There were Leprechauns O’Plenty at Bojangles’ Coliseum on Saturday night as 2107 people came out to take part in the St. Patrick’s Day exhibition between the Charlotte Copperheads and the Irish All Stars. The Irish needed more than luck as the Copperheads came to play in their first game in franchise history.
The Copperheads looked athletic and fast and controlled the tempo and time of possession throughout the night. Ryan Hotaling won 13 of 14 draws and kick-started the offense scoring 2 of the Copperheads first 3. The Irish kept it close at first closing out the 1st quarter with a score of 5-3.
The Copperheads saw a balanced scoring attack as 5 players recorded hat tricks. Greg Rogowski led the Copperheads (3,4) followed by Hotaling (3,2), Matt Smalley (3,2), Ethan Farrell (3,1), Kevin Iwanusa (3,1), Peter Milliman (2,4) and Dave Hodgins (2,0). Matt Hickman, a 2-time All American and 3-time national champion at Salisbury, received the offensive player of the game nod as he scored 4 goals, many of which were of the highlight variety. Cattaraugus Native Tory Stevens finished the first half allowing only 4 goals on 13 shots on cage.
Those in attendance were loud and excited to be a part of Copperheads history. The Cabarras County Clash came out in swarms. The first- and second-graders took the field at half time and battled it out to the delight of the crowd.
The second half saw a run by the Irish as they pulled to within 10 largely on the back of OLA Jr A stud Mike Burke, who finished the night with 7 goals and 1 assist on 12 shots. Mike O’Brien silenced the Irish run in the fourth as he scooped a loose ball, sprinted past an Irish attacker and buried a breakaway while a man down.
The Copperheads defense was aggressive and fast. Brian Welch (Le Moyne ’09) continued to impress with his ability to pick off passes and scoop loosies. He led all players with 11 loose balls.
I was pleased with the team’s effort. It was obvious that our guys were pumped to play this game. For many it was their first real box game if not their first professional one, for that matter. It looked like some players were gripping their sticks a little tight in warm up, but I was impressed with the composure and poise we played with throughout the night. Our offense moved the ball well and finished their chances. The speed and athleticism was obvious and I believe we have a team that can go head to head with anyone.
Copperheads President Graham D’Alvia was happy with the event. “It was a successful night for the Copperheads organization. The team played well and everyone that came out looked like they were having a great time. We are looking to capitalize on the positive momentum of the event as we plan for our season in the fall.”
Irish team members were grateful for the opportunity. “It meant a lot to be able to come together with teammates and friends, especially on St Patrick’s Day,” remarked Ireland National Team Captain Brendan Gorman. “Games like this carry a ton of weight for the future growth of the indoor game in Ireland.” 2007 Captain and the founder of the Dublin Riggers box team, Sean Gibson, made the trek from Ireland but was forced to borrow equipment as his bag did not arrive until Sunday morning. Here are some thoughts that he shared with me.
About my experience over the weekend:
After the initial disappointment of Team Ireland’s March trip to the United States being called off, a second opportunity for me to play with a group of Irish All-Stars in the exhibition game against the Charlotte Copperheads turned out to be a great way to spend St. Patrick’s Day!
I always enjoy an opportunity to play with and against good players and this past weekend was no exception. It was a lot of fun running with my Irish All-star teammates against the Copperheads. Despite the loss in the game, the opportunity to train and play with former, current, and potential Irish teammates and coaches more than offset the sting of losing. It was a great weekend hosted by the Copperheads.
A special thanks from me personally to Graham Dalvia, Tom Ryan, and Kevin Owens in organizing this event and letting me be apart of it.
How would events like this benefit and what they would mean to the Ireland Indoor Program in the Future?
I definitely think the Ireland Lacrosse Indoor program as a whole would benefit from being involved in this type of event on a semi-annual or even annual basis. Chances like this game for our players (both in country and abroad) would be a tremendous boost to our program. We don’t really get much exposure to indoor lacrosse year round and being involved in this event has shown me the opportunities are out there and the potential for a tremendous benefit to our indoor program.
The training, professional setup, organization, the game day, playing with our coaching staff, and of course tough opposition would go great lengths to help is grow the individual skills and abilities of our individual players. But, when you combine that with the positive vibe that players get from participating in an event like this, that is what would transfer to our indoor program (especially within Ireland), creating excitement towards the indoor game and for our indoor program.A nine-year NLL veteran and former GM and head coach of the Boston Blazers, Ryan also coached Team USA at the '07 WILC and will do so again in 2011 in Prague. To purchase Ryan's Stir It Up DVD click here.
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