Andorra sent out an early statement in the SCA event’s opening game in Dublin. The traveling team raced into a 12-1 lead through a combination of powerful serving of Eric Forne and precision hitting from Joel Bosma. Ireland Coach Andrei Molnar was forced into using both his time outs early on and the substitution of Aiden Grace made a difference as Ireland began to claw back a few points and get into a rhythm. However, it was the Andorran team that kept their composure in the opening set and even with an array of substitutions they powered home 25-10, setting a benchmark for the competition ahead.
The Irish nerves settled as they entered the 2nd set and early on tied up at 4 – 4. Ireland began to find their rhythm and setter Sam Harman linked up well with hard hitting Sonny Yamada to keep Ireland within touching distance. Ireland’s spirited fightback cheered on by home support made for a tense finish until setter Mateo Ferreyra seized control of the game and led his team to a 25-19 putting Andorra 2 sets up.
The third set started like the second as both teams took points in the early stages. Ireland’s Ben O’Sullivan continued to find gaps between the Andorra players and pulled the set back to a 2 point difference at 15-17.
It was a much improved performance from the Irish who grew as the game went on. Wing Cian Humphreys complementing Yamada and Ireland were building play nicely.
Some clever play from Mateo Ferreyra provided some breathing space as Andorra relaxed again to take 6 points in a row before an Irish reply. Ireland battled hard but it was to be Andorra’s day as they took the set 25-17 and the match 3-0, setting an early marker.
MVP: Mateo Ferreyra AND
Game 2: N. Ireland 3
25-22, 16-25, 25-18, 19-25, 15-12
The likely match of the tournament was the second one, with an evenly contested, passionate and times tempestuous encounter that ebbed and flowed throughout the five set thriller.
The first set saw both teams use their heavy hitters to great effect. Jack Mc Murray for Northern Ireland had great joy as did Luxembourg’s William Le Drezen as both teams moved quickly to 17 -17. Sam Edgar put in a fantastic defensive display that propelled the Luxembourg attack from all sides to send the Northern Ireland team into a 22-19 lead. A couple of errors under pressure from Northern Ireland gave the Luxembourg team some hope but a service fault at just the wrong time handed the set to Northern Ireland 25-22.
Luxembourg came out strong in the second set with Valerio Brignardello’s float serve causing havoc among the Northern Ireland back row. Paddy Daly was able to pull his Northern Ireland side back within 5 points but Luxembourg’s Ryan Matilde De Luz solid blocking display as well as hitting kept the scoreboard for Luxembourg moving towards that first set victory in this year’s tournament. Nicolas T’Joen obliged in style with a powerful spike to give his team the 25-16 win.
Northern Ireland regained their form in the third set and it was Jack Mc Murray once again from the wing doing all the damage. Luxembourg had used all time outs as they trailed 6-12 but Northern Ireland were able to maintain their six point gap until 17-11. Luxembourg’s David Felber was able to bring the game back for Luxembourg through some fine spiking but ultimately Northern Ireland hitting and fantastic cover play was enough to send them back into the lead.
Nicolas T’Joen keen to level his side once more put together a string of successful serves at the start of the fourth set but a determined Northern Ireland refused to let the gap widen by more than a point as we moved midway through the set. Jack Mc Murray continued in his good form but this time with
service as Northern Ireland moved into 15-12 lead. Both teams gave all they had to ensure each point was theirs but Luxembourg captain Christian Galoppo rallied his team and pulled them over the line 25-17 with some fantastic hits.
The fifth set started as it ended with Christian powering spikes down into the Northern Ireland court. Ireland responded with their own through Zak Kincaid and as team switched sides it was Northern Ireland with a slender lead 8-6. The boys in green were able to drive forward as a well drilled unit and overcome the late Luxembourg fightback to take the vital first match win 15-12.
MVP: Zak Kincaid NIR