Blackrock man Barry Hamilton will experience Thursday’s World Cup opener between Brazil and Croatia at first hand after getting a late call up to be part of the European side’s backroom team at the tournament.
The 23-year-old, an employee of local company STATSports, spent ten days with the Croat squad at their pre World Cup training camp in Zagreb and Austria where he was demonstrating the STATSports Viper GPS tracking system.
Hamilton was due to fly back to Dublin the morning after Croatia’s 2-1 friendly win over Mali on May 31 and had his bags already packed for the journey home. However, those plans were dramatically shelved, signalling the beginning of a period he will never ever forget.
“I suppose it was a case of being in the right place at the right time,” explained Barry from the Croatian World Cup base, north of the Brazilian city Salvador.
“After the Mali game the players held a meeting and the captain, Darijo Srna, stood up and told me to give him my passport as I was going to Brazil with the squad. The players liked the system and the technology so much that they were adamant they wanted to bring it to the World Cup. The next morning I was on a plane to Lisbon with the team, heading for the tournament.”
The sports science graduate, who plays with the Geraldines GAA club, dismissed any notions that he is in South America for a holiday. In fact, he has a very demanding schedule as the Croats build up to Thursday’s opener.
“The players were able to use the STATSports Viper system in a friendly against Australia on Saturday night and they were out for a recovery session this morning,” he said.
“I have had to monitor things like their heart rate, weight loss and sweat loss and compile reports for the manager and the fitness coaches.
“I only had three hours sleep last night and I haven’t seen a bit of sunshine to be honest. It might sound glamorous but there’s a lot of pressure on and it’s very demanding. Things re getting much more intense as we are just days away from the World Cup so it’s essential that nobody picks up an injury.”
Barry is expected to take his seat on the Croat bench for the opening game against Brazil. Over 900 million viewers are expected to watch the opening ceremony on television and he is looking forward to a day that will live long in his memory.
“There aren’t too many people in my position, working a dream job that has taken them to the World Cup. I’m really looking forward to it and I really appreciate where I am. It will be an experience I’m sure I’ll never forget and hopefully some of the people back home will be cheering Croatia on,” he said.