Far From Home, Alone

Let me take the time to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. What a wonderful holiday it is! I love Christmas, but every year in the lead up, I have my fair share of scrooge moments. The pressure of expectation is so high and it can be overwhelming. It’s all a flurry beforehand, but then the day comes and I get a sudden rush of peace and joy. It is my belief that this, the spirit of Christmas, is a grace flowing directly from the Infant Jesus.

The Infant Jesus - the source of our Christmas Joy

The Infant Jesus – the source of our Christmas Joy

In recent years, that beauty, peace, joy and simplicity that only a baby can bring to us has captivated my Christmas prayer and meditation. Being away from home again this year, meant that the Christ-child has also been a wonderful source of comfort and support for me over the Holiday.

Fortunately, despite the title of this post, I didn’t have to spend Christmas proper completely on my own. I was able to make the trip back up the Yorkshire for a couple of days to stay with my English family; the Inglehearn’s. Once again, they opened their doors to me with fantastic generosity. They’ve really created a home away from home for me since I’ve been in England and I can’t thank them enough!

One of the funnest things about the holiday was my transportation. Seeing as it was my 25th birthday on Christmas Eve, I did the one thing that I couldn’t do prior to becoming a quarter century old; namely, rent a car! (Technically, I could have actually rented a car before, but not without exorbitant additional insurance rates). In any event, it was one of two firsts that I experienced over the holiday. It was also the first time I had driven in England and thus the wrong side of the road. I’m a survivor.

Driving on the left side of the road was a little unnerving at first, but I got used to it pretty quickly. Since I do ride my bike on the roads quite often, I was familiar with the feeling. However, it is different in a car. For one thing, driving from the right side of the car makes you feel like you have a giant tumor on the left side of your body, which you constantly have to keep out of people’s way. This giant tumor also had a way of making me drift well over to the left side of the lane which I inhabited.

I also learned, or rather was reminded, that my left hand is pretty useless. Shifting gears was slightly challenging for the hand that usually only moves to pick my nose or scratch my…yea, anyway. But after 500+ miles, I did eventually get the hang of it and really quite enjoyed driving again.

The best part of it all was that I managed a nice free upgrade – I called it the Birthday upgrade – and was driving around in an Audi. Far cooler that a little Ford Geo, or similar economy car, that I was expecting. Needless to say, I was a little bummed having to return it. Back to the ol’ bicycle for me!

My Birthday Upgrade

My Birthday Upgrade

Didn't want to give it back :(

Didn’t want to give it back 😦

So, on my Birthday, I drove up to Yorkshire, with a few accidental detours (the accents on the English road signs were hard to understand) and arrived late afternoon. I was greeted with love and cheer, and proceeded to go upstairs and get on my laptop – I know so rude – so that I could skype home and get some Birthday affirmation from across the great blue beyond. The family – minus Cecilia, who was flying home from Italy – lined up on the screen and sang me a beautiful rendition of Happy Birthday…I know, I know, a beautiful rendition of that song never ACTUALLY occurs, but the sentiment was beautiful as always.

Had to share this!

Had to share this!

Nothing like a good Bday Card from a close friend!

Nothing like a good Bday Card from a close friend!

After all the Birthday love that evening, including the Inglehearn’s traditional and delicious Chocolate Malteser cake, it was time to get ready for the real celebration! I, thus, went to a lovely midnight mass at the local parish and this is when I was graced with the true peace and joy of Christmas once again. Then, as I love to do, I unabashedly sang along to the recessional hymn, “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing”, and the peace diminished momentarily for everyone else…but I loved it!

The traditional Malteser Cake - full of goodness

The traditional Malteser Cake – There’s was much better…and personalized, but you get the idea

Then I stayed up really late after Midnight Mass because it was still technically my Birthday back home and I didn’t want to miss any of it. Alas, another benefit of being here, my Birthday and Christmas are 29 hours long! New Years might be rough…

Christmas Day, Allison, my English Mum, had to work – God bless her soul – and so the family didn’t do much in the way of wild Christmas celebrations. So, I drove my nice ride over to another nearby cousin’s house and was hosted to a fantastic meal by the lovely Anne Mary, and her ever enjoyable husband Garry. The lamb, the ham, the turkey, the potatoes, the everything was delectable and I can honestly say it was the best meal I’ve had since I arrived this year! I even had room for a big piece of black forest gateau cake…oh the indulgence of me.

