Opening league games took place in Old Christians Rugby Club, home of Cork Wolfpack on Sunday 13th November 2022
At 7:00 am the Mayo Bulls offering into League 2 this season began their journey to Cork for their first games. With only 5 outfield payers and a goalie available for the long day ahead, the team knew their backs were against the wall but welcomed the challenge as they knew they would avail of a two hour break between games...so they thought.
Scheduled to play the Celtic Clovers from Dublin first, they knew their large roster would provide a tough first game, unfortunately the Flying Ducks League 1 team pulled out the evening before as the league informed us that we would have 20mins rest only before playing Cork Wolfpack. The Mayo team knew the second game would be hard as the experienced U18 players in their first season accompanied by former Elite League players from the season previous would be a lot for this fresh team with such a short break.
Game 1 - Celtic Clovers - 11am Face Off
Not a great start as we arrived we were barely settled in before being kicked out of our hanging rooms for the rugby teams playing that day, as a result both teams goalies were late to face off resulting in starting on a delay of game minor penalty. Normally not an issue, but being short benched left us with no sub for the first several minutes of the game.
With drama aside and an early conceded goal, the game was well under way as teams went back and forth. Clovers take a penalty but Mayo decided not to take risks and recover getting a feel for the puck and our environment. The game continued seeing the Bulls taking a tripping penalty and really showing heart stopping Clovers power play. #13 PJ Cunningham got to work and scored two goals putting the Bulls ahead at 13:43 and 16:23, but it did not last long before Clovers saw the game level, with 2 mins left in the period. A very good first period, for us as 6 to take on Clovers 12 and end the first period level on goals.
The second period saw fatigue set in, a brilliant effort from both teams, but Clovers numbers and constant pressure made us work harder than we would have liked. We should have stalled the game, but took every chance to break out with the Clovers goalie keeping consistent throughout. Bulls unfortunate to see a puck directed by a referee in front of net resulting in an own goal. The Clov rs went on to score throughout the second with another 4 goals. The Bulls did have a powerplay in the second, but could not muster up the energy needed to enter their zone and capitalize. We finished the game on a high as we felt the achievement of just making it down and taking on such a big challenge together was a win for us. A good game of hockey ending 7:2 to the Clovers. Our friends always and team mates on the ice.
During the Break
We were meant to have a welcome 2 hour break, but at 6pm yesterday we received an email from the league informing us that the Ducks had pulled out, upsetting seeing as this team should have been in League 1. Even more frustrating was the fact that the players they were short were representing Team Ireland on Ice abroad and caught COVID and as a result the games postponed and not a forfeit, meaning we will play this "Team Ireland" strong team again.
We would originally see 20 minutes, tempted to forfeit, we did not want to let the other teams down and turned up as planned, we even confirmed through the rules that we could borrow a player if fatigue or injury was an issue and he we are. A big thanks to head official 'Jason Tessier' and Cork Wolfpack for being so understanding, we availed of an extra 15-20 minutes thanks to them. For this time, we simply relaxed and hung out with our friends the Clovers and tried to get the energy to take on a game young Cork Wolfpack team next.
Game 2 - Cork Wolfpack - 12:40 pm Face Off
The warm up was non existent as we motivated ourselves into playing, Cork captain offering us a gift at the beginning of the match for which we were grateful for. We played a good first half against an energetic, fresh and well coached Wolfpack team. Surprising to see was two Elite players maybe taking a year to support their young team in the senior league for the first time. The period ended 4:0 to Cork which to the Bulls team was a real achievement at this stage knowing a strong Badgers team fell to them previously 8:1.
We had considered forfeiting under fatigue in the second period, but it wasn't in us and so we faced a strong bench for another 20 minutes. We pushed our bodies as far as they could go, we fought hard and held off Cork best we could, they would have an even more successful second period scoring a further 7 goals. So the final whistle blew and we all met at the bench taking in what would be a hard day and were thankful for each others company before we shook hands and congratulated Cork Wolfpack on a good win.
So we finally got home after 8pm, stuffing our faces with McDonalds and Coffee along the way. We looked back on the days highs and lows, but not regretting any of it for a minute. This is part of the process and days like this make teams stronger and work together. A very grateful team recognized #31 James Osborne as the days MVP with a glove that can only be described as criminal, there were no soft goals and worked as hard as anyone on the team, always playing better under adversity and improving throughout. Brilliant attitude today from everyone, we look forward to our next games in the new year in Mullingar.
Thank you to Celtic Clover, Cork Wolfpack and all the IHI Officiating staff on the day. A big thank you also to Vitaly Zukov for the lovely memories he captured.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh