Coaching overnight lacrosse camps can be exhausting.Â So I was not very happy when my phone rang at 4:30 in the morning last Wednesday while I was getting precious sleep at a Trilogy Lacrosse camp in Georgia.Â But you can imagine my surprise when the call turned out to be from the Director of the National Lacrosse Team of Ireland telling me I had been moved from an alternate to the active roster for the European Championships!
Camps can be exhausting, but major international tournaments are brutal.Â Up to 9 games in 10 days, plus any exertion in training camp before the tournament, doesn’t allow much time for bodies to recover from the pounding of competitive lacrosse.Â And so it was that a friend and former Ireland teammate of mine had injured his shoulder severely during the final scrimmage against Israel and had to be sent home.Â I was to fill his role on defense for the tournament.
The catch?Â The opening ceremonies were THAT NIGHT and the first game of the championships was the next day.Â I was already due to fly out at the end of the week to play in the accompanying festival with Eire, the Irish Developmental Team, but that would mean missing the first 2 games.Â I tried to change my tickets, but with a price tag of over $1500 (in addition to what I’d already spent)!Â I was forced to wait in Georgia and hope for the best for my Ireland teammates.
Ireland opened the tournament with the toughest draw- perennial European champion England.Â And the Irish served notice that they had come to compete by hanging with England better than most can, en route to an 11-7 loss.Â When I got that news, I knew I’d be joining a special team.Â Just before boarding my flight to Amsterdam on Friday, I received word that the Irish had waged an epic battle with Germany, another top contender, finally falling 12-11 in sudden death overtime.
The flight and everything that goes with it went smoothly, and thanks to intelligence from my advance scout (my wife, Anne, who arrived early as Ireland’s women’s lacrosse umpire for the games) I found the hotel shuttle quickly.Â Upon arrival, I stepped off the shuttle bus and straight onto the grass beside the hotel where Ireland was assembling for a walk-through practice.Â Still in jeans & other travel clothes, I donned helmet and gloves to start preparing to play the Netherlands before even setting foot in the hotel.
That night’s match was disappointing, as we blew a 3rd quarter lead and lost once again to our Dutch hosts.Â The loss prompted some soul-searching by the team, many of whom I was still trying to get to know.Â But we knew that the hardest games were behind us for a while and we turned our attention ahead to the final pool matches against Sweden and Finland… while I turned my attention to some much-needed sleep.