This spring break, the Wildcats made the journey across the pond to Ireland. This will be somewhat of a Q:A style. This work of words will not be my own words, rather the Wildcats, who endured the long flight over to the Emerald Isle. So without further ado, here is Ireland through the eyes of Wildcats.
Flight over and Somerset College (RSA) Matchday
Ricky Rose ‘19: “Personally, I don't do very well on planes. Being tall makes it impossible to find any comfort during flights. Nonetheless, the payoff was well worth the discomfort. Our inaugural day on the Emerald Isle was mostly spent aligning ourselves with the four hour time change. Soon after, we got after it. Our first game against Somerset College hailing from Cape Town, South Africa, was well anticipated. We were psyched to get the chance to play elite competition. We arrived to the pitch early to prepare ourselves for the ensuing match. Kick off lead to a decent start for the Cats. We found out soon enough that we had a big opportunity to upset our South African adversaries. It was apparent that we had to overpower their superior experience and skill after some great phases by both our forwards and backs. We kept them within arms reach for most of the game but their years of playing together and the impressive speed of their backline, paired with some self-inflicted mistakes, lead to our downfall. In the end, we left with our heads held high, because even though we did not walk away with the results we sought, we learned valuable lessons which will help us in our journey for success.”
Carl Felder '19: “Before leaving Cleveland, everything went well at the airport. I was mostly worried about check-in because it was my first time doing it alone. In the past, we as a rugby team would check in together and leave together. But this time it was different. My flight over was the norm for me, which is trying to find a comfortable position to fall asleep. I ate lunch and dinner on the plane and it was very good. I had this delicious cheese pasta with bread and butter and I just devoured all of it, that’s how yummy it was, also because I was super hungry. After that, the rest of the flight for me was just me sleeping.
"Our first game against Somerset was definitely not bad whatsoever, but it definitely wasn’t good either. It was okay for it to be our first game. I believe that we could of beaten them, but we were having problems within our team that played a huge role in the way we played. Most of all, I was proud of the team for giving their best effort in the game because we all know how hard it is to go against something you have no chance at winning at. So, the only thing you can do is give your best effort, which we did and we learned from that game and just appreciate the experience to play against a very good team.”
Nick Vitou ’19: “The flight over for me was perfect because I slept the entire time. Fell asleep in Cleveland just waiting to takeoff and woke up when the plane hit the tarmac in Newark. The flight over to Ireland was the same story, I only woke up for the dinner they served and then directly fell back asleep. As for the game against Somerset, I thought we played well and we learned a lot of good things to take back to the states with us. This game was actually the first time I saw the field for A-side so that was a memorable experience. I’m glad we got to play against a team of such high caliber and be able to actually make a good game out of it.”
Declan McCarthy ’19: “The fight over to Ireland was okay for me. I couldn’t find any comfortable position to sleep in since I was stuck in between two of our biggest players – Seamus McCarthy and Xavier Everett – but nevertheless, the flight went very well.”
Shane Miczak '20: “The flight felt very long and I could not find a good position to sleep in on the flight. It was my first time out of the country, so that was a very cool experience. Playing against Somerset was a very unique game for me because it was my first time playing in an international match. It was interesting to see how their play differed from ours during the game. It definitely taught me a lot about rugby.”
Thomond Park and Munster vs Zebre
Munter (Ireland), Zebre (Italy), are two of the best club teams in the UK/Europe and they compete in the Guinness Pro14 league, which features the best club teams from Wales, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, and Italy.
Nathan Speelman '19: “We were received in a very nice private room that fit the whole team and all our families. We had buffet style food options that included lamb stew, lasagna and chicken wings (basically as elegant as you wanted it to be). We had seats just above that room in the lower part of the upper deck. There really wasn’t a bad seat in the whole stadium. We were met with mild weather. The performance that unfolded was the highest level of rugby that I had witnessed prior to that moment. It was so fast-paced and the obvious chemistry and cohesion between the teammates greatly surpassed that of our team or those we had played. It gave us something to shoot for and allowed us insight into what a great rugby team can be.”
Janniel Badeas '19: Thomond Park Stadium was amazing. It was the first time I’ve ever seen a club match, let alone a match, outside of the US. The atmosphere was amazing as well. It’s amazing to see how many people gather together for rugby. It's amazing to see that because in America it’s hard to make that happen for rugby.
Sunday Mass and Training with Matt Brown
Matt Brown is a rugby coach at Old Crescent, Clanwilliam Crescent College Senior Cup Team, Jarlath Naughton also helped train the Wildcats in Ireland.
