2012 Reports

Iberian Championships Round 2

Under-manned Valencia men fall in extra-time while slow start costs women.

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)

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.

Valencia:
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.

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