Boccia European Continental Cup: My Review
Boccia European Continental Cup: My Review
On the 29th of March 2015, I had the honour of representing Ireland in the Boccia European Continental Cup in Barcelona. After months of training, I was excited to see if the hard work that we all put in would pay off. It started off with my brother Niall and I going to meet the team in the airport. We headed to Barcelona with some new additions to Team Ireland These included my training partner Padge Kelly, team-mates Dylan Nelson, Padhraic Dormer and Michael O’ Dowd. The team also included former world champion Padraic Moran, captain Connor Corroon and not forgetting our coach Anthony Clarke and manager Naomi Mallin.
After a safe flight we eventually reached our hotel pretty late that night. We ate some strange food we headed to bed as we had a busy day ahead of us!
What is Boccia?
Boccia was practiced for many years as a leisure activity until it was introduced at the New York 1984 Paralympic Games as a competitive sport. It is practiced in more than 50 countries by those with cerebral palsy or related neurological conditions involving a wheelchair. The game consists of four rounds in individuals and pairs competitions and of six rounds in the team competition. It is played on a hard surface, and the goal is to throw the game balls so that they land as close as possible to a special target ball, which is called the ‘jack’.
Over the next few days we had equipment checks, training, classification and the opening ceremony. By Wednesday it was time for the real work to begin as the competition started. The BC1/BC2 class team drew a tough pool of Spain, Portugal and Norway. It was going to be equally tough for our BC3 pairs as in their pool were the Czech Republic and Greece. We all knew we had to work hard if we wanted to get anywhere!
The first match of the day for the BC1/BC2 team was against Portugal, who are one of the top ten teams in the world. It was a tight game and we managed to take two points by winning two ends. Overall we lost by a score of 7-2 but put in a great performance. Next up for us was Spain, also ranked in the world’s top ten. It was a great start for Team Ireland as we were leading by 4 points in the first two ends in a tight game. Spain managed to come back winning by a score of 7-4. We bounced back for our last game against Norway, winning by a score of 11-2. It was great to end the day on a high and take a step in the right direction moving up the world rankings. Unfortunately our BC3 pair lost both their matches but put in a great performance.
Aside from the competition, there is always the fun and funny awkward moments to look back on and laugh about. Like breaking a door in my hotel room, getting stuck in the lift, my donut birthday cake and the time Padraic had to push my chair up a hill with his feet when my battery died. The laughs that we all have when we are together give me memories that will last a lifetime.
Next up it was time for the individual competition. My first match was against Panagiotis Soulanis of Greece. This was a tough match for me and while on court I knew I wasn’t playing my best and no matter what I tried nothing was going right. I left the court losing by a score of 8-0 and I felt disappointed and annoyed with myself.
The next day after receiving some advice and support from my teammates, friends and family, I knew I had to put the bad day behind me and keep being positive. My next match was against Lukas Balazi of Slovakia. It was a tight game and I was happy to score one point and keep the score down to 6-1 against one of the world’s best players.
My final match was against Daniel Qvist of Denmark. It was a great game as I was leading by 7 points until the 4th end, then Daniel managed to score 6 points. It was such a close score but I managed to win the match. This is my first major international win for Ireland. It was an incredible feeling and I couldn’t believe I actually did it. I hugged my brother and with tears of joy running down my face I went to meet my teammates. Before I even got to the door I could hear them all cheering “olé olé olé” and clapping. I got very emotional as they wrapped the Irish flag around me!
Overall it was a great competition for all of us, with Padge winning his first international match against Team GB’s Jess Hunter. Padraic made it into the last 16 and is moving up the world rankings! Dylan managed to take a few ends off three of the world’s top players. Padhraic Dormer, Connor and Michael gained some great experience to carry forward into future matches. As a squad we’ve shown what a team with a mix of fresh talent, youth and experience are capable of. From here the only way is up. The team finished 8th overall and I finished 15th individually.
Our next competition is the World Open in Poland this June. In the long term I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I’m looking forward to continuing the journey!
If you would like to follow Team Ireland’s progress in Poland, give my boccia page a like on Facebook!