When’s the last time Blackrock College RFC went on a full 1st XV tour? Pub quiz time. After much head-scratching, we figured it was way back in the year 2000. Paris ’07 doesn’t count, by the way, because that was only a two-day job and in any case, we only went so we could watch Ireland v Argentina in the RWC – good times.
A full 15 years since the last tour, so that was part 2 of our start-of-season goal: get promoted back to Division 1; get a tour organised. Vancouver was Plan A, mainly because the last trip (Chicago in 2000) had thrown up so many stories that we wanted to recreate the North American vibe. So even though the club was going through some big changes – a fantastic new gym loaded with state-of-the-art equipment plus new floodlights – we organised a tour committee and started fund-raising for what was sure to be an expensive trip. Even more expensive than we thought! By early April, Vancouver was off the menu (we’re aiming for there in 2016) and we set our sights on the
quiet, rustic, relaxing retreat of, err, Ibiza.
We were entered in the Rugby Spy Ibiza 10s tournament, arriving on the Balearic island the morning of our opening match against a Portuguese team named Technico. The lads were licking their lips in anticipation of an easy win against a team from Portugal – a country not known for its rugby prowess – and in the early stages things were looking good as we pushed for the opening score. Alas, a couple of missed opportunities, a spot of getting to grips with the 10-a-side format, plus the searing 32 degree heat did for us, and when the final whistle went were looking at a 19-0 defeat. By that stage we were just glad to get off the pitch and into the shade.
Next day we were up against the AD Tens, a UK Army team, with a minute’s silence before kick off in memory of the late great All Black, Jerry Collins, and his wife who had passed away the previous day. Wholesale changes to the team seemed to do the trick as, within minutes of the off, skipper Davy Rowan scooped the ball out of a scrum inside our 22 and showed a clean pair of heels to touch down for our first try. Straight from the restart, Mikey Carroll gathered and after a mazy run found Cian McGinley who worked his way infield. Captain Fantastic stood at first receiver when, out of nowhere, a rampaging stallion in the shape of young Barnett burst through the already tiring AD Tens defence and dotted down for the second time in less than a minute. The squaddies were in a spin at this stage, but they regrouped and hit back with a score of their own to make it 12-5. It was then that the Cooke brothers’ pilates and relaxation therapy kicked in, bringing out the best in the team just when we needed it. A wild 30-metre pass by Barnett was plucked out of the air by the returning Job Langbroek who ran half the length
of the pitch only to be dragged to ground inches short of the line.
Again Mikey Carroll was on hand to collect the inside pass, again desperate defending held him up short until he flipped the sweetest of offloads back to Langbroek who slithered into the corner for a sensational score. To add the cherry on top, Barnett belted over the conversion from within touching distance of the hot-dog stand
out on the touchline – we had a 26-5 win under our belts, back in the tournament.
And back down to earth in our next game! Up against O’Neill’s Nomads of London, a touring 10s team with too much knowledge of the game for us, we went down 24-7 and turned our attention to a Cup quarter final on Sunday.
Our opponents were 42 RFC who had looked very impressive and were tipped as the only team that could halt the Technico bulldozer that was steamrolling every team in the tournament. (We later found out that Technico were about as Portuguese as Portlaoise, with a lethal mix of Kiwis, Aussies, English and even a few ex-pro Sevens players in their ranks.)
We made it to half-time scoreless, disappointed not to have nabbed a score through the hard carrying of tour MVP Jan Simon-Byrne, and were pushing hard when disaster struck. A thunderbolt tackle in front of our own sticks by
original tour ‘garbage man’ David Walsh was harshly interpreted as high by the ref – yellow card, down to nine men and the beginning of the end of our Cup aspirations. Wilting in the heat and chasing shadows, we slipped to a
frustrating 31-0 loss and a one-way ticket to the Bowl competition.
On the plus side, getting knocked out of the Cup meant we could soak up some of the brilliant atmosphere by taking part in a hotly-contested kicking competition in front of the capacity crowd, and Daniel Barnett duly secured Rock’s first trophy of the weekend.
Onto the Bowl competition and, still hurting after our Cup exit, we pledged not to concede another score on Balearic soil. Our gritty determination won the day, and we did not concede a single point en route to collecting the Bowl trophy and the all-important cheque for £250. Even sweeter was to follow, when the captain and hunk/hero of Technico – appropriately named ‘The Closer’ – approached us asking if he could borrow one of our players for the Cup final. Paddy Carroll, brother of Mikey, stepped up and delivered the performance of the
weekend on the right wing as Technico cruised to a 26-14 victory. More silverware!
The rugby over, we were glad to get back to our luxury Hotel Riviera, just a few minutes from the beautiful San Antonio. We had gone for the ‘Todo Includio’ package, which translates loosely as ‘leave your wallet in your room’, a concept that got the better of one or two members of our party early on. However, once the dreaded ‘garbage
man’ tag was applied to anyone acting up, standards improved and we didn’t have to trouble the local hospital, law enforcement or embassy.
A group meal was a welcome distraction halfway through the mammoth, eight-day trip while a trip to the amazing ‘Ocean Club de Ibiza’ saw off the last remains of the kitty. There was one final surprise in store as tour veteran,
club legend and former captain Michael Jackson showed up out of the blue for the final two days – bringing with him a man who needs no introduction……
‘Tired’ doesn’t begin to describe our condition on the way home, but all in all it was one of the best weeks you could ever have – sun, sea, scrums, touchline conversions, length-of-the pitch tries, all in the company of 30 of the finest men ever to set foot in East Leinster. Who needs Vancouver?
Special thanks to Owen Cullen, who gave up many hours to prove the sceptics wrong by making sure the trip went ahead, and to the other committee members including Big Red Kilcoyne, Barney, Davy Rowan, Jan Simon-Byrne, Richard Marsh and the ever-present Sam Cooke. Thanks also to our sponsors – we spent the money wisely – and to everyone connected with the Club who helped along the way, including all those parents, family and friends who put their hands in their pockets to buy raffle tickets and horses at the Race Night. Finally, shouts go out to the T-Rex, both the original and the new garbage men, Muller’s blue Adidas sleeveless t-shirt, Jacko’s double effort at
a 30-man round, the beautiful Auxiliary and her brother ‘The Closer’, Sam and Job for recklessly allowing their room to be used for all pre-drinks receptions, Davy Rowan for failing to make it out on no less than FOUR occasions, and of course the security guard who, as soon as he realised we weren’t English, became our best friend.
We have to do it again, see you in Vancouver!!
Daniel “Barndog” Barnett