournament victory was taken Seville after a 3-7 to 2-2 final victory over Valencia which saw them go unbeaten on the day. On the men’s side, a three-way tie at the top of the standings following the round-robin saw Barcelona exit on points-difference leaving Madrid and the hosts to compete the final. The Harps eventually took the title after a tight, hard-fought affair. The consensus after the first round was that this year could see a very tight race for the championship on both sides so every point is going to be vital.
The 2012 Sant Vicent Valencia women’s team showed what all the pre-season rumblings had been about in their first outing of the year: This is a team that has Championship aspirations. The opening game against Barcelona saw the Valencia ladies score on 8 occasions, taking a 3-5 to 2-4 victory over the Gaelettes with Niamh, Carrie and Dee bagging a goal apiece. The potent attacking threat posed by the three of them became clear throughout the day as Niamh in particular began to grow in confidence. Game 2 marked an historic moment for the Valencia club as they ladies recorded their first ever win over the defending champions Madrid. The ladies did not do it by half though, running out victors by a large margin of 4-5 to 1-6. While players were rotated in the defence to allow everyone to get game time, it still held strong, allowing Madrid few clear views of goal and limiting them to points. Dee was seen making countless block-downs while the ever-tenacious Emmas C and P recovered possession quickly and cleared downfield. Carrie had a strong game in the air, breaking balls for team-mates, but it was again Niamh who demonstrated some deadly accuracy netting 4 times while also kicking 3 points.
With both teams having played and won 2 games, it was decided that the Seville-Valencia match would constitute the final rather than the teams playing twice. Valencia came out strong and held a slim 1 point lead at half-time, but an ‘augmented’ Seville team was able to draw on the experience and ability of four visiting players from the European champions, Belgium to pull back and eventually take the title with a 2-2 to 3-7 win.
Clearly the Valencia women have taken huge strides over the past months and should all be recognized, along with coach Colm, for that progress. Everyone made solid contributions throughout the day, but special mention should go to Diana Bedoya in her first ever tournament who played with a competitive edge nobody had been aware of before and Niamh Flynn who over the course of three games tallied 7 goals and 6 points. For her efforts she was voted Valencia MVP by her team-mates and official tournament MVP by the referees.
Valencia will now head to Barcelona top of the standings and looking to build even more momentum in their championship season.
Players: Diana Bedoya, Sophie Burton, Emma Chan, Lorraine Duncan, Niamh Flynn, Carrie Lynch, Deirdre O’Driscoll, Emma Pettitt, Laura Sahuquillo, Jana Santiago
On the men’s side things did not go as smoothly for Valencia with some near-misses frustrating the boys in Orange. Despite the close calls and a fourth place finish on the day, the team still came away with a fantastic spirit and a lot to build upon for the subsequent rounds.
The day started off well enough with a 0-10 to 1-2 victory over a dangerous Fillos team from A Coruña. As was noted by many on the day, the team from Galicia may well have taken some of it’s style from the typical Valencian play of quick hand-passing and ball movement. Any victories accumulated by the Fillos this season will no longer be seen as ‘upsets’ as they have definitely raised the level. In the win, KJ Wallace, making his first Iberian appearance for Valencia, notched 4 points, while Paul Hickey knocked over his first point for Valencia.
Game 2 was a to-and-fro affair with Barcelona which saw a too-often out-numbered Valencia defence working overtime to contain the breaking Gaels. The back 4 of Tom, Mick, Lofty and Andy W defended valiantly, but couldn’t account for the extra man the Gaels often pushed forward. On the attacking end KJ deftly finished from the penalty spot while putting a second penalty over the bar for a point. It was however, numerous missed opportunities that ultimately cost Sant Vicent with the final score a single-point loss 1-5 to 0-9.
Next up was a confrontation with a deep Madrid team who were able to run Valencia around the park with good ball movement and an abundance of substitutes. The main highlight for Valencia would be a goal claimed by Adam: Upon taking a free from well within his own half, he hit the ball deep towards the Madrid posts. A mis-communication between the Madrid keeper and defender somehow resulted in the ball nestled in the mesh. As it stands, we have awarded the goal to Adam, but the review committee will take a look. All-in-all it was too little though as Madrid took the game 1-2 to 1-6.
The final game, would see a tired and injury hit Valencia make some positional changes to face a Seville team buoyed by numbers. With some early scores, many thought that the hosts would perhaps run away with the contest, but Valencia showed they are made of sterner stuff and dug deep to pull themselves back in to the game on the back of a well-taken goal from Adam. The lads fought with and for absolutely everything and when Pilks was unable to continue due to cramp, women’s coach Colm stepped up to help the side at least field 11 Valencia players. Ultimately the fight-back fell short as Sant Vicent lost by a single point yet again, this time 1-5 to 1-4. The game saw Roberto Prieto also score his first point for the Orange and Black.
In all then a disappointing outcome for Valencia on the men’s side, but also lots of positives. Having travelled with just 11 players, the commitment shown was outstanding and with substitutes available in future tournaments, players should be able to get sufficient rest to maintain the high levels of intensity needed for out style of play. Other positives include the team spirit exhibited throughout the weekend, the fact that (to the writer’s knowledge) Valencia has yet to request personnel from other teams to complete a tournament, and the play of many players (some making their first outings for the team). After the player vote, the Valencia MVP was a close affair and Adam conceded the award to Andy Lofthouse who had had a workman’s performance in the backline on a day when they saw plenty of action.
Valencia return to training next week, looking to focus on the small issues that made a difference and build towards a stronger run in Barcelona next month.
Players: Mick Collins, Brendan Glavin, Paul Hickey, Andrew Lofthouse, Andrew Pilkington, Roberto Prieto, Tom Salomonson, Simon Thacker, Colm Valencia, KJ Wallace, Andy White, Adam Whyte.