Entry 6: August 7
In a dogfight played at Ross County Futbol Club facilities, the Irish put together our third straight victory with a 1-0 win against that club’s U-21 team.
The three-hour bus ride began at 8:30 a.m. and took us through a beautiful scenic route of the Scottish countryside, as well as numerous historical villages. The ride up and the ride back took the whole day, except for a bit of socializing. Other than that there was not much excitement except for the game – and plenty excitement there was.
Ross County is a strong Division 1 team (one below the Scottish Premier League) that has been getting better and better in the last few years. The under-21 team that we played today was more like a reserve team for the club’s first squad, because there was no real limitation on age.
The weather was typical of Scotland, dark and drizzling. As the game got underway, the wet surface gave way to some very sloppy tackles by the Ross County team. The “friendly exhibition” got heated right away and the game pace was flying!
We got at their defense early, creating strong shots as well as a corner kick header that just missed the post. After a few nasty confrontations, the Irish began to move the ball around Ross County’s defense and we were finding ways to break them down. Irish goalkeeper Chris Sawyer was under almost no pressure in the first half and was replaced by Greg Tait at halftime, just as has happened in the first two games.
Substitutes Justin Detter, Filippo Chillemi and Devon Prescod also entered at the half. Those three, along with the boss’s halftime advice not to get into physical battles with the Scots, were greatly responsible for the team’s increase in pressure and pace for the first 20 minutes of the second half.
Then the momentum that was raging at a mile-a-minute shifted in favor of Ross County. We restrained and showed more class than in the first half – but with no help from a slightly- unbiased referee, the game started to slip away as the clock wound down.
We regained composure, and started possessing the ball , but right about that time came “The Call.” A penalty kick awarded, and I do mean awarded as in a gift to Ross County with just minutes remaining. A long ball was flighted into the box and defenders Goldie and Jack Stewart challenged and beat one Ross County forward to the ball. But to make the call even less appropriate, goalkeeper Greg Tait came well off his line, soaring over everybody, and punched the ball clear of any danger.
But then came the delayed whistle and a penalty kick was given. Jack was inexplicably blamed for the foul – but before we could even sort through it all, the Ross County striker was preparing to take the kick.
Twenty minutes prior to “The Call,” just as we were pouring the heat on the opposing goalkeeper, Flip took a corner from the left side. As the ball came cutting through the box, Goldie found his way to the end of it and headed the ball down past the keeper, The Irish had a 1-0 lead that was held untilÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒ € ‘ ¯ ¿ ½
The ball was placed in the penalty spot and Greg took his place on the goalline. The Irish players were yelling, firing up their goalkeeper, and Greg got himself ready in the net. Taits only words were, “Boys, you had better get this rebound.”
Meanwhile, we all thought a 1-1 tie was inevitable. The kick was well-taken, hard and to the left corner of the goal. But an outstretched, acrobatic Greg Tait launched himself over in time, punching the ball wide to the corner flag. After that, the watch beeped, the whistle blew and the celebration was on. Greg Tait got his moment in the limelight, up on the bus, leading the song and chant. He was the hero for the day.
Now we prepare for an adventurous day on our own tomorrow, Until then, Slainthe and may the spirit of the Irish be with you.
– Greg Martin –