Carl Felder '19: “First I would like to say that the cathedral we had Mass at was just gorgeous in the inside, so don’t let the outside fool you. Anyways, the coaches and the players walked to the cathedral and it was about a 10-15 minute walk there and back. We arrived at the right cathedral after being led to different cathedral by Jack Schroer. We went in and began Mass. The Mass was a little different but the same as we do it in school, so I was still able to follow along. Nathan Speelman and Jack Schroer both did a reading, which was very brave of them since they were in another country and in front of people they didn’t know besides the rugby team. After Mass, we took pictures in the cathedral and a couple of pictures outside the cathedral and headed back to our hostel. There’s one thing that Rugby Cats never forget when we are traveling – to go to Mass to thank God for all he does for us.”
Croagh Patrick, Westport and Cong Abbey
“Croagh Patrick is a 764 metres or 2,506.56 feet [WOW that’s a hike] mountain and an important site of pilgrimage in County Mayo, Ireland.” Tommy Gill ‘19 will speak more on Westport and Cong Abbey, and Anthony Labate ‘19 will guide us up the formidable opponent that is Croagh Patrick. And from what I’ve heard might have been tougher than the teams the Wildcats played while overseas.
Tommy Gill '19: “During the first part of the trip, I injured my leg and was unable to make the climb up Croagh Patrick. This was a blessing in disguise, because I was able to spend the day in Westport. Westport was a nice little town with busy streets and really kind people. The day at Westport meant more to me though because it’s where my family originated. Cong Abbey was definitely a must see for me. For some reason, I found it really interesting and pleasing to the eye. It was just a beautiful, quiet area where you could just take everything in.”
Anthony Labate '19: “Along the brutal climb to Croagh Patrick, I would take a few stops and take in my surroundings. The fresh air, the sea behind me, the rocks crunching under my feet. Though it was painful, it was worth it. We got to the top, snapped a pic, and are now able to say we climbed a mountain. When I initially thought of Ireland, Westport is what I imagined – a little town in the middle of nowhere. There was not much to do there besides stock up on some food and drink for the ride home. I very much enjoyed the visit to Cong Abbey. Though we did not spend much time there, it was nice to walk the grounds and take it all the beautiful trees and wildlife. Besides the moving water from the river, I remember how still everything seemed. It was so quiet – all you could hear was the chirping of the birds.”
Cliffs of Moher, Midstream (RSA), and Coolmines RFC
“The Cliffs of Moher are sea cliffs located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare, Ireland. They run for about 14 kilometres or 8.7 miles.”
Luke Granzier '20: “Cliffs of Moher – This was probably my second favorite part of the trip because it’s probably the best example you could show someone of the natural beauty in Ireland. It was surreal looking over an edge nine hundred feet above sea level, one that would undoubtedly kill me if I were to fall. It really just puts into perspective how small compared to everything else in the world.
"Midstream – If I’m being completely honest, I was somewhat lacking in faith that we could give this team full of seemingly grown men a good contest before the match even began. However, this fear pretty much went away as soon as I got the ball for the first time. I made a small but effective breakaway run where I broke about 3-4 tackles before being dragged down, and it kind of made me realize that I was in fact playing against other human beings whose talent I could play up to. This courage powered me, and it looked like the rest of the team, through the game and especially in the second half where we actually matched their scoring after being discouraged in the first half.
Coolmines – Coolmines was my favorite part of the entire rugby trip to Ireland, at least rugby-wise. Although Coolmines had proven themselves superior to the Midstream team that I had somewhat dreaded facing, I headed into the game with almost no fear whatsoever. This was largely in part due to the fact that the players from that team were just so genuinely nice and sportsmanly (or at least they were compared to team’s I’ve faced in the past). This game alone stood for what I think rugby is all about in the first place: wanting to destroy your opponent, but having fun and showing the brotherhood that rugby as a whole should embody in the process. In fact, I can’t really remember the last time I’ve had so much fun playing in a rugby game before, it almost kind of reminded me that the sport is really supposed to be fun in the first place.”
Seamus McCarthy '19: “The Cliffs were a great spectacular sight. My family and I are from County Clare, so to see the Cliffs of Moher was seeing where we came from. It was awesome in the true sense of the word. You could stand there and just look out into the Atlantic and see the path so many had traveled to where we are today.”
Jake Daley '20: “For me, the Cliffs of Moher was a really cool experience because of the sheer beauty that the site possesses. There is something peaceful and serene about looking out across the ocean. The day we went was especially nice because it was fairly clear and you could see so much around you.
