- 15 Feb, 2017
U14s festival of hockey in Guernsey
At 8:00am on Sunday 29th January, twenty-eight excited boys descended on Jersey airport. The six strong coaching crew, warily considering the long, chilly, probably wet but hopefully enjoyable day ahead, assembled the boys into their 3 teams and with military precision escorted them through airport security, onto the plane in Jersey, off the plane in Guernsey, through the Guernsey baggage hall, onto the bus (with a squeeze) and into the Guernsey Hockey Clubhouse at Footes Lane. Perhaps astonishingly all done without a hitch.
The plan for the day consisted of a series of 7-a-side matches with all teams playing each other once. Three Guernsey and three Jersey teams playing five matches each - each match 20 minutes long with a 2 minute half-time. Long enough for the boys to get a good run around, display some skills, develop their team-working and hopefully, above all, improve their hockey capabilities. At least that’s what the coaches imagined. The boys probably just wanted to run around, have some fun, and seek all and any opportunities to “dab” and "flip bottles".
So it was with bottle flipping in mind that the boys readied themselves for the task ahead. Each team, carefully constructed utilising a range of factors including teamwork, playing position and individual skill, listened to their coaches about their gameplay ahead - the positions, the short corner routines, the substitution strategy and of course a large dose of how to play -> supporting each other and the player on the ball, pressing the opposition, being composed etc etc. An endless list in reality. So thankfully, it was time to get onto the pitch. Jersey Leopards and Jersey Lions were up first against Guernsey opposition and they couldn’t wait to get going. Something about coaches droning on perhaps providing a reverse sort of motivation to get out into the cold.... As the boys moved out of the clubhouse, the rain started. In fact the rain was a light drizzle at the start. It then proceeded to get heavier and heavier throughout the tournament only letting up for the last match. If that wasn’t bad enough, the wind also picked up strength in tandem with the rain. It wasn’t pleasant. The fact the boys "just got on with it" is really impressive - three hours of freezing cold conditions, rain being blasted horizontally into their ears and yet still playing to a super standard of hockey is not something a lot (most!) adults would be interested in.
The first matches started and the Guernsey teams were quickly on the ascendancy. It looked like it was going to be a difficult day for the Jersey sides.
The Jersey Leopards, with players who normally bristle with confidence and energy, struggled for the first 10 minutes against a Guernsey Panthers side who pressed wave after wave of attacks. Fortunately the Leopards managed to repel all, then found their feet and started to boss the play. The midfield took command of proceedings, providing excellent service to the skilled and energetic forwards and, with a strong defensive unit behind them to snuff out any Guernsey counter attack they won the match 1-0. The Leopards consistently gained more and more confidence during the tournament and resolved to win all 5 of their matches with only one goal conceded. It was noticeable how strong their teamwork became and that was the decisive factor in their excellent result in taking the tournament top spot.
The Jersey Lions found their first match hard going. Their opposition, Guernsey Pumas, had gained a considerable early lead which left the boys facing an uphill struggle. Although the Lions confidence increased during the match they had too much to do to bridge the gap. Bowed but not beaten, they kept their heads up and played well throughout the day. With good players across the positions they were a whisker away from collecting maximum points in three drawn matches but it sadly wasn’t to be.
The third Jersey team - the Lynx - had to wait through the first round of matches, cleverly keeping inside the Clubhouse to avoid the worsening weather. Narrowly losing their first match, they too shrugged off the impact and proceeded to play good hockey throughout, striving to play the game "how it should be”. With a higher proportion of older boys, the Lynx had the springboard to be very dangerous to their opponents, but were undone by some quality counter-attacking which they were unable to reverse. Perhaps missing an additional striker, they played really well and scored a number of superb goals but didn’t score enough to threaten the table toppers.
So it was a bedraggled, soaked, cold bunch of boys who trooped off the pitch and into the Clubhouse for some well deserved hot food and importantly some tasty cake. All the boys were smiling however, so clearly they had enjoyed the experience notwithstanding the atrocious weather.
At 3:30pm on the dot, the reverse of the early morning journey was played out. Parents and Guardians, waiting expectantly at Jersey Airport arrivals, were handed their juniors - each junior clutching their day bag, their soggy handled hockey stick, their passport and a memento T-shirt given by Guernsey Hockey.
Every boy had been excellently behaved, had played their hockey to the best of their ability, and were a credit to themselves and to Jersey.
Results - Leopards 25 points, Lions 13 points, Lynx 7 points
Teams: Leopards - Josh Le Maistre (GK), Ned Crosby, Tom Healey, Blake Macrae, Rusden Merritt, Jake Thomas, Ethan Toudic, Archie Willetts, Oliver Williams
Lions - Joel Moffat (GK), Ben Bryon, Liam Cadoret, Robin Carnegie, Oliver Cawley, Matthew Jones, Robbie Mossop, Harvey Pallent, Finn Rogers
Lynx - James Stearn (GK for all teams), Ben Van Eijden (GK), Toby Clark, Oliver Flemmer, Lucas Gaynor, Caspar Gleave, Brett Hunter, Dylan Kotedia, Billy Malzard, Jared Toudic
Coaches : Neil Merritt, Adrian Heelis, Cathy Thomas, Roger Le Maistre (Leopards), John Carnegie (Lions), Jason Gleave (Lynx)