The Ballybrack Seagulls mini tour of continental Europe has seen them soar through the Swiss Alps on route to the Tulip fields of Amsterdam before laying praise at the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
It was now time for the Seagulls to dig deep into their very own Norse DNA and capture the dream of reaching their very own “Valhalla”!
The land of Fire and Ice was calling, time to visit Iceland!
Match Day 5 saw the Ballybrack Seagulls accept an invitation to participate in the world renewed Reykjavets International Veterans Football Festival, ran by International Sport & Leisure Football Tours and hosted in the Icelandic Capital of Reykjavik. This would be a history making trip for the Seagulls on two fronts. Firstly, the participation of the Ballybrack Seagulls in the Reykjavets International Football Festival would see an Irish Team participate for the first time in the competitions history. Secondly, the Ballybrack Seagulls would be travelling for the first time with two playing squads along with its usual crew of dedicated supporters, such as Lesley O’Sullivan, Joan McGrath, Tyrone McNabb, Michelle Hewitt, Nicola Ryan, Angela Campbell, Paul Byrne, Pauline Byrne plus Abaigeal and Bobby O’Sullivan.
As per previous Seagulls trips our numbers had grown in both playing personal and travelling support so we were more than happy to welcome Alison Dunne plus Glen “The Kid” Keddy on the team bus along with his very own cheerleading squad in Karan Burke, Lilli, Pixie and Travis Keddy.
Another plus for our trip to Iceland was the welcome return of the Gaffer “Uncle” Ray Downer as manager of the Ballybrack Seagulls following his hiatus from our previous trip to Barcelona. As the Seagulls were travelling as a two squad team, Ray cleverly enlisted the assistance of Noel “Nipper” Finn into a player/coach role. Nipper was a veteran of previous Seagull campaigns in a supporting capacity but was a regular attendee on Wednesday night kick about on the “Pitch beside the Dome” in the Spawell sports complex, so his inclusion in his new role was a seamless transition.
So once again, on the 9th of November 2018, the Seagulls wearing our freshly designed Reykjavets hoodie tops by our very own media/design manager Mark “The Chiropractor” O’Sullivan, assembled in Dublin Airport or as the Vikings named it “Dyflinn” to depart for the Icelandic Capital of Reykjavik.
Following a very pleasant flight from Dublin to Reykjavik International Airport, courtesy of WOW Airlines (who are sadly no longer around) we boarded a couple of team coaches such were the numbers in the travelling party, and made our way to Hotel Cabin in the Borgartún district of Reykjavik. This would act as home for the Seagulls over the next 4 days.
Having checked in and familiarised ourselves with the hotel and it’s amenities we travelled down the town to sample the delights of Capital city of Reykjavik and all it had to offer. Splitting up into various groups the Seagulls visited some of the popular watering holes in the city such as the Kaffibarinn, The English pub and enjoyed some eats in The American Bar before all meeting in the Drunk Rabbit Irish Bar. This became the Seagulls official HQ for our time in Reykjavik as we enjoyed the aptly named “Gull” beer along with some craic with our local Viking descendant bredren!
Saturday the 10th of November was match day but with a difference.
The Ballybrack Seagulls would have two teams play in a “blitz” like Football tournament based on 16 minute games with the top two teams from each group progressing out of each group into knock out Football.
As this was a veterans tournament we had teams lining out in a 30 plus group and a 40 plus group.
A Traditional Icelandic breakfast was served in the Hotel before the two Seagull teams and their travelling support made their way by bus to the impressive Egilshllin Indoor Area, the host venue for the Reykjavets Tournament.
On arrival to the Egilshllin Indoor Area, the Seagulls soon made their mark with the unfurling and hanging of the “We are Ballybrack” flag over the raised seater area of the Egilshllin Indoor Area. This saw us bring the colour and passion that usually associated with a travelling international Irish team.
Match day action kicked off with the plus 40 Seagulls taking to the pitch, kitted out by leading Spanish Sportswear company JOMA in their traditional Green Jerseys, Green shorts, with Green and white hooped Socks. First up in their group was local Icelandic outfit, Hviti FC and in what can only be described as an entertaining and fast paced encounter, which saw the senior Seagulls come up short in a 2 to zero return.
