With the Seagulls having soared high through the Swiss Alps it was time to find our next destination to travel to. We needed a place that could match the "high" of the Swiss Alps but also keep us level grounded. Where could we possibly go that could offer us this?
Yes, you’ve guessed it… AMSTERDAM!
Match Day 3 saw the Ballybrack Seagulls accept an invitation to play a Molloy Malones (of Amsterdam) All-Star XL in an International friendly as part of Molloy Malones celebrating 20 years been established in Amsterdam. So on the 3rd of November 2017 the Ballybrack Seagulls, once again assembled at Dublin Airport for our flight to Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam.
The Ballybrack Seagulls FC project at this stage had surpassed its second anniversary and over the two year period we had seen a gradual introduction of new playing personal. At this particular time, and due to personal/work commitments and number of individuals from our previous travels became unavailable to for selection. So as we set out for Amsterdam that day, we found ourselves short of well-established Seagulls, such as Stephen “The Brief” Brady, Ian “Chendo” Henderson, Robert “Knudsen” Murphy, Fey “ACTION” Cannon, Damien “Chopper” Wallace and our scoring sensation Tadhg “The T” Henderson!
This opened the door to add fresh blood and new faces to the travelling party and grow the list of “international” capped Seagull players.
When we arrived in Schiphol Airport and having gathered our kit and belongings, we made our way to the train station where we intended to board a shuttle service into Amsterdam’s Central Train Station but a good crew of us stumbled upon the Amstel Bar on route, and it’s fair to say we enjoyed the samples of the Amstel Bar and what it had to offer for a good bit of the afternoon before joining our teammates at the team Hotel. For those in attendance, it was a great start to our visit to Amsterdam and it has been decreed in Seagulls law, should we return to Amsterdam, you must frequent the Amstel Bar for a beverage before continuing on with your journey!
As darkness began to fall on the city of Amsterdam on a short November evening, everybody in the travelling party had checked into the various places of accommodation with the France Hotel, seeming to be the HQ for duration of the stay.
The group assemble for the night ahead. As like the previous trip to Switzerland, it was time for the Seagulls to get into the mindset of the locals and where better to do so, than Molloy Malones Bar.
Sitting on the edge of the Oudezijds Kolk canal, Molly’s was celebrating its 20th anniversary and was to become the Seagulls home away from home for the next few days and nights! We enjoyed great food and plenty of beers that evening as the Molloy Malone crew hosted a meet and greet before we hit the bright lights of Amsterdam.
Next morning, the 4th of November, we all assembled post breakfast at Seagulls HQ, as match day had arrived. For the first time in Seagulls history, our playing kit wasn’t going to be green, we had decided in honour of the Dutch Footballing masters, such Cruyff, Neeskens and Michel’s we would dawn the Orange strip of the Netherlands.
As we boarded the team bus for the Sportpark Tuindorp in Oostzan, we travelled with great hope that the Seagulls could deliver the result, so many craved. This hope wasn’t unfounded, we had an established Gaffer from our previous trip to Switzerland, in “Uncle” Ray Downer and a large group of veterans from previous campaigns in NYC and Switzerland, such as Graham “Rusty” Grundy, Rob “The Professor” Dunne, Georgie “Skiddely” Downer, Carl “The Brack Pearl” Breen, Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan, Noel “Twinkle Toes” Lacey, Mark “The Chiropractor” O’Sullivan and Martin “The Captain” Hewitt who was taking up the honour of skippering the Seagulls for the first time.
All of this talent was now been backed up with new playing talent such as Tony “He Scores Goals” Hughes, Shane “Boyband” O’Kelly, Sean “Yaya” Cummins, Rob “The Rock” Davitt, Karl “Congressman” Dorman and our first established home grown Goal keeper, Willie “Safe Hands” Devlin. So as the Seagulls, kitted out as the Dutch masters, took to the Field at the Sportpark Tuindorp, confidence was high.
The game kicked off at a blistering pace, on a sharp but dry November lunch time in front of a strong travelling group of Seagull supporters, cheering on the Seagulls in the third international away match. Clearly our Dutch opponents, were trying to influence the game at their pace hoping that the Seagulls would fold under their pressure game but this wasn’t to be the case. The Gaffer “Uncle” Ray had sent out a strong starting line-up with “The Brack Pearl” Carl Breen anchoring the central defensive alongside his defensive partner, “The Congressman” Karl Dorman.
Centre mid had “Skiddely” Downer acting in his accustomed holding role, with the “The Rock” Davitt as the enforcer, which in turn freed up Tony “He Scores Goals” Hughes and “Yaya” Cummins to bring their creativity to the game and help open up the Dutch defensive which seemed to have a well-established partnership on display.
