Saturday, April 28, 2007

Kremlin Bisset... And the Monsoon Season

I'm writing this so many months on, in November/December, but I wanted to go back and make sure I had a complete account of things.

Kremlin Bisset perhaps marked a peak in my form last year. I was settling in well in the club and my fencing was improving. The competition took place in Kremlin Bisset just South of Paris centre. I had a decent run in the poules, which I was pleased with and secured a relatively easy first round opponent who I dispatched without too much hassle in the 128. I had a difficult last 64 against a decent fencer, the brother of one of my team-mates.

After staying within touch during the first half of the match I failed to change my game in the second half when he did and lost out as a result. While my final ranking of #40 wasn't great, I was quite pleased with my performance on the day and considered the tournament somewhat of a turning point in becoming more familiar with the French set up.


After the tournament, I went for a bite to eat with Mo, one of the Scimitar fencers over from London. We'd dropped bags bag in my place before going for a bite to eat. On the way back to get the bags so he could leave for his flight in Charles de Gaulle the sky opened. I haven't seen rain like it since, even during the flood in Thailand. We pegged it back to my place for some shelter.

Reluctant to go out in the downpour, I was confident that if he left with around two hours before his flight he'd still make it without too much hassle. The rain didn't ease up but eventually it was time to go anyway. So, he set off to the RER station at Nation.

It wasn't till half an hour later that I got a call from him from the RER. The rain was so heavy that it had actually delayed the train and they were stuck at St. Denis. There was nothing much I could do except check various timetables or alternative travel arrangements. He seemed destined to miss the flight... and did.

So no miraculous escape this time, which would have made a better blog-entry perhaps. Ah well...

Change France but keep the lunches

Nice article written in a very personalable way about the dilemma facing france in the upcoming election.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Colours... Finally

I was up at a thoroughly ungodly hour to get back for the colours. I left my apartment at 6am in the morning to get my flight from CdeG.

In the end I suppose it was a bit of an anti-climax. The standard drubbing was handed down by the UCD squad to Trinity. The final scores were

MS - 5 : 0 - UCD
WS - 5 : 4 - UCD
ME - 5 : 3 - UCD
WE - 5 : 2 - UCD
MF - 4 : 5 - TCD
WF - 5 : 0 - UCD

UCD ran out 5-1 winners on weapons - fairly convincing, I think you'd agree. UCD could have probably managed to dispatch their men's sabre team which included two foilists without me but I was glad to be there for the club for my last colours and one which marked the 10th victory in a row for UCD. It gave me another chance to travel home and visit as well albeit very briefly.

I took charge of the reffing of the women's sabre match again, this time passed off without any outside interference. The Decade of Dominance was complete but what pleased me more than anything was the thought that 70's Porn Man was watching it all on his monitors in his underground layer and when that final hit landed he swivelled in his high-backed chair and clenching his fist, released a gutteral roar "Curse you UCD!"

Monday, April 23, 2007

Apologies for the lack of updates...

Sorry about the lack of updates of late. Between my trip to Algeria, my trip home for the five nations, the rescheduling of the Colours, my graduation etc. etc. it's not like there hasn't been anything to write on but somehow I haven't got round to sitting down and writing about it.

I intend to get updates for the last 3 or 4 weeks up over the next couple of days.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Weekend In Cardiff - Ugh!

I returned to Paris on Wednesday the 18th of April as planned and passed the week as normal until it was time to travel again. This weekend it was to be... ugh... the Student Five Nations... ugh... in Cardiff... ugh. This had originally been pencilled in as a rest weekend for me but I was somehow convinced by someone to head over to Cardiff... ugh.

Direct flights to Cardiff were ridiculously were ridiculously expensive. I eventually settled on taking a cheap flight to London Heathrow and then a National Express bus to Cardiff (it was to be approximately 5/6 hours). All this trekking to get to the chavton that is Cardiff but whatever.

The hostel we were staying in was just across the river from the Millenium Stadium. It was somewhat of a dive and after such a long and trying journey to get there I have to admit I was in no form to stay there. The pillow cases were attached to the bed sheet and the mattresses were wrapped in thick plastic. Positioned at the cross-roads of a busy chav estate the soundtrack of the evening was provide by scumbags in their modified Honda Civics parked seemingly right under the window. I barely slept at all.

The fencing the next day was fairly brief but enjoyable. Northern Ireland had failed to get a team together so there were only three matches. I fenced reasonably well in all of them I felt and was fairly happy with how they went. We didn't win any matches but my personal performance was good, so screw the team!