Luckily the youthful plus 30 Seagulls got to watch their partnering team play, before their opening encounter. This gave them an opportunity to gauge how this tournament was played and just how much game management was so important to achieve success. This was the Seagulls first foray into tournament Football, they were meeting a lot of teams who had played the Reykjavets tournament before and it’s fair to say that their opponents experience in this tournament environment was something the Seagulls needed to gain and gain fast.
The youthful Seagulls set out to take on Italian outfit in the form of Fusilly Criniti FC in their opening game. This match will be noted for the outstanding strike and “postage” stamp finish by the one and only Brack Pearl, Carl Breen but despite this spectacular effort it just wasn’t enough and the result saw the Seagulls fail to register an opening result in either of their groups.
The Seniors Gulls where soon back in action this time taking on Skansh FC of the Faore Islands. This was a different type of game in comparison to the opening salvo in the group, with the Faroe Islanders bringing a more robust approach to the game. The Seagulls fielded some experienced and seasoned campaigners such as “Skiddely” Downer, the “Chiropractor” O’Sullivan alongside “Chendo” Henderson and Rob “El Camino” Murphy offering the width and strength required with the “Professor” Rob Dunne leading the attack.
Willie “Safe Hands” Devlin continued with his net minding duties behind his skipper Martin Hewitt with player/coach Noel “Nipper” Finn bringing a steady and calming influence to the proceedings. Once again the Senior Gulls found themselves falling behind but the “Professor” pounced on an opportunity and boom, the Seagulls were on the scoreboard. This lead was short lived however and our Faroe Island opponents regained the lead and ultimately took the spoils. All was not lost here, with two remaining group games for the Senior Gulls in the group, there was still an outside chance of knockout Football as we stepped into a two game rest period.
Up next, the youthful Seagulls took to the pitch in their second group game, the first of a treble header back to back vs Hungarian opposition in the form of FC Micade. The youthful Gulls skippered by the Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan was togging out in a similar vein to its senior counterparts with bags of experience available to the Gaffer “Uncle” Ray to call upon, in the form of Paul “Ozzy” Osborne between the sticks, and a defensive line made up of the “Brack Pearl” Carl Breen, Noel “Twinkle Toes” Lacey with Glen “The Kid” Keddy and Tony “he scores goals” Hughes masterminding the middle third behind a strike partnership of Shane “The Boyband” O’Kelly and Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan plus returning goal scoring sensation from our NYC and Switzerland adventures Tadhg “T-Bone” Henderson.
This was another bruising encounter with the indoor environment and artificial playing surface allowing the ball to be moved around at pace but ultimately it was the Hungarians who stole the show and left the pitch as victors.
No time for the Seagulls to rest and harp on the what ifs, the youthful Gulls went straight into their third encounter, with their opponents reigning from Denmark, in true Viking battle the Seagulls exploded into action like an Icelandic Geyser but like most Geysers, the youthful Gulls ran out of steam and AkaDemish FC took home to points.
Up next and on the back of two back to back bruising encounters was KI Klaksvik FC from the Faroe Islands. So it was game four for the Seagulls and once again the youthful Gulls started the game off in a composed fashion with signs that lessons learned in the previous encounters were paying off but unfortunately the back to back games were taking their toll and it was only in post-match analysts of this tournament, we should have rotated some of our Senior Gulls in an out of the youthful Gulls squad as they had a larger group and more games to contend with.
Time had arrived for the youthful Gulls to get a well-earned rest as they stepped into a two came rest period before their final encounter of the group.
At this stage of day the Senior Gulls stepped back into action against B36 FC of the Faroe Islands. It’s hard to say whether the Senior Gulls benefitted to much from the two game rest period and we most certainly didn’t enjoy much luck with the refereeing decisions throughout this encounter with a large dispute arising about the time keeping when the Senior Gulls push on hard to take the spoils. Unfortunately we didn’t get the victory over the line but we claimed a share of points in a lockout nil all draw.
So buoyed by this result the Seagulls went into the final group meeting needing a win to open the door, to a slim chance of slipping into a playoff spot in knock out football. The team standing in their way was B67 Reidablik from Greenland.
