Ireland Return Ready for the Challenge Trophy

The Ireland team emerged from a gruelling trip to Andorra victorious on Friday following a tense match.

The tip began in Barcelona with training at FCBarcelona Handbol Club’s world famous Palau Blaugrana. The Irish team were well received by Toni Gerona and Xavier O’Callaghan who truly embodied the Barcelona slogan “Més que un club” (“More than a club”), going the extra yard to make the team welcome.

"Ireland's New Home Ground"

After a tour of their state of the art facilities at the Ciudad Sport, Ireland took to the court and faced a Barcelona Youth Development squad comprising players from under 18 upwards.The bulk of these players train up to 10 times a week, so it was no surprise that they were able to defeat an Ireland team attempting to reintegrate our foreign based players.

While Barcelona showed their class, Ireland fought hard and showed real determination and skill in defeat, losing by an 8 goal margin 32-24.

The team showed glimpses of what is to come in the Challenge Trophy with some wonderfully worked goals. A strong performance by Ireland that will surely give the team confience in Limerick in November.

There was barely time to digest an amazing trip to Barcelona, when the next morning the Ireland team took a 3 hour bus ride to Andorra. The day marked a unique sporting double as Ireland took on Andorra in soccer and handball. Not only that, but Andorra, the newest member of the EHF, were playing their first ever international.

"Serra Dells Sports Centre Andorra with Mountains out the Window"

Little was known about the Andorran team other than the fact that majority of the players are involved in club handball in the Catalonian league and that they had been preparing for the match for three months since it was arranged.

It was no surprise then that the team were fired up with passion and came out of the blocks fastest, going into a quick lead. Ireland, sporitng their sleek new O’Neills kit, stayed in touch and can thank the efforts of goalkeepers Super Sully and Extraordinary Eoin for keeping them in the game.

As the game wore on, Irish soccer fans joined the large Andorran crowd and got behind the team with chants of  “Ole, ole, ole” heard after each goal for Ireland. A special mention must go the fantastic fans who made the long journey to Andorra and the even longer journey up the hill to the Serra Dells Sports Centre. Thank you!

Tensions rose as the game went on, with errors and lapses in concentration on both sides. Ireland made a final surge to tie the scores, before winning a penalty in the final minute.

Up stepped Chris O’Reilly, who kept his nerve to seal the win. There was still time for drama with Sully having to make a spectacular save at the other end to ensure victory. The team performance showed great determination and mental toughness to close out the game.

"Ireland get ready to rumble against Andorra"

"Ireland get ready to rumble against Andorra"

Andorra were difficult opponents, but fantastic hosts and if the game is anything to go by, it won’t be long before we see them again on the court. Special thanks to Gerard Gatarza and the team at the Andorran Handball Federation for being such great hosts and opponents.

 

Ireland return home and can now look forward to the Challenge Trophy from the 4th to the 6th of November in Limerick. Preparations continue on and off the court and encouragingly, Ireland’s warm up game results are 4 victories from 5 games. The other wins came against DEVA and Scotland (x2). Well done to all the squad and the coaches for their hard work.