SEVENTH IN EUROPE. If Trap’s Army were to achieve something similar next summer, there’d be a whole lot of this going on:
For an Irish footballtennis team only finding their feet on the international sporting stage, a nifty little piece in TheScore will have to do.
Competing in their second-ever international tournament after an impressive 10th place finish in the World Championships in Turkey last year, Steven Conway and his team-mates ended weeks of training and preparation and jetted off to Cyprus to take on the continent’s finest.
The outcome? Wins over Slovakia and Turkey (both of whom would be looked upon as more established footballtennis nations), a narrow defeat to the Croats and a week that they’re unlikely to forget.
“It was incredible experience from our point of view,” said Conway.
“We were chuffed with our finish, although Russia didn’t show up and we had been banking on them as one of the beatable teams”
The opening match pitted our boys against Slovakia and unlike in the Euro 2012 qualifier between the two nations back in September, scores were exchanged freely and often.
With the added advantage of having Slovakian coach Juraj Holkovic in their corner, Ireland eventually ground out a result against dogged opposition to begin the competition with a win.
“They (Slovakia) reminded me of ourselves last year,” explained Conway. ”Not particularly talented put annoyingly tricky to beat.”
Next up was a meeting with last year’s hosts Turkey, who had claimed third in that competition.
“We watched them last year and I believe they were more consistent this time around but the lads were outstanding in that game,” said Conway, who founded the team with a group of friends from NUI Maynooth.
Conway training in Maynooth
The final result – played in front of a sizable crowd technique – was 11-7 11-8 in favour of what now looked to be an unstoppable green juggernaut.
However, despite putting it up to them in an epic 11-9 11-9 tie, Croatia ended hopes of a top-four finish to call a halt on what was a tremendous occasion for the inexperienced Irish side.
As well as competing, the week away gave the group a chance to mingle with a number of the other teams.
One of their final nights at the five-star hotel, which was paid for by the North Cypriot Footballtennis Federation, saw the lads go for drinks with their Macedonian and Croatian counterparts.
“They could speak decent English so we got on well and had a bit of craic”
Looking to the future, Conway is hell-bent on adding to the foundations which they have worked so hard to lay over the past year.
Before the championships, he met with representatives from the Northern Irish and English footballtennis associations with hopes of establishing strong ties.
“We are looking into the possibility of holding a sort of tri-nations tournament or possibly making it four teams if we can get France on board.”
Plans are also in the pipeline to set up a footballtennis club in Sligo town, as the group are all from the surrounding areas in Sligo and Mayo.
“We want to keep it going after we all finish college and Juraj is moving up there soon so that’s the plan,” he added.
Here’s footage from the team’s game with Croatia:
YouTube credit: JamesMulrooneyfti