||Lining up before our final game vs GB|
Our 1st Group match was against Turkey on Tuesday morning. We were all happy with who we were drawn against and we surely knew we could win this group and bring the gold home to Ireland. That Tuesday morning was hot and sunny. I didn’t sleep well and this was a really big match for us as we needed to get off to a great start to win the gold.
So this was it - the big one. We got our names checked off and from the stand we could see the Ireland flags waving. It was special to have so many friends and families to cheer on the boys in green.
The match kicked off and in under 2 minutes we took the lead with a super shot that their keeper didn’t really hold on to and it went into the net. It was a fantastic goal from Ken that got us off to a good start. But then we were put under pressure and I moved too far out off my box as the ball came in. I should have gone down to save it but was too late as Turkey got in and knocked it right past me to make it 1-1 before half time. As we went in Paul said a few words and told us to try and get out there and win this match
When we went back out, Turkey started diving all over the place - even if you just touched them, they fell down so easily. Then we gave away a free kick from inside our own half. The ball was kicked right up over our wall. I came out but I should have done better with the ball and it just bounced right past me and went right into the goal. I was gutted at what had happened and let myself down as I should have done better.
Then 5 minutes later I made another mistake and went out to catch the ball. It hit off my thumb and then my left shoulder and went right past me into the net so that made it 3-1 to Turkey. I made two bad errors and I just wanted the earth to open up and eat me. I let myself down and most of all let the team and coaches down. I should have done better and focused on what I was doing in goals.
Then we had a player injured and were to get the ball back under fair play rules. That’s when everything really went down the pan. Gareth stepped to one side for me to get the ball but then a Turkey player came in, took the ball around me and scored. Then one of our players got sent off when he pushed the referee for giving them the goal and when the final whistle went, I just walked away and didn’t want to chat to no one.
I just felt sick that I handed Turkey that game from two really dumb goals that I gave them. I went off and cried to myself. Everyone was coming up trying get the best out of the players but for me that was the gold medal gone for sure. When I got back to the hotel, I just spent the whole evening there and didn’t even speak to anyone. A few people came up and said not to worry about it, no one is perfect, and we all make mistakes every day in our lives. I was really hurting inside after what had happened but every keeper in the world has one of them days when things go wrong and you just have to bounce back.
Then Wednesday came and our next match was against India. We had to win this one as yesterday was a bit of luck in that the Aussies and GB drew 2-2 in their game so a win today would put us into 2nd place. We got off to a bad start. In the first few minutes, India scored a cracking goal. However we scored 4 goals before half time to lead 4-1. We were playing without an important player who was suspended for this match after his red card and we even gave a penalty away which they missed - blasting it over the bar.
Then we got a corner and from that we scored. Greg got onto the ball with his head to put it into the top corner of the goal and we went onto win 5-1 against India while Turkey beat the Aussies 3-0.
Thursday came and this was a make or break match for us. A win would surely put us in for a medal but lose, and we’d get a ribbon to take home. There was a very big crowd of people there with lots of Aussie and Irish fans. We were doing really well but then the Aussies took the lead. A few minutes later, we scored from a free kick - Ken again who ended up being top goal scorer in our team. We went in at half time 1-1. Then in the 2nd half I came on and I really don’t know what to say about the next Aussie goal but it was a fluke that just went in and I should have done better.
However after 7 minutes we scored to tie it up at 2-2 and still I came off my line a few times to clear the ball away and was just kicking it anywhere. We were into the last few minutes when Ken got on the ball, took it beyond one player and then passed it into Michael who took one touch and smacked it right low into the bottom corner off the goal to put us into the lead 3-2!! I ran off down the field to celebrate but Paul shouted at me to get back and stay in goals
We didn’t know how much time was left and talk about waiting to hear that whistle. To my ears it was the sound of music! We were overjoyed and it was one of the best matches I have ever played in my life. When Paul came up to me and said you got the Man of the Match for that game as you came off your line so many times to clear the ball away, I was shocked. I was happy to get it but to me, 16 players and 4 coaches all got man of the match. We believe in each other and achieved something that we can talk about in years to come. It was TEAM - Together Everybody Achieves More. That’s why we worked so hard to be in with a chance to get any kind of medal. We went out there with nothing and now were coming back with a medal. I was really proud of myself and all the lads as after losing in our 1st match, we had bounced back to hopefully now bring back a silver medal.
We chilled out on Friday and spent most of the day with families and friends. Then we had an early night and I knew in myself that no matter what, we would bring the silver medal home. I knew that all we had to do was go out there and draw or win as Bangladesh had drawn 2-2 with Turkey draw so we were on 6 points with GB on 5 pts and Turkey on 7pts. We were hoping that India would do us a favour and win but they were a weak team. I felt sorry for them as they shouldn’t have been in our group in the 1st place. Denmark should have been in our group but that’s football for you.
On Saturday morning I was buzzing away to myself and I knew that today we would be silver medal winners no matter what. We got the bus up to the pitch, got ready in the dressing room and then the coaches had a few words with us.
We did some warm-ups, got a few photos taken and then made our way over to the pitch to get our names checked for the final time. This was like one big Champions League Group Stage match where the winner takes all. It was us or them for the silver and then the game was on.
I was down where the Irish fans were shouting and cheering us on and I really did super well in the 1st half, pulling 2 saves off and coming off my line again. At half time it was 0-0. So just under 25 minutes to go and we would win the silver if we just drew with them.
In the 2nd half we stepped it up a bit and GB didn’t know what hit them. They just struggled to get into the match. Then Adrian Clarke came onto the pitch and within 5 minutes, ran down the wing, and hit the ball nicely from outside the box. It dipped right over the keeper’s head and into the back of the net - Ole, Ole eat your heart out Ray ……. The man from Donegal scores a wonder goal out of the blue! The Irish fans were jumping up and down and going mad! We were in the lead now and all we had to do was hold them off and we would win.
With 8 minutes to go, we gave a penalty away and I went to my right side but couldn’t save it so GB scored to make it 1-1. All I wanted now was for the referee to blow his whistle and end the game 1-1. It felt so long. I was going nuts and kept coming off my line but also I didn’t want to make any mistake that could cost us the game.
Finally I heard the sound of the final whistle and it was music to my ears. We were jumping all around, going mad. Now I had a new silver medal in my hands and no-one was going to take that away from me or the rest of the 15 lads that came from the five parts of Ireland to be here
|With the lads from Donegal after our final match
||All the lads with our coaches after winning our silver medals|
You can’t win every thing in your life time, all you can do is your best and there has to be winners and runners-up. For me being in my 3rd World Games I am proud to be going home for the 2nd time with a medal that I can hang up on my wall with my Ireland jersey. The funny thing is I am going backwards as I already had a gold medal, now have a silver medal so maybe in 4 years time I might bring back a bronze medal!!? That Sunday we met up with the other nations and we got our 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games silver medals.
I would like to say a special thanks to our Irish fans, families, Matt English who was a great support, friends and everyone else on Team Ireland who believed in us and helped us to bring the silver medal home.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart
Oliver Michael Boyle,
11 A side football team