You could only describe this game as a “Battle Royale” with the Greenlanders simply forgetting that the aim of the game was to kick the Football and not a Seagull. This game certainly tested the resolve of “Chendo”, who at one stage was ready to go all Conor McGregor on his opponent’s but despite all of this the Seagulls struck first with Rob “The Professor” Dunne adding to his account from earlier in the day.
To be fair this refocused our opponents and on a quick counter attack they broke the Seagulls defence and stole in for an equaliser. As we restarted the game the Senior Gulls were getting a little bit leggy but pushed on for the victory but in doing so got caught again on another quick counter attack. Willie Devlin quickly broke off his line and in an attempt to fend off the Greenlanders attack, he clipped his opponent, took him down and conceded a penalty.
Cometh the hour, Cometh the man!
As Willie paraded his goal line awaiting his opponents strike on goal he offered an imposing figure and this imposing figure was about to write his name in Seagull folklore! The B67 striker struck his attempt which seemed distended for top right hand corner before Willie “Safe Hands” Devlin dived to his left and stretched that imposing frame to get two firm hands on the ball and push it out for a corner in spectacular fashion.
From the resulting corner the Seagulls heroically defended the goal mouth and broke for what turned out to be the closing action in an action packed and somewhat ugly encounter. Alas the 1 all draw wasn’t enough to see the Senior Gulls proceed from the group but the game finished in time to watch and cheer on the youthful Gulls in their final group game.
So it was the final game of the group for the youthful Gulls as they took on run away group leaders the FC Liberty Crew of Canada. The Liberty Crew had proven themselves to be a street smart outfit throughout the tournament and offered a formidable challenge to the youthful Gulls in their final group. As was expected this game was a challenge and despite the nonstop running of Shane “The Boyband” O’Kelly and trickery of “T-Bone” Henderson the Liberty Crew stood firm until Glen “The Kid” Keddy produced a bending strike moving right to left to find a resting place in the back of the Crew net.
From the restart once again the Seagulls pressed hard with Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan coming close but unfortunately the series of matches began to catch up on the tight numbered youthful Gulls and the Crews experience and freshness saw them take control of the game and run out handsome winners.
So that was it for tournament Football for the Seagulls, it was time to take down the “We Are Ballybrack” flag and along with our supporters board the teams buses and slip back to the Hotel to freshen up and enjoy our post-match meal before assembling in the upstairs lounge of the Drunk Rabbit Irish Bar to host our very own and now traditional award ceremony where we presented our very own Gaffer “Uncle” Ray Downer with a specially commissioned “Ray of Sunshine” t-shirt to acknowledge his hard work in managing of our two squads.
We continued to enjoy the night in the Drunk Rabbit on the “Gull Beer” before dancing the night away in “Pablo Discobar” were Shane “The Boyband” O’Kelly reproduced his signature moves last seen in Amsterdam along with a young pretender to the throne, “T-Bone” Henderson getting involved in a dance off challenge for Seagull Disco Dancing champion!
Where there’s a disco Mr Georgie “Skiddely” Downer wouldn’t be too far away and nor will Ian “Chendo” Henderson who acted as the bodyguard to the one and only Rob “El Camino” Murphy while he unveiled his vast and somewhat superior political knowledge on the unsuspecting locals.
Sunday saw the Ballybrack Seagulls go into tourist mode as we visited the impressive Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik, which can only be describe as a striking concrete structure resembling the Space Shuttle before we boarded the bus and headed north to Hvammsvegur, and the Secret Lagoon for one of the greatest lifetime experiences ever and a weekend highlight, as we enjoyed this geothermal pool with its spouting geysers which has been a mainstay amenity for the Icelandic people since its creation in 1891.
This was followed by a traditional Icelandic banquet were the meats and vegetables on offer were cooked using the geothermal energy which we washed down with traditional seasonal beer made locally.
Having been fed and watered it was back onto the bus as we pushed further up North in the hope of catching a glimpse of the spectacular Aurora of the Northern lights.
As we made our way along our entertaining tour guide relayed stories of mythology and Viking folklore and having enjoyed the delights of the lagoon and banquet, for a fleeting moment the Seagulls felt like they had reached their “Valhalla” but as the legend goes, does who reach “Valhalla” will live to experience this again, as so do the Seagulls as we await our next adventure!