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Monday, 02 September 2013
Year 12 pupil Lewis Daly represented Great Britain at water polo in the European Championship Qualifiers in Istanbul, Turkey in May.
Lewis was part of the Junior Men’s water polo team who took on Russia, Bulgaria, Switzerland and Turkey over three days. Here Lewis talks about the highs, the lows and the amazing experience of representing his country at international level:
“I started my water polo journey in year 7 when I started in the Senior School. I was spotted to be a reasonable swimmer and have the strength required in this physically demanding sport. Training commenced and the delights of becoming one of the first to arrive in school each morning (with the exception of the caretakers and cleaners) soon became the norm as daily training before each school day started. This however paid off, as I soon started training with the City of Manchester team at 13 and soon after that progressed to the North West team.
After being spotted here I was called up to trial in Cardiff for the GB team in 2011, age just 14. This didn’t go well as I wasn’t selected, nonetheless I wasn’t disheartened and carried on training hard until another I was again selected for a trial a year later…this time I was successful.
I can safely say I have pretty much travelled the world with my sport. There were the obligatory Cardiff training weekends and of course sunny Walsall in Birmingham!! But there were also training camps and competitions in Malta, The Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Italy and Holland. The squad was cut down repeatedly, each time the nerves increasing as to whether I would make the team. I did, and on the 2nd may I met the countries best polo players in the airport and the most amazing thing was is that I was joining them!
On day 1 the draw gave us a challenging first encounter against hot favourites Russia. After a slow start the game opened up in the second period with the team earning some penalties and extra mans and half time came with the score 5-4 in Russia’s favour. The third quarter, the key to any game, was Russia’s as they crept ahead and we began to chase the game too hard as the last quarter began 9-4 to the opposition. However, GB were not going to lie down and the last five minutes were all ours and we managed to square the quarter 2-2. 11-6 to Russia was not a demoralising defeat and there were so many positives to take from the game.
On day 2, inspired by yesterday’s performance, the boys started the game against Bulgaria giving up the swim off to set the tone of the match: controlled defence with lots of dropping and double marking. Quarter time GB were 1-0 to the good, though we squandered many chances, especially extra man. Again we totally dominated play in the second period which resulted in two goals for and one against. After half-time GB totally dominated a shattered Bulgarian team who, physically, could not keep pace with us. As they rapidly tired we turned the screw winning the quarter 4-1, virtually sealing the match with a 7-2 lead going into the last quarter. Nothing fazed the team in the last period and we came away with a well-deserved victory of 8-3
With only two goals in eight periods for Switzerland, and over 50 against, GB were aiming to keep a clean sheet for their second game of the day. It was 8-0 at half time and all was going to plan although our tiredness was manifesting itself in poor shot selection and poor man up/man down play. After half time the nature of the game changed with the decisions clearly going the way of the opposition in the second half. Coupled with tiredness the boys became more and more frustrated, and the whole rhythm of our play was lost. Having said that, the second half was a 3-3 draw meaning the final score was 11-3 though we all left the pool thinking we should have done a lot better. With two wins we did the job we needed to and set up the chance to qualify for the finals in the showdown game with hosts Turkey.
Day 3 started like any other competition day: half sleepy boys assembling for breakfast discussing the finer points of life; and after a mid-afternoon rest we assembled for the bus - this was very different. The lively bus had gone quiet, the falsetto section on the back seat was mute and you could have heard a pin drop on the 45 minute journey. It felt irrelevant to speak. The ritual of the pre-match quarters (first watch, second team talk, third land warm up and fourth water warm up); the presentation; the national anthem, the coaches final words, seemed to take place without breathing.
The long awaited whistle, a sharp expellation of air, and the game began: life had returned to normal! Swim off lost, defence set, reversal: counter, exclusion, man up, goal! GB 1 Turkey 0. At that point the crowd rose to their feet and raised the roof with their cheering. But the hosts we’re not just there to be shot at. A double exclusion and they quickly resumed parity. 3-5 down at quarter time we were still in touch. The speed was incredible and there had been 16 actions in the opening period. The second quarter belonged to the hosts as GB rushed a little catch up and they caught us with lightening counters, fluid play in front of goal and rocket 5m shots.
At half time it was 3-10 to the hosts and we had played well; very well in many aspects of the game. We were not about to give in. We matched Turkey 6-5 in the second half with the feeling that we did not always get the rub of the green.16-8 against a very good Turkish side was no mean feat but we were naturally devastated. The superb supporting parents then lifted the boys’ spirits coming back to the hotel for photos and one final rendition of the national anthem.
This trip is one I will never forget, one that will stay with me for the rest of my life, due to having the opportunity to represent my country at the sport I love, water polo.”
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