Our first regular season battle was an exciting game – one that brought a positive result in the win column. The season opener involved a two hour bus ride through winding backroads, green hills, scattered showers, and expansive grass fields covered with dozens of cattle. Limerick, otherwise referred to by Waterford natives as “Stab City,” is a small town in central Ireland located on the banks of the River Shannon. Several decades ago, the town was notorious for violence among its civilians. Thankfully, much of that violence has subsided, and Limerick is now recognized as one of the most populated cities across the island.
Once we arrived at UL’s campus, I was stunned by the exceptional quality of the facility we would compete in. UL Arena had an impressive basketball court – one that mirrored many of the college gymnasiums I played in over the last four years. The arena far exceeded my expectations of an Irish basketball court. Additionally, Limerick had a strong support base of locals, parents, and children. Combining this with our group of Viking parents who travelled with us, I couldn’t complain about the atmosphere at my first Irish basketball game.
Moving on to tipoff. Both teams struggled mightily to score in the opening 10 minutes. I’m uncertain if it was opening day nerves, or just poor shot selection from both sides; neither team could have thrown the ball into the Atlantic Ocean. However, at the start of the second, our squad began to heat up. We built a double digit lead by pushing the ball in transition, playing solid defense, and capitalizing on offensive rebounds for second chance points. As our squad jogged to the locker room for break, we held a 17 point lead.
It didn’t take long after halftime to hit the first adversity of my Irish basketball career. About two minutes into the third quarter, I bricked a corner three off the side of the backboard (whoops). As I ran back to play transition defense, I planted my left foot awkwardly on my defender’s shoe, which caused my ankle to buckle underneath me. Unfortunately, I’ve injured that same ankle 5 times since high school. I was forced to watch the remainder of the game from the sideline – by far the most aggravating part of this sport.
Fortunately, my teammates were able to hold on for a nine point victory. My injury put a damper on my mood afterwards in the locker room. I was originally going to crash with Reece, Ian, and some other scholars in Limerick, but I chose to head back to Waterford with the team. It was probably a wise decision; after all, I needed to rest, ice, and watch the Patriots continue their undefeated season on Sunday.
Nevertheless, I’m glad we got our first W – especially because our club lost their first 13 games last season. Going forward, I expect us to build on this success, and continue to improve everyday to contend in the Men’s National League.