For the Seagulls either flank had tried and tested players on hand with both Noel “Twinkle Toes” Lacey and Rob “The Professor” Dunne marshalling the left and the Captain and Rusty on the right, with a strike partnership of Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan and Shane “Boyband” O’Kelly set to terrorise their Dutch opponents. Some of the combination play produced by the Seagulls in and around the middle of the park that afternoon was stunning with terrific support runs and options be made available out wide. This had the Dutch chasing the tails at times.
It was now or never time for the Seagulls, we needed to turn this possession and dominance into goals and that we did, in spectacular fashion.
Having seen “Yaya” Cummins come in short to take ball in centre midfield, he turned and ran at the Dutch defence before opening out the ball to Rusty on the right, who quickly returned the ball back to Yaya. As Yaya advanced on oppositions 18 yard box he released Tony Hughes, who clipped a beautiful ball across the front of the penalty spot to the left hand side of the 18 yard box, were Robbie “The Professor” Dunne caught the ball on the volley to place it in the roof of the Dutch net.
1 nil Seagulls and nothing more than we deserved.
The Seagulls quickly added to the score line with Tony “He Scores Goals” Hughes, along with Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan and Shane “Boyband” O’Kelly giving the Seagulls an unassailable lead as half time approached. Unfortunately, we suffered a couple of setbacks in the Seagull defence. Once again our Achilles heel of conceding from set plays struck again when our Dutch hosts stole a goal back from a corner before later getting a second having beating the off-side trap to grab their second.
Not long after the restart, the Seagulls got back into the scoring habit when Wayne O’Sullivan chipped in with his second goal of the afternoon. So as the Half time whistle blow the scoreboard showed Molloy Malone All-Stars 2 Ballybrack Seagulls 5.
At half time the Gaffer rang the changes with the Brack Pearl and Twinkle Toes Lacey stepping out to see the introduction of debutant Gary “Gazza” McNabb and Seagull stalwart the “Chiropractor” O’Sullivan come in. These changes didn’t change the formation, just freshened up the side as we faced into the second half.
The Second half started off badly as the Seagulls conceded again, which gave the hosts renewed hope that they could turn the tide in their favour but this hope was short lived as the Seagulls, in a display of “total football” befitting of the Orange playing kit they wore added to the scoreboard. Shane “Boyband” O’Kelly adding to his tally, giving him a brace and leaving himself and Wayne battling out to become the first Seagulls Hat-trick hero and become all-time leading goal scorer!
Alas this honour fell to Wayne O’Sullivan as he slotted home his third goal. But that wasn’t the end of scoring for the Seagulls, not to be out done be his strike partner, Shane O’Kelly secured his hat-trick not long after that, putting the Seagulls in a 8 goals to 3 lead.
This allowed the Gaffer experiment further and another two debutants Josh “His Mam has got it going on” O’Reilly came in for the Skipper and Rhys “Twinkle Toes JR” Lacey came in for Yaya.
The only blot on the copy book after that was the poor decision Willie “Safe Hands” Devlin made following the late concession of a penalty to our Dutch hosts. Willie made a hasty move to the left, allowing his young opponent strike for goal! It’s fair to say Mr Wayne O’Sullivan hasn’t quite let that one go.
So there you have it, as the final whistle sounded the scoreboard read Molloy Malone All-Stars 4 Ballybrack Seagulls 8, cue wild celebrations among the Seagulls and their travelling support as they revelled in their stunning victory.
As the Seagull supporters adjourned to the upstairs players’ lounge and bar awaiting their victorious football team to join them, the Seagulls players and management enjoyed some victory beers in the dressing room where a man who landscapes for living, Georgie Downer, proved he doesn’t manscape to horror of a Seagull supporter who had gained access to the dressing room. Not quite sure if anybody has recovered from that incident to be honest.
In the players’ lounge the official cup and medal ceremony took place and as the Skipper Martin Hewitt held aloft the trophy on the podium Noel “Twinkle Toes” Lacey took a quite spectacular exit from the stage. It was time to board the team bus and return to Molloy Malones as the guests of honour at the official anniversary reception to celebrate Molly’s 20th Birthday!
What a night was had, Mr DJ Cyril “The Squirrel” O’Sullivan, mastered the decks and entertained a rammed Molly’s throughout the night while Shane “Boyband” O’Kelly produced dance moves last seen on the Late Late show, the night the World was introduced to Boyzone. But, that night will go down in Seagull folklore as the night that George "Skiddely” Downer defined the laws of gravity and walked like no man has walked before!
The following day as the dust settled on some tired and wary Seagull shoulders an interesting fact was concluded. It was the Seagulls first victory and it was the first match on real grass, not an artificial surface. It was just coincidental that the grass pitch happened to be in Amsterdam!
So as we made our way back to Schiphol Airport for our return journey back to Dublin we left the Netherlands full of confidence and seeking a new challenge for the Ballybrack Seagulls!
A big thank you to all at Molloy Malones Amsterdam for what was a fantastic weekend.