The Gait Cup was the first half of our trip to America and it was undoubtedly a great experience. We were placed in Pool A in the top division, amongst some of the greatest youth teams from different parts of America. The team had mixed reactions about coming up against the best teams there but concluded that we had an opportunity to impress and up our game.
Our first game was an evening friendly against 'The Clams' who had a couple of players that were notoriously good. We lost but got a taste for the american speed, and a foresight into the rest of the tournament. The following day, the boys woke with the dread of having to play three games in the humid heat, the first was against the 'Hurricanes'. We lost again but we were still scoring a few goals each game and improving our defence. The 2 o'clock game that day was against a team from San Francisco, the "Alcatraz Outlaws" who were unbeaten so far. We managed to hold a steady game against them despite playing defence for the majority of the first half. We also made the most of our offensive plays, with a skilful around-the-back shot from Jake Howarth (a.k.a. Snakey). The rest of the match was postponed due to thunder and lightning, and the second half was to be played the following morning at 7:00am. For the rest of the afternoon the team pigged out of pizza from the local pizza place. The last day of the Gait Cup lay ahead the next day.
We woke up stupidly early to face the second half against the Outlaws after performing well in the first half. The defence played well and seemed to be performing well under the offensive pressure from the west coast team. We lost but put in a lot of effort and everyone left the game pleased that we gave the current tournament leaders a good challenge.
By this point, every player was having a shower after every game, however Ben Reddy seemed slightly less up for one and went to collapse on a mattress. Unfortunately this curly haired warrior had to miss the next two games due to a chest infection. The joker's stick skills and banter were sorely missed as we lost the first game against 'Velocity' in the mid-day heat.
But after this game we started the play off matches, and we were matched up against the 'Minnesota Jaxx'. We were all tired of losing and determined to get the win. After going 2-0 down, we started making better decisions in the offence and managed to win the game 10-4. Unfortunately, the stand-in LSM Elliot Condren had a head to head crunch with another player from the Jaxx, and came out of the game with concussion. Thankfully, he's now remembered how to count to ten without using his fingers.
It was a fantastic feeling beating an american team, every player came off the pitch with a grin on their face.
After the game, we reflected on the enjoyment we got from playing and were on a high for the next game.
The evening game on this day would decide whether we would have another game the following morning. We had to play the Velocity team we played earlier in the day.
Regardless of the end result, we went on the pitch with the intention of having fun and enjoying what could be our last game of the Gait Cup. Ciaran Johnson broke some ankles with his explosive split dodges, Ben Reddy 'came back from the dead' to run the length of the pitch and put it past the goalie. When everyone tried to jump on him he said "Go away, I'm ill". Tim Nicol (Current Top goal-scorer) pinged a shot in, under-arm from far out and the game ended 4-2 to Velocity.
It was easily one of the most enjoyable games for many of the players and Coach Scott declared it was one of the most entertaining matches he'd been a part of.
Scott Dagnanleach was also selected for the All-Star game that was to be played that evening. An achievement the overwhelmed him but the whole team were proud and knew he deserved it. Despite the All-Star game being cancelled 10 minutes in, he managed to get himself on the pitch and dance about with some twinkle toes split dodges. The team were supporting Scott in proper English fashion and he even was asked for a photo afterwards with one of the locals.
Overall, the Gait cup was a brilliant experience, the team improved massively by giving good competition to the Yanks and it wad definitely a tournament never to be forgotten.
Next stop, Bucknell University for the Bison Brawl.