Messi in Spain

Barcelona, 8th March 2018.

On the back of the their Dutch Master Class, it was time for the Ballybrack Seagulls to take flight once again. Time to visit a city that was portraying its self as the new home of “Total Football”. 

Time to visit BARCELONA!

Match Day 4 saw a flock of Seagulls travel in large numbers to the Capital of Catalonia, the city of Barcelona, to play in their fourth international friendly against FLAHERTYS FC, a social Football team who play in Barcelona’s International Football League and are based out of Flaherty’s Irish Bar, located just of the world famous Las Ramblas Boulevard in Barcelona. 

The Ballybrack Seagulls had received an invitation to celebrate the St. Patricks weekend of 2018 in Barcelona and take on FLAHERTY’S FC in an international friendly on the 18th of March. The Seagulls assembled in the now familiar surroundings of Dublin Airport for our flight to the city of Barcelona with the departure lounge our rendezvous point.

It was easy to spot the Ballybrack Seagulls in the crowded as we assembled in our Three Striped logo manufactured leisure wear in the traditional St. Patricks Blue! Following our safe landing at Barcelona International Airport we board our transport to our city centre based HQ, the Gran Hotel Havana, on the Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes. 

Having checked in to the team HQ and have enjoyed some food we all gathered for the official start of the weekend and enjoyed some local beers and cocktails at the roof top bar of the Hotel Havana, before heading down the town to enjoy some music and dancing, along with more of the local delights in George Payne’s Irish Bar.

The next day was St. Patricks Day and our invitation included joining a couple of the opposition from FLAHERTY’S FC in Flaherty’s Bar to drown the Shamrock. The Ireland Rugby team were to play England that afternoon at Twickenham chasing a Grand Slam and 6 Nations Championship and despite the Seagulls been a prominently soccer based group, the thoughts of Ireland playing the old enemy on English soil on a St. Patrick’s Day is a pretty healthy combination for a great day out!

Even our resident Rugby expert and fan of everything D4, Derek “Becker” Timmons who was joining us for his maiden Seagulls FC trips couldn’t contain his enthusiasm for this day. He eats, sleeps and breathes Rugby, loves it.

At the time of our visit the city of Barcelona was entrenched in the battle for independence of Catalonia and little did we now as we set off from the Havana Hotel there was a march programmed along the Gran Via de Les Corts Catalanes on the Hotels front door. The Seagulls had a dawned themselves in head to toe Green and the best Paddy Whackery money could buy! 

Some in fact had gone as far as having commissioned a tailor to have tailor made Shamrock printed suits made. So as Sean “Yaya” Cummins and Paul “Ozzy” Osborne made their way along this Rally for Catalonian Independence they gained celebrity status with the Catalonians pestering the lads for endless selfies as they made their way to the Las Ramblas and into Flaherty’s Irish Bar in the Shamrock tailored suits. By time the lads reach Flaherty’s Irish Bar they had earned a well-deserved drink.

The 17th of March 2018 saw Derek “Becker” Timmons witness his beloved game of Rugby reach the pinnacle of brilliance in the Northern hemisphere as he stood “Shoulder to Shoulder” with his fellow Ballybrack Seagulls and witness Ireland slaying the English on their own turf to become Six Nation Champions for 2018. A great day turned into night in Flaherty’s Irish Bar as we well in truly drowned the Shamrock before gathering in the lobby bar of the Hotel Havana for a memorable sing along led by a returning Seagull Robbie “El Camino” Murphy and enjoyed Pina Colada’s courtesy of George “Skiddely” Downer!

The following morning we arose as match day had final arrived and as the saying goes…hindsight is a great thing and this was definitely the case for this Seagulls trip. In fairness we had decided post the original venture to NYC in 2016 that for future trips that we would endeavour to enjoy the hospitality of the local hostelries and get into the mindset of the locals. Unfortunately this policy didn’t take into account that there would be a St. Patrick’s celebration the day before a match! 

Due to personal commitments the Gaffer “Uncle” Ray Downer was unavailable to travel so Damien “Chopper” Wallace stepped in as interim manager for the trip to Barcelona as he himself was unavailable for selection due to “injury”.

We had a number of survivors from the Dutch master class from the previous trip in November such as Mark “The Chiropractor” O’Sullivan, Carl “The Brack Pearl” Breen, Rob “The Professor” Dunne (who suffered an Alarm call issue that morning) Noel “Twinkle Toes” Lacey, Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan along the ever present Georgie “Skiddely” Downer plus the returning Skipper Martin Hewitt saw a healthy and experienced travelling team arrive at the Camp Municipal de Futbal to take on FLAHERTY’S FC, led by their club Captain Graham Burrell. 

The Ballybrack Seagulls had a couple of international debutants among their ranks in the form of Charlie “Messy” Henderson a long with Sean “The Graduate” O’Sullivan. So on a barmy spring afternoon the Seagulls, togged out in a nod to the Irish Tri-colour of green socks, orange shorts and white jersey and led for the second time by Martin “The Captain” Hewitt tipped off against a team made up of local players and players from the UK, Ireland, Holland Germany and Greece, which gave it a truly international feel. 

The Ballybrack Seagulls set up in a 4 4 1 1 formation with Rhys “Twinkle Toes JR” Lacey dropping off Wayne O’Sullivan who would play as loan forward up top. 

