Silver Medals for Tralee at Reykjavik Games
The Tralee International Children’s Games team reached new heights in Reykjavik this week, with some sizzling performances on the track, the soccer pitches and the golf courses. Pride of place must go to the soccer team who produced incredible and resilient performances to win silver in the Medal competition – the first time for Tralee. Equally so the athletics squad deserve great praise, with three athletes reaching finals at 100m, 800m and 1500m, while the girls relay team were denied a bronze medal by a mere 12 hundredths of a second. The golfers displayed great skill and know how on a difficult course against competitors with much lower handicaps
The boys 7 a side soccer team, managed by John Byrne and Mike Culloty and selected from the Park and the Kingdom boys, set the Games alight throughout the week with skilful, energetic and determined performances, which saw them establish an unbeaten run of five matches to reach Tralee’s first ever team final at the International Children’s Games.
1. Tralee 4 - Sparta of Greece 0
The opening match was a nervy affair for both sides, before Tralee finally made the breakthrough three minutes from half time, when Diarmuid Lee finished with power after latching on to a Bill Mullins through ball. Three minutes into the second half Sean o Reilly made it two, and with Ciaran Higgins – goalkeeper of the competition –almost unbeatable and Aaron O Connor commanding at centre half, Tralee were in control. Kieran O Mahony came off the bench to net two goals, one of them a real cracker, to get the team off to a flying start in the group.
2. Tralee 4 - Ravne na Koroskem of Slovenia 0
Game two brought a confident start from Tralee with Bill Mullins constantly creating openings for his team-mates at centre forward. Sean o Reilly was the main beneficiary in the first half, striking twice from knockdowns by Mullins. Diarmuid Lee, Anthony Mc Donnell and Laurence Bastible drove the side forward throughout and Lee netted again before Mullins got the goal his efforts so richly deserved, to leave Tralee in a strong position to qualify for the Medal competition
3. Tralee 1 - Innsbruck of Austria 1
This top of the table clash failed to live up to expectations and degenerated into a niggly affair throughout with poor refereeing and even poorer sportsmanship at times. Innsbruck led 1-0 at the break but Tralee showed great spirit to force a draw with five minutes to go through Bill Mullins, who struck low to the net after a smashing through ball from Shane O Callaghan, who showed great first touch to control and deliver the ball.
Quarter Final: Tralee 2 - Raanana of Israel 1
Only the brilliance of Ciaran Higgins, who saved three certain goal-bound shots, and the luck of the Irish kept Tralee in the game in the first half. Totally against the run of play Sean O Reilly picked up a ball in midfield and, after a neat one-two with Mullins, struck high into the roof of the net. Israel levelled midway through the second half, and with extra time a strong probability, Bill Mullins hit the winner, racing onto a long clearance from Higgins, going around his marker and placing it under the keeper’s body, as cool as you like in a situation that was anything but!. Heartbreak for Israel, joy for Ireland.
Semi – Final: Tralee 2 - Brescia of Italy 0
The Italian team asserted themselves from the start and in the space of seven minutes hit the crossbar, the post and Ciaran Higgins twice!. Heroic defending from O Connor, Bastible, Mc Donnell and Lee prevented that opening goal and as in the Qt Final, Tralee opened through Sean O Reilly. The lead was held until the 7th minute of the second half when Brescia’s class produced a wonderful goal. Mullins might have restored the lead on the restart after a mazy run, but the keeper made a great save. Two minutes from time Mc Donnell sent Kieran O Mahony away on the left wing. Carrying the ball forward, he dummied infield and then sent over the sweetest of left footed crosses, to find the head of Mullins, who dispatched to the net with aplomb. The team and supporters went wild with delight and the pent up emotion was fully released at the final whistle. Incredibly Tralee were going for Gold!.
