Swansea 2014: Fun in the sun

Scottish Thistles squad Dragons Festival 2014

Back row: David Morgans, Neil Ward, Robbie Robertson, Sandy Weir, Alan Bain, Ian Dunbar, Doug Turner, Donald Dunbar

Front row: Alan Parker, Dick Pearce, Duncan Mitchell, Tim Lorimer, Jim Watson, John Smith (Captain)

With temperatures staying in the late 20’s and with a very ‘mixed bunch’ of hockey players we once again attacked the Dragons Hockey Festival in Swansea. With almost all of us now kitted out with the same shirts, with a couple of ‘Challenging’ exceptions, we at least felt like we could ‘do the business’ this year. We were in for a bit of a shock however, when it came down to playing the games, as the standard of play was much higher, with the exception of England LX 60s and 65s who were certainly more playable. Some of the other teams like the Dragons, Midlands and certainly the Somerset team, were way above us for coherence, fitness and certainly average age. The age question was quite significant, as I thought I looked young for my age, but some of the teams players certainly were holding their 60+ age extremely well ?. One particularly star player of Dragons Yellow team looked only about 13 and, after him flicking a very powerful penalty against Dick’s Pearce’s head, knocking him back into the net, I suspected we may have a few younger players against us. Oh yes, he was thirteen and a privilege to play against.

Anyway, you can probably realise what is coming next in the report with my veiled excuses, we lost a very disappointing 2-1 against Black Dragons with Jim Watson scoring our only goal. We were disappointed as we were playing some very good hockey for a while and remembering to do an Ian Wilson and ‘keep the ball'. We did however revert to ‘route 1 hockey’ again after the first goal was scored against us. I could see the mumbling and grumbling starting again which I detest, but so could our captain John Smith and we discussed it at half time and we all agreed to comment only on positive moves and passes and accept that we were all, without exception, going to make errors, particularly when tired. As a team enjoying our senior hockey against stiff opposition, we never looked back.

Alan Bain tackles an LX65 attacker with Doug Turner in close attendance

Alan Bain mops up an LX65 attack with Doug Turner in close attendance

The second game was against England LX 65’s. Here, we stood a chance as they were not as strong as last year's International side, and they looked as old as us. The game was very equal in general terms, but once we started not playing to our ‘keep it wide’ and build up together game plan, we over extended and let a goal in. Again we began to play ‘route one’ hockey but John managed to cool us down and get back to a disciplined approach. Unfortunately, after having a lot of play in their half, we over extended again, didn’t track back, and let them have another goal. Dick Pearce was a bit fed up with himself as he blamed himself for the first goal, but we reminded him that he wouldn’t have had to save it in the first place if we had blocked out the shooter. We were quite pleased with the result as we knew we could have won it if we had kept our shape and stuck to the game plan. Again Jim Watson scored the only goal. Poor old Tim Lorimer had man on man marking the whole of the tournament as they know him well down there. It did however, give Jim quite a lot of chances which he took.

Game three was in the late afternoon and we were pretty stuffed in the heat and the exertions against LX65’s. Yellow Dragons were considerably younger and we just about held our own but again the 2-1 now established result applied again, as did Jim Watson’s goal. We were actually lucky not to go down by more, particularly as Dick was stunned for a while after the penalty blow. Dick ‘saved our bacon’ in this match and sometimes had three opposition queuing to have a go at him. After this game, rehydration was definitely the order of the day.

A really enjoyable day's hockey, with really good team spirit once John had laid down the ‘open your mouth only for a pass or compliment’. Good on yer John!

A very good evening was had by all, although we decided to buy our own drinks from the supermarkets as the bar prices were as high as that evening in Glasgow for the Celtic Cup. All the team stayed together for the evening and an excellent team spirit was enjoyed by all.

Day 2 we were determined to win something, even though we were now without Jim, who could only manage one day. Confronting us was the Welsh over 65 squad from the World Cup. Now we had a chance, and we took it. Tim, who had taken Jim's place as lone striker, coached me into what he required me to do to take the pressure from him and it worked, when he beat at least four Welsh defenders on the way to hitting a spectacular, low shot past the keeper. The mutual coaching of each other was a really good feature of our play. I personally was helped by the team to turn around when stopped, a thing I have had to learn to do since returning to the game, and others helped each other understand what they were trying to achieve. Anyway, we were 1-0 up and we kept it that way.

The final game was really in the afternoon heat. We were all tired from the prrvious game and the game was four 15 minute quarters. We were against probably against the best, fittest and best looking for their age? team, who included several players who had not taken part in three gruelling matches on the first day. We tried to close them down from building in the middle, but we just couldn’t break them up. We got the result we expected 5-0 against. This lot beat England LX 60’s 4-0. If Dick hadn’t been on form, we would have gone down by more.

In general, a really good tournament played in high temperatures. For a set of old guys, we did just fine and more importantly, developed a good team spirit with the desire to improve and even ‘keep the ball’. Our thanks to Duncan’s two friends from the Midlands, David Morgans and Neil Ward, for helping us out. Without subs, we would have really struggled in the heat. The team's thanks also to John Smith for keeping us sweet and in order.

One day, we may find out exactly where we finished in the tournament but the important thing is that everyone had a great time.

Alan Parker with a little help from John Smith


Saturday 26 July - group matches
Dragons Black 2, Scottish Thistles 1 (Watson)
England LX 65 2, Scottish Thistles 1 (Watson)
Dragons Yellow 2, Scottish Thistles 1 (Watson)

Sunday 27 July - play offs for places 5-8
Dragons 65 0, Scottish Thistles 1 (Lorimer)
Somerset 5, Scottish Thistles 0