“Midstream was a game that I will never forget because I scored my first ever A-side try against them. It was so special to score against such tough competition, and it was awesome to watch firsthand how South Africans play the game. I was able to learn so much just by playing against those guys, so it was a really great moment. Coolmines was a fun game because there was really no pressure on us coming into the game. I was able to just relax and be in the moment. During the Coolmines match, it hit me that I was playing international rugby, and I just wanted to make the most out of the experience. It was awesome to just be on the same field as some really talented players.”
The Merry Ploughboys
“Playing Music in Dublin since 1988, the Merry Ploughboys have provided the best traditional Irish entertainment for visitors to Dublin and locals alike for the past twenty four consecutive years. The band their own and manage their own traditional Irish pub in Dublin called “the Merry Ploughboy Irish Music Pub Dublin". The nightly shows at the pub are undoubtedly the "must do" Irish music experience on any trip to Dublin. This is the first and only music venue in Ireland which is actually owned and run by the musicians themselves. It should come as no surprise that the band have ensured that the focus of their pub is on Irish music and Irish culture.”
Declan McCarthy '19: “The show at the Merry Ploughboys was outstanding. The traditional music and dancing was amazing to witness. My favorite part of the entire show was the custom song made for Cleveland, Ohio.”
Seamus McCarthy '19: “The show at the Merry Ploughboys was spectacular. All of the traditional Irish music and the feel it gave off really made you feel like you were apart of the whole culture. It truly was amazing. The food was great. The lamb fell right off the bone and the chowder was delicious. The dancing as well was so cool. The way they moved so quickly and without mistake was really impressive.”
Seamus Cooney '19: “The Merry Ploughboys Show was my favorite night during the whole trip. The atmosphere in that room was crazy. I will always cherish the memories of me and my brothers singing along to the Irish songs that we had practiced all year long in preparation for this trip. Everything was fun from the band playing the team's favorite song (The Rattlin Bog) to John getting embarrassed by his father because he took a picture with one of the dancers. Good food, lots of laughs, real Irish traditions, and memories that will last forever. The Merry Ploughboys truly captured the essence of the Ireland Trip.”
Trinity College and Book of Kells
“Trinity College, officially the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin [which is absolute mouthful], is the sole constituent college of the University of Dublin, a research university located in Dublin, Ireland. The college was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I as the "mother" of a new university, modeled after the collegiate universities of Oxford and Cambridge, but unlike these other ancient universities, only one college was ever established; as such, the designations "Trinity College" and "University of Dublin" are usually synonymous for practical purposes. It is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland, as well as Ireland's oldest surviving university. Trinity College is widely considered the most prestigious university in Ireland and amongst the most elite in Europe, principally due to its extensive history, reputation for social elitism, and unique relationship with both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.” “The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables, and is dated to the ninth century.”
Shane Miczak '20: “We toured the Book of Kells for less than an hour. The museum was interesting to get to look at. Later, we toured the library at the college. It was a large room with very high shelves filled with books. The tour was very informative.”
Ricky Rose '19: “The team woke up bright and early on a crisp Gaelic morning in Dublin. We walked as a group through the historic streets to the courtyard of Trinity College where we met at the museum of the Book of Kells. It was a unique experience to learn about and finally see the ancient text which was beautifully ornate with its precise calligraphy. We then entered the library or the “Long Room” which was a wonderfully organized compilation of ancient novels, documents, encyclopedias, etc. Not only was it a architectural wonder, it was a glimpse into Ireland’s rich history.”
If you made it this far: Thank You. On behalf of the players, I’d like to thank the amazing coaches for giving the team the once in a lifetime opportunity to be immersed into the culture of Ireland as a country, its people, but most importantly, its rugby. For those of you who may not know truly how good Ireland is at rugby, at the time I write this on April 3, they are ranked third in the world at the highest level which is international rugby. The Wildcats possibly played against future caped players (a cap is a metaphorical term for a player's appearances, not including substitute appearances) in a game at international level. The term dates from the practice in the United Kingdom of awarding a cap to every player in an international match of association football/soccer for the Ireland National Team and the South African teams as well. South Africa is ranked fifth in the world. Also, a huge thank you to the parents who helped as well.
A special thanks to Somerset College (RSA), Midstream (RSA) , and Coolmines RFC for giving the Wildcats the honor and privilege to play against such highly recognized international teams. And the final thank you goes to all the players who contributed their Gaelic tales to help me write this. Without you guys, I couldn’t have done this alone. And finally, if you would liked to read more in depth about some of the seniors on the team, we have Senior Profiles on Jack Rolf, Nathan Speelman, Declan Boldy, Nick Vitou and finally Carl Felder.