That night we started off in a fancy (the fancy) Cardiff bar - Tiger Tiger. A bit of self-service buffet grub went some way towards making up for the ridiculous price of beer... but not quite. I was absolutely exhausted from not getting any sleep the night before and was fading fast after the few beers and some food. I headed back to the hostel fairly early to try and get some sleep.


Mercifully my bus the next day wasn't until the afternoon and my flight the evening. So I was able to hang around a bit and relax in the morning before the journey back. I'd plenty of time to get something to eat and hang about with the team.

I'd be back to Dublin soon enough anyway, the Tuesday of that week for the colours.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Changing the colours...

It was sometime during that week that it was announced by the Trinity captain that he was not accepting that the colours were going to be held on the 17th April as had to everyone else's knowledge been discussed and agreed. Now because some of his key fencers were missing he claimed that there was not enough warning even though the date had been discussed back as far as the beginning of March. Rather than just approaching this in a straightforward manner which may well have more easily garnered a more reasonable response, said captain went all subterfuge cc-ing sports department officials etc. in a way that could only lead to aggravation between the two sides.

Anyway, all this was particular pain in the ass to me as it would involve the expense of another flight back to Dublin. The final date agreed upon was the 24th of April, the weekend after the colours. No matter what the expense was going to be now, I knew that I'd have to be there to ensure they got a serious thumping.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Extending My Break in Dublin

I was due to fly back early on Monday morning after the Five Nations. As it happens I was to be back the following Tuesday for the Colours match against Trinity. I decided then since March had been a very busy month for competitions and I hadn't seen Rachel or my family much, that I'd run the two flights together and stay the week in between and return to Paris using the return flight on Wednesday.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

More Five Nations - Evening Meal

I have to say that the evening meal for the 5 Nations was a great success. It was held in the 1838 club in DCU.

I'd left the competition just before the end (missing the team photo, unfortunately) so that I could get home and get a change of clothes. My plan was to drive to the meal anyway so that I could drive back home for my brothers 21st which was happening in my house that evening.

When myself and Rachel arrived back out to DCU the drinks reception was already under way. After a spot of mingling we were lead upstairs to the tables. The setting was excellent, as was the food. I ended up having a vegetarian course bizarrely enough it looked so good.

It was a shame when it came to the presentation that the PA system wasn't quite up to dealing with the British teams who were already quite well oiled for their night in "Tempul Baa".

At around 11ish buses had been arranged to take the teams into town. I took this opportunity to leave and head back to my brother's party. I gave Siobhán a lift back to her hotel nearby as she was absolutely knackered and jet-lagged and then headed with Rachel back to my brother's.

We got there with plenty of cocktail sausages and cake still available. I managed to squeeze in a few cocktail sausages despite not being at all hungry.

It was a fairly packed night and a weekend in general but a very enjoyable one.

The Five Nations - Men's Sabre Team & Other Happenings

I got a lift from my dad out to DCU early on a Saturday morning. This is the biggest day of the Irish Fencing calendar and for some it would be the highest level they would compete. As an event it's something I've questioned it's roll in the progression of Irish fencing but it was never something I was going to give less than 100% for.

It was great for me to see my sabre team - Stephen, Hugh and Dan. We'd all started around the same time and all good friends at this stage, so there was a fantastic atmosphere on the team. Everyone knew they had a part to play and was determined to give their all. I had a suspicion it wasn't going to be easy and at best we would scrape a win on the back of an excellent performance with everything going right but we'd see...

When I walked into the sports hall it seemed to be trapped in twilight with none of the main lights on. This would delay the start of precedings and on top of that our first match wasn't till the second or third round so I probably could have afforded to stay out later with my class or sleep in the next morning.


Here's the bit on the actual performance of the Men's Sabre team...

Our first match was against England. Stephen tore out of the blocks against Chris Farren and picked up a good result against the whiley Jaffa who'd been around the top of the rankings longer than any of his team-mates. I was up next against Alex O'Connell but I was off to a much slower start. If my attacks fell short I needed to be immediately in his face so he couldn't build up his momentum. His bread and butter is a long marching attack. Unfortunately I didn't do this and he was able to claw the score back in England favour. From that point onwards England pulled away. While we all put in good performances against without-a-doubt the strongest team in the tournament the final result was never really in question.

