Exciting, humbling, friendly, inspiring, these are just some of the words you could use to describe the Irish Parabadminton international which it was my honour along with Nigel South to be selected to represent England at recently.
We arrived on Tuesday 18th June with the briefing due to start at 4pm; my flight at 1.30pm from Birmingham and Nigel’s half an hour earlier from Manchester. The hotel was a smart four star establishment which was the base for the tournament with both players and officials in residence and meeting rooms set aside for our use as required. The briefing was, well…brief ! Referee Heather Crump explained that the team managers meeting had been rescheduled meaning there was only a very small window for our meeting. Just as well we knew what we were doing! The only real important item to come out was that due to a shortage of umpires there would be no service judging and as there were no line judges the umpires would call the lines!! After a quiet word with the referee this changed and the players called their own lines, much more sensible! Meeting over, Aengus Sherrin our MOU provided details of the teams and shifts we would be working. There were three shifts and each umpire worked two on any given day. On Saturday afternoon all the foreign umpires were off so they could do whatever they wanted, leaving the Irish umpires to man the fort. Finally we got to go over to the venue, the National Indoor Arena, to acclimatise ourselves with the layout. For those that haven’t been yet, it is a smart multi-sport indoor venue set inside a campus catering for numerous sports including traditional Irish sports Gaelic Football and Hurling.
The tournament was very well organised all round, transport was always on time and went out of its way to make sure umpires who weren’t working could get back to the hotel rather than hanging around the venue for hours on end. Each foreign umpire received an allowance of 25 euros a day for food, which at the venue was very basic, however the food at the hotel was very nice indeed. On the Thursday night it was arranged for all the umpires to go to a Milano Pizzeria which was nice and made a change from the venue or hotel.
Everything was going along very well until Saturday PM. You will recall I said the foreign umpires were given Saturday afternoon off, well unfortunately things didn’t go to plan! As we were now at the quarter final stage of the event, the matches were becoming tighter and longer. Our shift was due to finish at 1.30pm however it was gone 3pm before all the visiting umpires had finished their duties. A quick meeting was held and the majority decided to try to go into Dublin city centre, some 40 minutes away by bus to try to do a bit of sight seeing. Both Nigel and I opted to return to the hotel, have something to eat, have a drink in the bar and go for a walk. Turned out we made the right choice as the report back from the Dublin City trip was that most things were shutting down by the time they arrived which was a bit disappointing. Our Irish colleagues had an eventful afternoon as the power went down at the venue for some 30 minutes causing play to be suspended! During Saturday evening Nigel and I both received an email from the MOU informing us that we had been selected to work on finals day.
I did have the distinction of having used the most shuttles in one match when a men’s singles used 19 shuttles before it finished. I also had a two game match which only lasted 12 minutes including the intervals!
On the final day, Sunday, the weather was awful. It rained very heavily for the whole day and unfortunately I got absolutely soaked trying to board my plane on the tarmac at Dublin Airport. This lead to me getting a chest infection and having to take a further three days off work!
Finally I would recommend this event or any of the para events to everyone. If you get the chance please support them.
(Editor's note - the fact that the European Games were on at the same time as Martyn's "illness" had no bearing whatsoever ! Nigel South inadvertently managed to miss the photocall but we are assured he was in fact there !)