I can make room for this

I can make room for this

Once again, I got to skype with home that evening (morning at home) and wish all a very Merry Christmas! It is always fun to witness the impressive fiasco that is gift-giving time in the O’Reilly household.

Classic!

Classic!

I found this and could help but share it. So bad, that it would definitely be used at our dinner table.

I found this and could help but share it. It’s so bad that it would definitely be used at our dinner table.

I, unfortunately, had to leave the Inglehearn’s early on the 26th – known as Boxing Day in the UK – to head back down South for a game. Sadly, I made the 5+ hour drive, only to arrive to a cancelled game. Thankfully, the Christmas spirit gave me enough joy to get through that disappointment.

The 26th is also my sister Grace’s Birthday! While my Birthday is pleasantly eclipsed by the build up to Christmas, hers is overshadowed by the Christmas hangover. Everyone is perfectly content to wish her a Happy Birthday and wish her the best, just as long as they don’t have to get up off the couch. She never complains though, and takes the well wishes with genuine excitement and cheerfulness, just as long as she doesn’t have to get up off the couch. I love you Grace 😉 Happy 21st!

That, my friends, is the story of my 2013 Christmas spent Far From Home, Alone. Not literally, thanks to the generosity of the Inglehearns, but it makes for a good title. If I had made it home for Christmas, the title wouldn’t have been much different, as I would have been Far From Home Alone.

In the meantime, I did play another game, and no, nothing has changed, I’m still a loser. We lost 2-0 to a team called Mangotsfield. On a positive note, at least we are not called Mangotsfield.

All the best to you all as you end this year and begin another. Here’s to you – hiccup – keep going head first into 2014!

May the Infant Jesus, give you peace and joy all the year long.

Seano

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Loser

A loser. That’s me. The footballer, Sean O’Reilly, is a loser.

Yea, come on, at least be relaxed!

Yea, come on, at least be relaxed!

This is not me wallowing in self-pity. This is not me trying to create a metaphor for my current status in life. This is me telling you a fact; a truth. When you lose, you are a loser.

My point exactly

My point exactly

This is good, after all, the first step is admitting that you have a problem.

The second reason that this is good is that you have to be playing to lose. So, yes, I’ve played quite a few games in the last month. Since I last touched base, I have played in 6 games with Fleet Town, the team I am currently playing with. 4 of these were regular league games and 2 were cup games.

To make a long story short; we have lost all of them.

To make that short story long; I’ll drag you through the mud, sweat and tears and give you the rundown on each game as honestly as I can manage. The Manager at Fleet Town, Craig, usually writes a few notes on the game, which I will include links to as well.

Fleet vs Bishop’s Cleeve 0-2 Loss

After the first match I played with Fleet, where we tied 0-0, things were looking up. We had stopped the bleeding from the run of losses and things seemed to be looking up. Bishop’s Cleeve is near us at the bottom of the table, so it was a realistic chance for us to get a win, especially since we were playing at home.

This was not to be the case. Things just didn’t click for us and we didn’t play well at all. They scored on either side of half-time to take all of the spoils.

Fleet vs AFC Totton: Cup Game – 3-3 at end of extra time (lost 5-3 on penalty kicks)

This game was in one of the many local cups that we compete in. If I’m honest, I don’t know much about this one, except that we aren’t in it any more. AFC Totton occupies a similar position to us in the league higher above us. This turned out to be quite an exciting game, but we were once again left wanting. I would argue that throughout we were even the better team on the day.

Testwood Stadium - Home of AFC Totton

Testwood Stadium – Home of AFC Totton

We ended up finally scoring midway through the second half with a lovely headed goal. We kept this lead until the dwindling minutes of the game, at which point Totton got a late corner kick and scored from it. The 90 minutes ended 1-1, and this sent the game into extra time, two 15 minute periods.

