Arrived EARLY after a lightning quick direct flight from Newcastle courtesy of Ryanair (we cannot have been in the air for much more than 30 minutes!). A few messenger messages from Chris Taylor (representing Wales) guiding me to the hotel shuttle stop ensured my speedy progress continued & meant I was in time for the trip into the centre of Dublin on Tuesday afternoon. There we toured the Dublinia museum celebrating Dublin's Viking and Medieval history, went to the Corn Exchange and wandered through the Temple Bar area before having dinner at the Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Dublin. What else could one have to eat other than beef & Guinness stew!
Wednesday saw a busy day of qualification matches, but Thursday was the marathon - 112 matches played in total, with the first starting at 9am and the last around 10.30pm - lots of good experience gained! My day included umpiring a men's doubles with the (identical) Grimley twins, attired in identical clothing down to & including their shoe laces (Christopher is maybe a cm or two taller). My final match, with Chris as service judge, was a very hard fought women's singles - you really had to respect the loser for fighting that hard so late! Perhaps we were a little doo-lally when we left, but the pink double decker bus seemed to resemble the famous Harry Potter night bus......
Breakfast was extremely welcome the next morning as all catering had finished in the venue at 4ish (never travel without dry roasted peanuts!). And we got an extra hour in the morning to enjoy it, with quarter finals and semi-finals not starting until 10am. Chris was involved in the most bizarre event of the tournament, service judging (and having to take over) when his umpire partner got stung by a wasp - not quite sure what the correct vocabulary is for that! My highlight was umpiring one of the men's doubles semi-finals, with the eventual overall winners. That was the final match of the day, and, fortunately, this time we were early enough for dinner in the hotel bar!!
Saturday morning was free time, so I took the opportunity to get some exercise in the hotel gym and some fresh air outside. Finals started at 1pm, and I was pleased to be service judge for the women's doubles - this meant I also received a rather nice medal! One of the competitors had her shoes held together with black insulating tape - she clearly needed some prize money! It was good that there were approximately 300 spectators in the hall, and the first three finals were also televised on Irish TV.
That evening we were taken to "Celtic Nights" for dinner - Irish stew this time - and a show of Irish music & dancing. This was a lovely way to end a very enjoyable week - I will remember the passion of our Irish hosts to share their country, its history and its traditions with us. I came to the country as a stranger, but felt I left as a friend, and would love to go back and see more.
Home sweet home on Sunday morning (on time again) - nice to go away to make new friends and see new places, but nice to come home too!