Barcelona – March 24th 2012 – Iberian Championships 2nd Round
With the majority of the team having travelled together by bus the previous night, the men and women of Valencia Sant Vicent rolled into the second round of the 2012 Iberian Championships with a relaxed atmosphere among the team.
The men took the field first against the round 1 winners Madrid and got off to a strong start with a solid 3-4 to 1-3 win. Making his first appearance of the campaign, forward Freddy Nadal netted twice for Valencia and was joined in the goals column by half back Brendan McCarthy who throughout the day made some major forays into opposition territory.
Game two pitted Valencia against the host Gaels and it would turn out to be a game in which the boys in Orange just couldn’t quite find the finishing touch in spite of an early goal. Held scoreless in the second half, the men eventually lost out 1-1 to 1-6. The game heralded the first time in recent years that Valencia were forced to call upon re-enforcements from outside their own ranks. Rich from Seville obliged by donning the goalkeeper’s jersey and would play out the rest of the tournament between the sticks, for which we are all very grateful.
In the pre-lunch game, the parity within the men’s division was emphasized in a nail-biting and exciting encounter between the Fillos of A Coruña and Madrid. In a battle fought mainly in the trenches of midfield, neither team found a way to ever get more than a point ahead and in the final count a 0-4 to 0-4 draw was perhaps a true reflection of the struggle. It marked a major step forward for the Galician club, who greatly outnumbered the other men’s teams and, as ever, played a high-speed handling game.
The warning was heeded by Valencia who faced the Fillos next as they took control of the aerial game and with Paul Hickey and Adam Whyte in the midfield while captain Andy White coolly slotted 5 points from the half-forward line. The infamous lock-down defence also flexed its muscle with the combined efforts of Mick Collins, McCarthy, Tom Salomonson and Rodrigo Atienza restricting A Coruña to a single point over the 25 minutes in a 1-6 to 0-1 victory.
With the Madrid draw, the final group game between the Harps and Barcelona became moot, which gave Barcelona the opportunity to mix up the line-up and provide rest to players prior to a final confrontation with the Orange and Black.
As with so many Barcelona-Valencia encounters in recent years, the tournament final went right to the wire – and beyond. Adam continued his heroics in the midfield and the team managed to get the ball to Captain White who for the second match in a row put the ball over 5 times. The game also saw defender Tom Salomonson mark his first point for Sant Vicent following a bullish run through the Barcelona half-line. With neither team ever being able to pull away, the 25 minutes elapsed with a 0-6 to 0-6 stalemate meaning a further 10 minutes of extra time was to be played.
Valencia came out hot and White quickly took to the lead for them with a well-taken point from the left flank. It was the Gaels though who managed to catch the breaks though and entered the turn-around up by a single point. The second period of extra time would see them add a goal to that lead leaving the final score 0-8 to 1-9 in favour of the Gaels.
On a day that offered plenty of excuses for failure, the Valencia players left the field opting not to take them, rather, they held their heads high proud of what they had achieved short-handed and renewed the commitment to move forward as a club together.
Following the player vote, midfielder Paul Hickey took the club MVP award while at the evening festivities the consistency of captain Andy White would be rewarded as he was named the overall men’s MVP. Again, like Seville, there were strong performances from top to bottom and there is definitely a lot of life left in both the Valencia title run and championship itself.
Players: Rodrigo Atienza, Mick Collins, Paul Hickey, Brendan McCarthy, Freddy Nadal Andrew Pilkington, Tom Salomonson, Simon Thacker, Colm Valencia, Andy White, Adam Whyte, Seville Rich
On the women’s side of the draw, the Valencia ladies’ team travelled to Barcelona with a great turnout. Regardless of any results, we must congratulate everyone for making the effort to travel; it was great to have so much flexibility and support. Unfortunately it turned out that such numbers were needed, with 2 of the old crocks, Dee and Emma P, getting injured in the first and second matches respectively (sprained and broken wrist). The large numbers (15 in total) meant that to ensure playing time, some players turned out for other teams lacking numbers – Sophie and Jana for the new A Coruña team (how great it is to have another ladies’ team; we must take pride in having more ladies’ teams than men’s at this tournament!) – and Carolina for Madrid.
In the first game against the home side, Barcelona the Valencia seemed to struggle to wake up a little in the first half, but did well to pull the game back in the second, courtesy of a goal from Emma Chan. Although it could be argued that luck played a role in the goal, it was without doubt a result of Emma’s dogged determination to chase down and pressure the Barcelona goalkeeper and block the clearance attempt. The game would end in a frustrating draw 2-5 to 2-5 which in the end cost Valencia a place in the tournament final.
The second game versus Seville was also tight. The Valencia tactics from the Andalusian round in February had been noted and Niamh was isolated up front by a tall defender. Some good scoring and goals from Niamh, Emma Chan and Carrie kept Sant Vicent in it, and they eventually ran out 4-3 to 1-8 winners in the end.
Against Madrid injuries to two defenders forced changes, and combined with the strong midfield of Madrid, restricted the Valencia scoring to just 2 points. The girls couldn’t have made more effort, but with all the loose balls being gained by Madrid and possession lost easily at times, there was only one result – defeat by a margin of 0-2 to 4-8.
In the final game of the day, the Valencia ladies took on the new Fillas outfit from A Coruña in an entertaining affair that saw a total of 31 points (6-13) shared by the two teams. It also produced the opportunity for all players to gain experience in the Valencia system while others such as Sophie and Diana battled against their team-mates in the blue and white of A Coruña. It has been suggested that at times they worked a little too hard, but this can only be a credit to the ladies themselves but also the ethos and commitment evident in the Valencia women’s team. Niamh returned to her high-scoring ways with an impressive 3-8 performance which helped guide Sant Vicent to 3-9 to 3-4 victory.
While the end result – 3rd – was disappointing it should be remembered that there are still 3 tournaments to go, and that Barcelona and Madrid were much stronger at this tournament than in Seville. The team is learning all the time, and had several players making their debuts – all gained a huge amount of experience and will surely benefit from this for future events.
Following the team ballot which saw a large number of players garner votes, the women’s club MVP on the day was Carrie Lynch who had some dominating performances in the midfield. Next up for everyone is a trip to Madrid in April where both teams will be looking to continue their climb to the Iberian Championship.
Players: Diana Bedoya, , Louise Benjamin, Sophie Burton, Emma Chan, Sarah Condon, Sandra Contreras, Niamh Flynn, Carolina Jimenez, Carrie Lynch, Grainne Maloney, Deirdre O’Driscoll, Emma Pettitt, Laura Sahuquillo, Jana Santiago, Claire Whyte.
(with content from Emma Pettitt)