Diary Day 7
And so the first week comes to a close here in Ireland, and a sea change is in the air.
We flew into Dublin early on Friday morning and the players have run and run for seven days now. Today was another tough morning with an 8am start on the beach. Karl, Shaun and Faz had already been for a run by then by the way, so they are working hard too. Me? Well I just paddled in the sea.
Then it was off to the training ground in a convoy of people carriers. I was able to catch up with Liam McWhirter who has had all the data from all of the sessions so far. He was messing about on Google Maps with a map of the UK so I asked him what he was up to. “It’s for the little video we are putting together for the lads later, thanking them for the way they have gone about things. The map is because the distance they covered is phenomenal. It’s not as if we were just slogging round pitches on distance runs, it has been shorter, sharper runs, often with the ball, and we have had a GPS on them throughout.
“If you add up all the miles they have done as a group over the last seven days then they would have run the equivalent of Lands End to John O’Groats plus an extra 200 miles”. He shows me the red line on the map. By the time we gather for a meeting at 4pm it has changed. They have now run the equaivalent of Oxford to Madrid, with a mile to spare!
Damien Doyle praises them further. “Yesterday’s session was tough” he says. “Deliberately so. But we gave you the opportunity to run for 65 minutes each in total and during that time every one of you ran what we wold expect you to cover in an entire 90 minutes.”
I wrote the other day about Armani Little topping the leaderboards? Well he is now ‘George’ and still top of the Performance charts but captain Curtis Nelson soars into the top three, and we have a new leader in the Technical charts: Malachi Napa.
There have been no arguments (or at least not when the media man could see them) and the only injury came when Scott Shearer got bashed in the nose and broke it, temporarily ruining his boyish good looks. Oh how we laughed. Scott went quiet for a little while but was soon back geeing everyone up and acting, as Wayne Brown told me the other day, like ‘the glue that keeps it all together.’ What a guy. There are no injuries because of the preparations that Amy Cranston, Scott Daly and ‘Spike’ put them through. Again, the staff team perfectly mirror the unity and professionalism of the players; we even grin and endure Bondy singing every night together.
I didn’t go to training today because I was trying to sort out the game on Monday night. Yesterday Karl, Shaun, Damien Doyle and myself went up to Portmarnock’s ground to check all was OK, but it soon became clear that six weeks of blazing sun- the longest spell of sunshine in Ireland since 1976- had left the pitch bone dry. Nobody’s fault and Portmarnock have been brilliant with us, but the search was on for a new ground.
Step forward Shelbourne who have offered us the loan of Tolka Park for the game. It’s a 20 minute walk from Dublin centre, five minutes in a taxi, has buses and access and things could not be set better to kick off the friendlies next week. The players and staff will come and have a drink and a chat with you afterwards.
Subtly, the focus is moving. Now it is the turn of the Yellow Army, who are starting to drift in to town and dominate the bars and coffee shops. Meanwhile Oxford United are coming home! With three games in three days next week, and after their exertions of the past few days, the players have the option of flying home for a couple of days to rest. Lots of them will therefore head back to England this afternoon and come back fresh 48 hours later; one of the benefits of being so close to home. “Do not undo the hard work you have put in” was the final message of the final meeting of the week, before we watched the video that Dan Bond and Ed Waldron had put together. It’s so good I asked if it was OK to show the world…
An added bonus of the players not being around is you won’t have to read the diary for a couple of days, but I’ll still be over here, switching effortlessly from professional media man to bald man asleep on the beach because I’ve overdone it. Happily so many of you are coming that ONE must have a spare hat?
Head Shaved. Game Face On. Let the games begin…