Totton was the first to score in the first period of extra time. We kept fighting; however, and managed to claw one back to score early in the second period. The game was at 2-2. With minutes left we then received a penalty, from a foul on the edge of box. We duly disposed this and it looked like we were set to win. But when you are down in the dumps, things just don’t go your way. They went straight down and got another corner kick. Yes, they scored it, with essentially the last kick of extra time.

They eventually went on to win 5-3 on the penalty kicks as we missed our 4th (no, thankfully it wasn’t me). A devastating loss, which we threw away twice in the final minutes.

Fleet vs Wimborne Town 1-2 Loss 

The Cuthbury - Home of Wimborne Town

The Cuthbury – Home of Wimborne Town

Despite the long, hard fought loss at Totton a few days before, we were off to a good start away to Wimborne in the league. We had chances in the first half, but came in to the break 0-0. Unfortunately, we started off the 2nd half about as poorly as possible, giving up 2 goals in the first ten minutes. Both their goals were well taken, but could have been avoided with better defending. We fought hard and managed to pull one back, but it was too little too late. We were left to rue our missed chances.

This particular pitch was incredibly slanted from one side to the other. This pic was taken with the camera horizontal.

This particular pitch was incredibly slanted. This pic was taken with the camera horizontal.

Fleet vs Clevedon Town 2-3 Loss

The Hand Stadium - Home of Clevedon Town

The Hand Stadium – Home of Clevedon Town

Once again we were on the road – on a rare Monday night game – for a winnable game against a bottom half side: Clevedon Town. We were very good in the opening minutes but lost the edge and gave up 3 first half goals. All the goals came from our own mistakes and/or lack of focus, which was all the more frustrating.  We did manage to pull one back in the first half and thus came in to the break 3-1. In the second half, we were probably the better side and proved that with another goal. Yet again, we weren’t able to dig ourselves out of the hole we had dug for ourselves.

Fleet vs Tiverton Town 0-3 Loss

I won’t say much about this game except that we were beaten soundly. They were a good side for this level and dominated most of proceedings from the get go. Their second goal, in particular, was very well created. We fought and toiled, but lost this one fair and square. These games happen from time to time, but when you are already in a slump, it’s all the more humiliating and discouraging.

Fleet vs Reading Town 0-1 Loss

After the game against Tiverton, this one was a proper slap in the face. It was in another small tournament and this time we were playing a team in the league below us. We dominated nearly the entire game, but gave up a goal in the first half which we couldn’t overturn. I’ll come right out and take the blame for this goal. I managed to completely miss-time a header, which landed at the feet of an opponent who was then free to send his teammate through on goal for the finish.

On this muddy, dreary, and wet Tuesday evening, we managed to hit the post 3 times and miss a penalty kick. We were, once again, the losers.

I don’t even have a cheeky joke or clever metaphor to help explain the situation I, and the team, are in at the moment. We are loser’s.

We’ve all heard about the “winning mentality” in sports. It’s hard to put a finger on what causes this. There is no certain set of ingredients that you can write out and put into practice that will make it magically develop. In a similar way – and it’s hard to admit – losing can also become a mentality. Not in the sense that a team or a person wants to lose, or enjoys it. It just creeps up on you and before you know it you are in a hole and at a disadvantage to all of your opponents. Again, there is no simple ingredient to fix this dilemma; you can work harder, think longer, or get angrier, but it won’t guarantee a turn around. Getting out of this hole is one of the most difficult things to do in sport and in life.

Christmas gift ideas...

Christmas gift ideas…

What I will say is that you start to learn quite a bit about yourself in such times. What you learn is not always pleasant, but it’s always worth knowing.

To put a positive spin on all this, it has been nice to play consistently. I have played every minute of every game in midfield. I finally feel like I am fully game fit and my decision making and effectiveness is getting better every game. This is, surprisingly, the longest run of games that I have played since I came over to England. It would be much better to be winning, but it’s much better to be playing than not.

After all, action begets action.

I am confident the winning will come.

On another positive note, it’s almost Christmas, which is full of joy and excitement! I will be heading up to Yorkshire for a few days to enjoy the holiday with the Inglehearn cousins, before I get right back to playing and winning – God willing!

Peace and love to you all this Christmas season!

Celebrate head first.

Until next time,

Peace,

Seano

PS: Hope to get a Christmas post out next week so stay posted.