The second leg of league games took place in Clonkill GAA Club, home of the Midland Jokers on Sunday 15th January 2023
After a last minute schedule change, the Bulls headed up to Mullingar for the second game day in League 2. With a healthy 8 outfield payers and a goalie available for what was expected to be a great day of games as we took on our friends the Clare Badgers followed by our team mates on the ice, Celtic Clovers.
Game 1 - Clare Badgers - 12am Face Off
Warm up commenced, the team headed out nervous and excited. The team consisted of old and new players, as returning from the original Bulls team #14 Liam Smith, getting ready for his first season back after years away from the sport. A debut awaited #10 Benjamin Shakal who returned to the sport which he last played in his youth, displaying in training dedication and great fundamentals and explosiveness attributed to those raised on the ice.
With new jerseys acquired, we really finished off the feel of the team and were truly gutted not to have Felix, Jonathan and Diane with us to complete the squad. The black and green jerseys displaying the new logo accompanied with our county crest really suited and made us feel proud and put on a performance.
The first period conceding an early goal, the Bulls players found themselves in a physical game from the start. The period was back and forth with both teams putting pressure on the defense with Badgers getting off more shots. Mayo settled down and began to slow the action with plays starting behind the net, but could not do enough as the period drew close to an end. The Badgers would steal another even strength goal to make it 2:0 with only a couple of minutes left. Mayo hung on and seen out the period fighting for every possession they could.
The second period saw a determined bulls team realizing they had the ability to get into the offensive zone and fight for shots. Shooting was pressured and defended well by the Badgers team. Mayo put on a great defensive performance throughout and both teams were showing determination and grit. Penalties came for both teams as they fought hard for every puck with no bad intentions, but the want to turn over the puck for there team.
Nearing the end of the period, Mayo began screening and looking to shoot into the zone as the Badgers became more defensive to hold on to their 2 goal lead, chances went wide or returned out of the zone. Sadly Badgers would seal the Bulls fate with another end of period goal. The bulls chased down the game into the dying seconds but would come up short. They would leave the game happy with what they accomplished as they find their legs as a team, every period of hockey bringing experience and confidence to take into the next game.
During the Break
We were again meant to have a welcome 2 hour break, but thanks to another schedule change on Friday afternoon, we had games pushed back and our break reduced to one hour. The team remained in good spirits as we shared the changing rooms with our friends Celtic Clovers.
The Clovers and The Bulls
The Clovers friendship stems from PJ's attendance to their games in Belfast and training in Dublin over the winters prior, probably seen as some weirdo who travelled too far for games and thought they would see him a couple of times, but every game would turn up, and every winter drop in after work in Mayo on the Weekday nights in South Dublin. Originally to gain experience to train juniors on Ice, PJ continued and really enjoyed playing alongside his Clover team mates. Since this, other Bulls players have been introduced to the club going away on trips to France and attending Ice training sessions and games. The Clovers this year entered their first team, originally planned to be a joint team, both teams just grew in membership and were in the position to compete independently. The big things they have in common is everyone is a team player and there for the right reasons, supporting one another and having fun no matter the outcome.
Game 2 - Celtic Clovers - 2:00 pm Face Off
The warm up was chaos, both teams were scattered throughout carrying on the atmosphere from the changing room before meeting in the middle for a chat and a cheer. What followed was the weirdest and most fun period of hockey. The game started with Clovers scoring almost immediately, answered 4 minutes later by #16 Niamh Reilly assisted by #14 Liam Smith. This is Niamh Reilly's second goal in senior competition this season and we are sure not her last as the youngest member of the squad. Not two minutes later the Clovers score again but only to be answered by #14 Liam Smith securing his first goal back from hiatus showing us it's just like riding a bike.
The Clovers would then only 2 minutes later have scored two more goals?! What is going on you ask. The teams started to settle in now and get their rhythm before Stewart McCall from the Clovers gets himself in trouble giving #86 Elie Bassaler the chance to net his first goal of the season with a slap shot from far out. The period would close with their Coach Ger Duffy getting a goal for himself 6 mins out from the end of the period. The last goal surely I hear you say??? 12, 11, 10...Goal!!! #9 Liam Smith scores again with a great assist across the net from #22 Lionards Bartusevics picking up his first point of the season with 10 seconds left of the period.
Both teams in shock of such a strange game could only laugh, but the games were over as the second period would start 5:4 in favor of the Clovers, both seeking a win. The second period was a pure passionate display of heart as both teams pushed to the limit, turnover after turnover, shots from everywhere. Back and forth until halfway a goal came from the Clovers giving them the breathing room they needed. The second half saw shots coming off posts left and right with the Bulls inches away from putting the puck in on several occasions meant the Clovers more accurate shooting would steal the game. Ger Duffy the cheeky sod netted one of the softest goals ever with 2 seconds on the clock. We are only joking, well done Ger.
With the day done and teams heading their separate ways, we say our goodbyes and start to count down the days till our next games. Stopping off to sit down and eat as a team, reminiscing on the day and enjoy each others company. In these moments we really appreciate each others efforts, hard work and sacrifices to be a part of such a great sport.
Thank you to Clare Badgers, Celtic Clovers and all the IHI Officiating staff on the day. A big thank you also to Vitaly Zukov for the lovely memories he captured alongside our own Phtographer #31 James Osborne. We will be able to remember what an awesome day we had thanks to you guys.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh