Guided Bus Tour
After a three and a half hour drive from Ballina, the team picked up a lovely, random old lady on a street corner, whom Paul thought would be a dandy addition to our preliminary tour of the Irish metropolis. I jest. We are much more organized than that. Our tour guide was in fact lovely and well aged (not old), but hardly random (even though she inconspicuously slid onto the bus). She was a witty woman, whose supplemental quips on the tour were all that kept our drowsy selves awake during the two-hour extravaganza.
While I could hardly recount the multitude of facts and stories that were told to us on the tour, there are a few things that are definitely worth mentioning.
First, Dublin is a city with history that most Americans can hardly comprehend. Institutions, buildings and artifacts from the 17th century are seen as archaic to an American. Try adding about 1,700 years to that. That’s archaic. Dublin has had some form of settlement on the banks of the River Liffey for over 2,000 years. One building that exemplifies such a rich history is the world famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The cathedral was built in the 12th century, 300 years before Columbus set sail for the New World. Some of the things that we got to see inside the cathedral were truly incredible. Military flags from over 700 years ago were still hanging from the 60-foot walls, slowly disintegrating. There were also tombs of past deans, the table at which Jonathon Swift (who was dean of the cathedral for quite some time) was said to have written Gulliver’s Travels and stained-glass windows that were over 400 years old. St. Patrick’s is a must for any tour of Dublin.
Additionally, I should mention the beautiful 18th century architecture of the city (which you won’t be able to see pictures of because something is now wrong with this website). In what is now considered to be the more posh section of Dublin, there remain blocks of 18th century brick buildings, famous for their doors and paned windows. Most of the gorgeous brick buildings are now home to offices on the bottom floors, thanks to the thriving Irish economy of the mid 90s that saw a huge increase in businesses within the city. (The entire team hates the thriving Irish economy because the Euro is taking us all out behind the wood shed. We apologize in advance to our parents for a painful lack of frugality.)
Dublin also has an amazing park system, with over 70 public parks in the city’s limits (there is still one private park remaining). The largest of these parks is Phoenix Park, which also happens to be the largest city park in all of Europe. As I have said before, the degree of greenness that each blade of grass exudes is indescribable. You need to be there and feel the rug-like sod to believe it. (I say something about the grass roughly ever 12 minutes. I think my team is going to banish me to a random section of the Himalayas the next time I mention the grass.) When this is stretched on for acres uninterrupted in the middle of a city, it is quite a sight to see. Phoenix Park, in addition to hosting hundreds of local sporting events and large rock concerts, also played host to Pope John Paul II, where a large cross now stands to commemorate his mass that drew a crowd of well over one million people.
There is so much more to say about Dublin, but I simply do not have the time, space or patience to do so. The final thing to recognize is just how Dublin-centric the nation of Ireland truly is. With just about 1/5 of its population and a huge percentage of its economy, all roads literally run to Dublin on the island.
In what we knew would be our most difficult game of the trip, we took to the floor against an incredibly well organized Killester. The first division team honestly did not look like much, as their line up was not filled with e athletes of imposing stature. Quite the contrary, their roster was full of modest-sized players of all ages. They, however, were far from ordinary when placed together on the floor. With some of the most efficient basketball you will ever see, the Killester squad gave Haverford its worst loss of the trip with a 72-59 win.
Killester got out to a lead almost immediately, thanks to hot shooting and crisp passing. Their cuts were timed perfectly and they rarely took more than 5 dribbles during a possession, with ball movement that continually troubled the Fords throughout the game.
After the initial shock, however, Haverford was able to climb back into the game thanks to some hot shooting and easy buckets off of some timely steals. The Fords were never able to get back into striking distance, though, as Killester’s timely scores and ability to get to the line always seemed to kill any run that our squad was putting together. The lead was cut down to single digits a few times in the second half, but nothing seemed to faze the veteran Irish squad, who were in mid-season rhythm.
While the loss is no doubt disappointing, the entire team saw the game as a great experience. We all learned a great deal from the veteran squad, especially in how to defend a very well balanced and well-timed offense. As the game wore on, you could definitely see our adjustments working. There were clearly times throughout the game when we truly outplayed the more experienced Killester squad. Ultimately, however, the professionals turned out to be too much for us to handle on this night.
While basketball was such a small portion of what we did here on the Emerald Isle, the team is in agreement that the trip has helped us in preparing for a season which we hope will be every bit as memorable as this week. Allowing us to try out a host of different line-ups and run a few of our offensive sets should only help us in reaching our goal to become the first Haverford basketball team to win a Centennial Conference championship. I am confident that we can become that team.
For our final scheduled event on our itinerary, the team took to Trinity College for a quick tour and a meet-and-greet with a few college students. The school’s grounds are truly incredible, with cobble-stoned paths, the distinct green of the Irish trees and grass, and stoned buildings from the 16th century.
Founded in 1592, Trinity is Ireland’s top university and also one of the finest and most selective universities in the world. The compact campus is nestled in the center of Dublin and plays host to the nearly 15,000 graduate and undergraduate students who take courses at the college. Only about 400 of the students, however, actually live in campus. Most will live about 15 minutes from the city center, in apartments that they have acquired themselves, or remain at their homes and commute each day.
The college is famous for the Trinity College Library, a gorgeous building which hosts some incredibly old books. One such book, the Book of Kells, was written sometime around 800 A.D. The Book of Kells is the library’s most famous ancient text. Housed in the extravagant Long Hall of the Trinity College Library, the Book of Kells sits amongst tens of thousands of texts that range from over 1200 to 400 years old.
The most rewarding part of our visit to Trinity was the ability to sit down with a few current college students. We spoke at length about a lot of issues, most notably their relationship with “The Troubles”. As was the general consensus of those at the college, the violent past of Northern Ireland was very much removed from their lives. Living in the Republic for all of their lives and rarely venturing to the northern section of the island, the conflict is something that is fairly disconnected from their childhoods. It was very interesting to see that something that so clearly pervades every aspect of life in the North could so easily be dismissed as an almost trivial matter by someone in the south.
A lot of our discussion also focused simply on the differences between American and Irish college life. Most glaring difference goes to…PRICE! I don’t speak “sympathetic Irishman”, but when we told him that we pay almost $50,000 a year to go to school, he mumbled some gibberish under a giggle and a swig from his tea that made me rightly believe he thought we were getting screwed. Apparently when you pay nothing to go to college, you would think that. Yeah that’s right, they pay nothing to go to college. I’m going to stop there before I say some things that I don’t really mean.
All in all, we had an amazing discussion with the college students. The highlight definitely occurred as the conversation moved towards professional American sports. One of the students was talking about Philadelphia professional teams, when he quickly changed the subject (much to Brent Anderson’s and my delight), “I’ve heard of Pittsburgh’s football team. They are pretty great right?” Brent and I are huge Steelers fans. To see that Steelers nation has made the trek across the Atlantic to infect the global city of Dublin is inspiring. We love you Troy, Big Ben and Hines. Much to Coach Mucci’s dismay, the young lad had never heard of the Cleveland Browns. Hang in there, Coach. We know it’s rough.
That concludes our scheduled events for the trip. It is going to be up to us to find something to do tonight in Dublin. While that may be difficult to do, I’m sure the team will manage.
Look out for one or two more blogs in the next few days.