The Committee had spent weeks arranging hotels and travel arrangements, and the team had spent many Friday nights at D’Monkey drinking and Saturday afternoons at Bailin fields training for the 2008 Asian Gaelic games.
So in the early hours of Friday, Taiwan’s best gathered to meet the bus at Da An Park; but it was soon noticeable that the bus had too many empty seats.
Many phone calls were made. Sean was awake but would make his own way to the Airport after waking up late. Brian having had Barry banging on his door for many minutes with no response was still not answering his phone and John Long, who is still scared of Mobile phones after watching enemy of the state and lives his life off the grid, was not contactable.
With the prospect of starting the weekend two players down, but with hope they would magically appear at the airport, the team proceeded to the airport.
Because Friday was the 10/10 Holiday in Taiwan, the Ladies night at D’Monkey on the Thursday night was a last opportunity for a pre-tour team building that could not be missed. Many retired from the team building at sensible hours to spend time with WAGS or finish up packing. Brian, John and myself stayed for a little longer. I’m hazzy on what happened, but I remember Brian knocking back Tequila with some eye candy, and I left at kicking out time.
After many calls to try and rouse the absent Brian during the journey to the airport, and while waiting to board the plane, our hopes of a grand last minute entrance were dashed, so we boarded the plane for the uneventful flight to Penang. The only highlight of the flight was Barry being cut off from the alcohol by the air hostess after, in her opinion, sinking a few too many in-flight G&Ts.
On arriving in Penang Sean powered up his blackberry to find a few work emails for his attention from “one of the missing” copied verbatim below.
I’m in a bad spot. I can’t explain this morning and I’ve been on the phone with the travel agent and the airline and I can’t get a flight through. Sunday afternoon is the earliest I can get there, so it looks like I’m out. I seriously apologize, best of luck to the team.
Everyone checked in to our base for the weekend, the Shangri-la Traders Penang. Although it was very nice it did not have the same recreational facilities as its sister hotels, so we headed off to spend the afternoon in the pool and sinking cocktails.
With the coming of the evening, all headed back to the hotel to apply after-sun and kit up for the welcome dinner and drawing of first round games.
The spread was fantastic and the camaraderie was better, meeting friends form GAA tournaments past and former Taiwan Celts who have moved to other parts of Asia.
In a very unusual turn of events, the Taiwan Celts were all tucked up in bed before midnight; dreaming and aspiring of greatness qualified with silverware.
Game 1 Vs Thailand with former Taiwan chairman John Campbell within their ranks the form from past years tournaments of the Thailand team was regarded as pretty good, the expected form was not to be. Instead of hitting the sack early on Friday, Thailand had been drinking and singing round the hotel lobby piano with others until the early hours.
Thailand were, it’s fair to say, still hurting from the night before when an unfortunate event happened: one of the Thailand team made an optomistic challange for the ball and connected with Sean’s knee. After some treatment from the magic sponge, Sean was back on his feet; but the Thailand player was carried off by the medical team to the local hospital with a broken leg.
The game finished with a win for Taiwan, only conceeding a few points and best wishes for the fallen Thai player.
Game 2 Vs Singapore C, although they were only the third string team from Singapore their skill and fitness was greater than the level that could be mustered from the Taiwan team. I can’t remember the score but suffice to say Singapore grabed the victory.
Game 3 Vs Hong Kong B, a game we were not expecting to win and we were not dissaponited.
Game 4 Vs Orang Eire Blue, being new kids (only Malaysia’s Second games) they were an unknown quantity, the game was closely fought but the game finished with Orang Eire up 2-3 to 0-2.
Thailand’s games had gone particularly bad after starting the tounament without a full team and loosing two players to hospitalizing injures, understandably the remaining players lost all apetite for the competition and withdrew from the second day.
The misfortune of Thailand gifted us with only one game on the Sunday afternoon, the Bowl Final Vs Penang.
As Taiwan Celts ACB representative Barry attended the AGM while the rest of the team headed off in to Georgetown for the night where we enjoyed a cracking Curry and drinks far to late in to the night.
The Bowl final found us matched against a team from Penang who had not been spending more hours in pubs and clubs than on the training field.
Because of the great relationship between Taiwan and Thailand, for the final we were brought up to a full complement on the subs bench by some of the Thailand team. To me it seemed a good omen that we had a Mathew, Mark and Luke (names of the apostles) on the subs bench who nows what would have happened if John Long had made the trip .
Because of the superior fitness of the Penang team, the subs bench was used to full effect and it was down to the greater physicality in contact and sheer tenacity of the team not to loose, that at full time it was all square on the points board (can’t remember the score). So with one player down because of a red card late in normal time the Taiwan Celts were forced to play extra time.
Both teams were completely exhausted during extra time and because there was no change in the scores we were foced in to a golden point situation.
The whole team was physically and mentally wiped, but from somewhere every one managed to dig down deep and put David (Hoff) Grimes in a position to take the golden point and bring the bowl back to Taiwan.
After a very physical game Penang were extremely gracious in defeat; and due to being under-aged and good Muslim boys, their coach gave us their beer tokens. But I think they said they would be back to beat us in 2009.
Tour report by Graham Harvey 2008 GAA tour virgin