It was an icy cold Thursday lunchtime when the tour party of 19 boys and 2 staff headed for the international airport in the school minibuses. The flight to south Spain was very smooth and after Matthew Kelso had taken us to 2 bus parks on the ospississ of warm weather training and with sweat lashing off the party we found our bus driver patiently waiting for us. We were soon eating dinner in the Alanda resort in Marbella and then off to bed.
Friday saw an early start to look at individual strengths and team goals for the forthcoming Burney Cup, followed by training on the soft sand of the infinite beach, before lunch purchased from the local supermarket. The fresh strawberries did not last long in the shop or in the hotel !!
We then had further team meetings in preparation for our first match against Belamadena u21’s.
The match was played under the gaze of the largest Budist temple in Europe though both sides played a high octane very competitive tussle with the home side taking the only goal of the match from a opportunist deflection after a momentary lapse in concentration from the tourists.
Michael Wilson was quoted as saying that he had never played against a side who moved the ball so quickly so a very creditable 1-0 defeat saw us home to bed for Gibraltar in the morning.
We were up early for a second spectacular breakfast with all the trimmings before the early bus to Gib. The amazingly beautiful rock was our backdrop as we took on 2 local men’s teams hosted by the Gibraltar Lions. With the rock on one side and the planes taking off on the other there are few pitches in the world that could boast such variety.
We were a little in awe of our location having visited the fort for our lunch and last the first game 4-0. The second game straight on the back of the first looked to be going the same way until the awarding of a penalty flick saw Captain McNellis playing in the touring black kit score pulling the visitors back to 3-1. A flurry of activity and good pressing saw Mickey Crawford score his first senior goal at the left post followed closely by Jack Oakman making it 3-3, securing a superb come back to end the playing business of the tour on a high. The relentless intensity of the matches had taken there toil and had left only 13 players in a position to finish the matches. Everyone was helped back to the bus, buoyant from the comeback and ready for the pleasant picturesque journey home. There was time for recovery in the pool before dinner and retiring to our apartments.
The morning saw a battle bruised but stoic touring party up for an early breakfast and to pack before bidding our rooms good bye and heading to Adventure Amazonia to tackle the 83 zip lines and climbing challenges that were on offer. 3 hours was definitely enough of a work out before more strawberries and then an afternoon in the sun, playing football on the beach skins vs shirts with the locals looking on in their thermal coats. As the sun went down on a fabulously memorable tour there was still time for some snooker, pool and squash in the recreation area of the hotel before boarding the bus for home.
Needless to say there were many catching flies on the 3 hour plane ride home to -1 degrees in Belfast definitely ready for the last and most important 7 weeks of the season.
Thanks to Mr Russell for his support on tour and insightful coaching and to the boys who were a credit to the school.