The second match was against Northern Ireland. They'd managed to bring a team of 5 or 6, I think just for the sake of going on the piss but they were all decent fencers. I managed a win in my first match against Nicholls. Hugh Tobin, according to the RTE report however, "Couldn't keep up the pace" and lost us the match. Which provided us with the greatest joke ever but it was only that Hugh and Dan both fenced excellently for the match. Their group of fencers were just slightly stronger than our own and they ran out winners. I had the last laugh however with my shout of "Three cheers for Norn Iron" - taped for posterity on RTE cameras.

In our third match we faced Scottland. Aside from Harry Moncrieff they lacked outstanding international quality but were all solid and/or awkward fencers. Stephen again put in a strong performance on his 5 Nations Debut. He was really psyched-up on the day, screaming at every point from the very beginning, even just getting warmed up, even just travelling there on the bus. We kept it reasonably close in the match but Scotland were always just a tiny bit ahead. In the final match I had to catch up 15 points to the 5 Harry need to end the match. I was pretty please with my fencing in the match but couldn't managed more than 5-5 in the bout. Three cheers for Scotland and all that crap.

In our final match we were to face Wales. We'd been fencing strongly all day and I knew this was our best chance of a win. Unfortunately, in the end, the key factor was to be the terrible refereeing. We kept the match very tight and the lead pendulumed back and forward between the teams by a matter of 2 or 3 points throughout. As the match went on however, the calls of the referee got more and more eratic. His seperation of points in the centre of the piste made no sense and were completely inconsistant. Sometimes they seemed to be based on who cheered louder. Other times I could not see where the calls were coming from. At one point when one of the other fencers was fencing, on a point I was certain wasn't ours I cheered for it as loudly as possible - and the point went our way; ridiculous! The Welsh team were far more familiar with his absurd calls and played him better than ourselves. Bemused I would glance across at Juppy on the Welsh side after a terrible decision and we would both shrugg our shoulders and laugh.

Myself and Dan in particular both were frustrated repeated by his downright shoddy presiding. I left the piste shouting "Quelle Cont" except in English at one stage. Philip the team captain suggested that I should apologise to the ref for my language but when I did he didn't know what I was talking about (deaf in one ear). He'd actually been annoyed by something Dan said under his breath on the piste. So now he thought two of us were swearing at him rather than one. Last time I follow someone elses advice during a match like that.

As the final bout approach Wales had managed to build a three point lead. Against Alistar Juppy, their strongest fencer, I knew I'd have to be well psyched up. I knew I needed myself in a slightly aggitated state to get the adrenaline flowing. Unfortunately though, aided by some poor refereeing decisions I couldn't claw back the difference and Wales won out.

As I left the piste thoroughly pissed off with the ref. Another team captain came to me and said "That was your fault, you lost your cool!" I was stunned, if I hadn't been so stunned my first reaction would have been to take a swing at them! I managed to answer reasonably calmly "No, I needed to have myself worked up to get back the difference... I was in control and I was intentionally putting myself there." That was definitely the low-light of the day, wanted to knock-out another captain!

I was really proud of the team and really happy with how they fenced. Stephen, as Dan had done the year before, on his five-nations debut, free from expectations, had fenced brilliantly. Dan himself also put in a very solid performance after a season that had been wracked with injury. Hugh when called upon put in some really top performances and was a massive adition to the team.

Myself, on reflextion, was reasonably pleased with how I fenced. Last year, I wasn't happy with how I handled the stress of having to anchor the team on what was my own debut in the competition. This year, I felt I put in some good performances and was pleased that I never let my team down. I also tried to take on a definite leader roll in the team as captain and tried my best to coach my fencers between and during matches.

I think, more than anything we realised on the team that there was definite potential the team as a unit to improve and work together over the next year. In the weeks that followed we were fairly boyant about the potential for the team to improve its results and hope to work together over the next year in going to competitions and training to improve our results for the next year.


There was a lot of other things going on around the tournament as well. Kerry Hardie the author who I met in the Centre Culturel Irlandais came down to say hello and to watch the fencing. Her book is well underway at this stage.

As well as this OB Sports were filming an extract for their programme. They focused on the Women's Sabre with Siobhán and the Men's Sabre team, I suppose because I'm training full-time abroad. They filmed quite a lot of the Men's Sabre matches, getting right into my face as I was preparing to go on the piste. I tried to ignore it as best I could. They also did an interview with me, during which I went on a 20 minute tirade about what a bastard Hugh was (that is a joke), but they didn't show that.

The piece can be viewed on the RTE website here

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