At the back Willie “Safe Hands” Devlin resumed custodian duties between the sticks with the Brack Pearl, Carl Breen anchoring the centre of the defence. 

Georgie Downer once again lined out in his centre mid-field role alongside a youthful pairing of Josh “His Mam has got it going on” O’Reilly and Sean “The Graduate” O’Sullivan. 

The opening 20 minutes saw some quite outstanding Football by the Seagulls, with a number of opportunities to get in around the Spanish opposition defence coming about with great fluidity. The opening exchanges were also quite physical which caught the Catalonian players out but was certainly something the UK and Irish players on FLAHERTY’S certainly enjoyed.

After a tight exchange of passes on the edge of the Spanish 18 yard box, Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan was released but only to be unceremoniously flattened on his blind side by the big German central defender lining out for FLAHERTY’S FC. Penalty Seagulls!

O’Sullivan dusted himself off and stepped up to take the penalty himself and struck a side footed shot down to the left hand side of the Spanish goal keeper who somehow acrobatically got down to put a strong hand on the ball and turn the attempt around the post and out for a corner. Unfortunately nothing came out of the resulting corner and the Spanish goalmouth remained untested. 

The Seagulls were beginning to tire as the game clock pushed into the final 15 minutes of the first half. It was at this point the Seagulls fell behind through an O.G. 

Having moved the ball neatly down the Seagulls left flank, the FLAHERTY’S FC outside right swung in a dangerous cross and in an attempt to clear his lines, the Brack Pearl misdirected a header into back of his own net. Can’t say that heads dropped from this point but certainly the excesses of previous day were beginning to take their toll. Not long after conceding our first we fell further behind when our Spanish hosts extended their lead when they broke down a Seagull attack and in a lightening counterattack doubled their goal account. 

The Seagulls rallied and despite been 2 down kept up knocking the ball around with confidence and once again O’Sullivan found himself in on goal but he Spanish goalkeeping opponent was in fine form and frustrated the Irish striker once. In the resulting counterattack FLAHERTY’S FC broke a high lined off-side trap and slipped into a 3-nil lead. The Seagulls needed half time to reset and so the scoreboard read, FLAHERTY’S FC 3 Ballybrack Seagulls 0. 

Half time saw interim manager Damien Wallace make some changes to the playing personal in an effort to stem the tide and try and retrieve a match that was rapidly racing away from the travelling Seagulls. 

In for his international Seagull debut was rugby fan Derek “Becker” Timmons in goal for Willie Devlin and Stephen “The Brief” Brady coming in for O’Reilly. 

The second half kicked-off and once again some confident play was on display from the Seagulls but the Spanish opposition had also introduced a couple of fresh faces and fresh legs, which in turn was proving quite challenging to what can only be described as getting tired and leggy as the second have proceeded. Once again the Seagull attack opened up the Spanish defence and for the second time O’Sullivan was flattened as he was about to strike on goal. 

Another penalty for the Seagulls! Time for O’Sullivan to set the record straight and get the Seagulls on the score board. Up steps O’Sullivan and boom, history is repeated, his Spanish opponent, didn’t fall for the change of direction in this penalty attempt and once again the Spanish goal remained unscathed. 

Things went from bad to worse at this stage as our Spanish opponents extended their lead to make it 4 to zero. 

At this stage I’m sure Interim Manager Damien Wallace was looking for the exit gate as his tactical nightmare was been lived out live in front of his very own eyes. Not since the Seagulls match in New York in 2016 had such bad calls been made from the side-line management. In fairness the double act of Davy “Hello” Keogh and Jimmy “The Grump” Mowlds are of course part time amateurs and little was expected there.

Caution was thrown into the wind, Rob “El Camino” Murphy was introduced with the Skipper stepping aside. 

Stephen “The Brief” Brady pushed himself up top, relieving himself of his defensive duties which proved costly as the fresh legged opponents skipped through the Seagull defence to add to their already considerable lead. This 5th goal soon became 6 with and couple of returning FLAHERTY’S FC legends rounding off a match the Seagulls would like to forget with a couple of more goals, as the final whistle sounded the score line flashed FLAHERTY’S FC 8, Ballybrack Seagulls 0. 

It’s fair to say this is a match we try not to talk about and as for the interim manager, well the less said the better. 

But seriously, “The Chopper” Wallace stepped in and took on a thankless task but lessons were learned this trip, and the events of this trip can only make us stronger. 

Post-match a large group travelled to Camp Nou to watch Barcelona play while the rest of us travelled back to Flaherty’s Irish Bar to enjoy some post-match drinks with FLAHERTY’S FC Captain Graham Burrell and the rest of the FLAHERTY’S players. We were later joined by the rest of the travelling Seagulls at Flaherty’s Irish Bar. We enjoyed a great night with the FLAHERTY’S FC lads but it’s fair to say, when we came to the drinking contest, we won this hands down! 

On our final day in Barcelona the Seagulls hit the tourist trail and no visit to Barcelona is complete without a trip to the Basilica de La Sagrada Familia. 

So having visited Camp Nou the night before the Seagulls had visited the two famous basilicas of Barcelona, one dedicated to Football and one to dedicated to God! Sure isn’t Football a religion so we are keeping good company. 

Big thanks to all the staff at Flaherty’s Irish Bar and to Graham Burrell and his teammates of FLAHERTY’S FC for all the hospitality and a great weekend. 

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