Gianluca Vialli: I want to thank the club for the way I was welcomed and looked after

12 August 2018; Erin's Isle manager Gianluca Vialli looks on during the AIB Toughest Rivalry Rematch between Castlehaven and Erin's Isle at Castlehaven GAA Club, Moneyvollahane, in Castlehaven, Co Cork. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile *** NO REPRODUCTION FEE ***

AIB The Toughest Rivalry – Final Blog 8 (Gianluca Vialli)

It was great to smell the dressing room and be a manager again and for the players to put up with my long-winded speeches!

“Now that my time with Erin's Isle is over I want to thank the club firstly for the way I was welcomed and looked after - the welcome was really incredible.

And for me it was an opportunity to get back into some sort of management atmosphere. To smell the dressing room and be in contact with players again, I really liked that. On the gaelic football pitch it was also very different – very original and exciting.

I tried to make the players realise that I'm a normal human being and, actually, they did not ask me much about soccer. Maybe it was the age-gap or my accent but they were a little too respectful at times!

I was also very thankful to them for putting up with all my long-winded motivational speeches!

Many people from Erin’s Isle came down to the game in Cork with their children and stayed close by the night before so we had great support and a real family atmosphere.

Before the match I told the guys that the senior players like Niall (Crossan) and Gary (O'Connell) - who played against Castlehaven 20 years ago - their task was to share their wisdom and understanding of the game with the younger players and, for the younger players, to put their energy out there for them. Football, of any kind, is always a team effort and this dynamic is important.

We won 20 years ago but, unfortunately, not this time. I was aware we had a player sent off 20 years ago in that controversial game but not at the same time.

This time it was much earlier in the game, after around 20 minutes. We started off quite well and were leading 4-3 I think but then they scored a goal and some points and our heads went down, I think there was a bit of frustration.

We didn't handle it very well and got two yellow cards. Losing a player made it extremely difficult to overcome, bearing in mind as well that Castlehaven was such a good side.

We started the second half quite well again and made it 1-8 to 0-7 but with 14 men it was harder. The final score was 1-16 to 0-12 even though some of our subs and our goalkeeper James (Keoghan) did really well and our players never gave up. For me, that is so important.

I had been to Ireland before but never to Cork. It was very, very beautiful but I was not surprised at that because I have heard many stories about the beauty of the Irish countryside and, where I am from in Italy (Cremona) I have an appreciation for that.

In London I play golf with a man called Tony O'Brien, a really nice guy. He is 72 and a great storyteller. When England do well he's from Liverpool but when England get knocked out of the World Cup he's Irish!
Everything you do, he's got a story about it. When I told him about me being involved with gaelic football he said his grandfather invented the game and started sending me pictures of his grandfather's team from Ireland!

Now I hope to come back to Ireland – to play golf this time!
I had back surgery in November so I've been out for a while and just recently started again but I love it. I would play golf every day if my body would allow me too.

My big worry about getting involved with Erin's Isle was that I didn't know very much about gaelic football -  the technical, tactical and physical side of it and the laws of the game - so I was grateful to have John (Barr) beside me and the rest of Erin's Isle's team management. It is very rare to see guys playing a game just for their passion and their parish.

All of this was new to me but I was fascinated and the game grew into me very quickly. You have to be unbelievably fit for it because it is extremely physical and the pace is very fast and furious. It really takes your breath away.

I think one of the biggest things I will take away also was the lovely atmosphere within Erin's Isle. I was quite surprised at how well the younger players got on with the older players. In today's world that was also very special.