The journey of the young footballers to France began on a bleak Thursday morning when they left Carrickmacross, destined for Carhaix. The group of thirteen players was accompanied by club chairman, David McSharry, Under-17 manager Niall Busby and Twinning representative, Sean Egan, without whose French speaking capabilities we would have undoubtedly been lost.
The group arrived in Carhaix at 7.30 p.m. on Thursday with their tiredness from the long day battling the excitement and anticipation of beginning their week-end in France. The players met with their host families and retired to the various houses for the night.
The next day began with a trip to the hugely-impressive training compound of F.C. Lorient. Here the young footballers were introduced to the glamorous side of the game as they were exposed to the ten million euro training compound and were shown the life-style of young, aspiring professional athletes. The trip was truly awe-inducing for these young players to see how the top professionals live. Later that evening the players met in the Town Hall for a formal reception followed by a traditional “crepes” dinner, organised by the twinning committee for everyone involved. After another long day the players once again retired to their homes.
The next morning the young Rovers team got their first chance to play football with an early session conducted by Charles-Edouard Cordion, ex-professional footballer with P.S.G. and Guingamp and now the head coach at D.C. Carhaix. Here the young footballers also got their first opportunity to size up what kind of danger their opposition for that night’s game possessed. The training proved to be a hugely informative and beneficial session for players and coaches alike. After the session, the players retreated back for a free afternoon eagerly anticipating that night’s clash. The game was acting as a curtain opener to the D.C.Carhaix game taking place in the local stadium. The French players played a different style of football to what the Irish lads were used to. They held the ball very well and played good quality football throughout. However it proved to be the strength and depth that the French had in their squad that was the defining factor between the two sides. The Rovers took an early lead in the game. They brought an unfamiliar intensity to the game which made it difficult for their French counterparts to adapt to, causing them to turn over lots of possession in dangerous areas of the field. The first goal came about as a result of some dogged work from Sean Burns and Jack Gillick, both of whom put in admirable shifts throughout the whole game. After the opening goal, the French adapted to the Rovers’ intensity and the game began to turn into an even encounter, each team fighting hard for every ball. The Rovers held out until half-time thanks to great defensive work from Mogie Murray and Tommy Byrne, the evening’s centre-half partnership. The second half began with changes from both sides. The French changed eight of their starting eleven while the Rovers brought on Fionn O’Callaghan at right back. The ability of the French to bring fresh players on and off the bench was the difference in the two teams. As the Rovers fought and battled and became tired the French were simply able to bring on new players. The French clawed a goal back from a defensive mix-up in the Rovers’ penalty area ending with the ball in the back of the net. The game was now truly in the melting pot. The Rovers created many clear-cut chances through good passing from Lorcan and hard-running from Barry. However, the final goal did not come until the last minute of injury. A ball broke out from a corner and on the full volley it was struck low and hard just inside the post of the Rovers’ net. A truly horrible way to lose such a hard-fought game!! The young Rovers lay distraught and dejected, their confidence severely dented. Meanwhile their French counterparts celebrated gleefully at their wonder goal that sealed the game.
Afterwards both teams stayed to watch a very interesting senior D.C. Carhaix game….a game that displayed a wide array of skill and technical ability.
The next and final full day of the trip began in a very spirited five a side tournament which was played happily and enthusiastically by all involved. The final afternoon was spent with the host family doing a wide variety of different things….a fitting way to end a busy week-end before the players jetted home the next day. All in all, a week-end well spent in the sublime company of many delightful French people, an eye-opener for those who hadn’t previously experienced French culture.