ICG Final: Tralee 0 - Innsbruck 2
This time the game was played in the true spirit of the Children’s Games and Innsbruck deservedly emerged as 2-0 winners. The very demanding schedule of matches and the energy expended therein seemed to rob the team of the energy levels required for their high intensity game. The Austrians fully exploited the gaps in midfield and defence to create the openings and only for some goal-line clearances and saves from Higgins, the scoreline may well have been more comfortable for Innsbruck. Though defeat was their lot and the heartbreak palpable, the true merit of their achievement only sank in later, as they received their silver medals from a Mr Torsten Rasch, President if the ICG Executive Committee. Everyone felt justifiably proud of this incredible and historic achievemen
The athletes were in action on Friday in the 100 m heats and Dearbhail Foley comfortably qualified for the semi- final, while Ailbhe Courtney finished fifth and Molly Mc Gilton – Irish ambassador of the week –finished third and only just failed to make it, as a fastest loser. Jamie Byrne finished second, and Danny O Connor third in their respective heats in good personal times but outside qualifying times for the semis. In the middle distance Katie Rogers ran 6 seconds inside her personal best to qualify for the B final, while Stephen Walsh, displaying a tenacity that belied his physical frame, finished fifth to qualify for the 1500m final, where he ran a new personal best to finish 10th. In the high jump Danny O Connor bowed out at 1m 40, but he showed he has potential at this event, which can develop further in the years ahead.
On Saturday, Dearbhail Foley ran a scintillating semi in a time that was clocked as the fourth fastest of the week. In a close run final she finished 6th, as Tralee’s first ever sprint finalist at the Games. The surprise packet of the final day was the girl’s relay team who qualified for the final with an exciting run from Foley, Courtney, Rogers and a brilliant final leg from Molly Mc Gilton. The final was to bring heartbreak for these girls as they came within 0.12 sec of a first ever Track medal for Tralee, losing out to Darmstadt of Germany for the bronze, after an unbelievable last leg from Mc Gilton, who literally ate up the track as she closed in on her opponent and almost succeeded on the line.
Avrill Peevers, Deirdre Lawlor – another great ambassador for Ireland – and Ciaran Crowley were first into action every morning at 7.00 or 8.00am and deserve great credit for such commitment, ad do their coach, Lorraine Peevers, and their caddies, Vera Tierney, Breda Rogers and Martin Walsh. While never in contention for honours they were delighted to see an improvement in their score cards on each successive day, on a course which denied them the opportunity for long driving, and made many demands on their short game, especially on the greens, which at times were anything but green. They were Tralee’s and Ireland’s first representatives at the first ever golf competition at the Children’s Games.reyk10_400
Overall the Reykjavik Games experience was a very positive and hugely successful one for Tralee in their third successive appearance at the games. The three teams, their coaches, and travelling parents were all supportive of each other from start to finish, bonding quickly and developing a great team spirit around successful performances and the thoroughly enjoyable atmosphere at the Games, which hosted 64 cities from all over the world. Tralee is now well and truly established on the ICG map and has won many friends through its performances, behaviour, respectful attitudes and the ever constant Irish sense of humour, friendship and fun.
One major co-incidental highlight of the games was the Inter Toto cup match on Saturday night between Cork City and Valur. Tralee were granted free access to the stadium and the 31 member travelling party joined the Cork City supporters to cheer on City. The singing, banter and craic with these supporters will be remembered for a long time, as will the arrival of about 20 of them to Tralee’s semi final and final on the following day to support the efforts of the players. The Tralee team have received an invite from the club to attend their home Inter Toto match on Saturday week as guests of the club.
As the dust settles on Reykjavik, thoughts turn to San Francisco in 2008 and an expected invitation from the host city. No matter how good that experience will be, nothing can surpass the achievement at Reykjavik, reaching four finals and bringing home silver medals for the first time.
Chairman Michael Culloty was delighted and very proud of what the teams have done. “The standard of performance in all three disciplines was excellent in quality and effort, as seen by the results, and reflects well on both athletes and coaches. Equally the respectful and friendly approach of the whole delegation, superbly managed and orchestrated by Siobhan O Nuallain and Michelle Culloty, won us many friends and much support from other delegations. The children and adults will have many happy memories of the games, and indeed of what we saw in Iceland, particularly the trip to the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon, and the Midnight Run. Sincere gratitude to everyone who supported us and helped us to increase the profile of our town on a world stage in such thrilling fashion for all concerned”
Soccer: Ciaran Higgins, Anthony Mc Donnell, Aaron O Connor, Laurence Bastible, Sean O Reilly, Bill Mullins, Shane O Callaghan, Kieran O Mahony, Diarmuid Lee.
Athletics; Dearbhail Foley, Molly Mc Gilton, Ailbhe Courtney, Katie Rogers, Jamie Byrne, Danny O Connor, Stephen Walsh
Golf: Avril Peevers, Deirdre Lawlor, Ciaran Crowley