The Vienna Gaels hurling team recorded their best day out to date with a rousing day’s performance in Dresden at round one of the Cultec European Hurling and Camogie Championship 2018. Leading into the day as one of the lowest seeds in the ten team tournament, the odds were stacked against them for claiming silverware, however prevail they did. Here’s our report from chief benchwarmer for the day, Noel Fitzgerald.
Group stage: Fast start against Darmstadt before a Dresden and Setanta slump
The Gaels began the day as one of the lowest seeds, which meant that in order to make the semi-finals for the much coveted shield trophy, they needed to win at least two games, with winning three earning them a lower seeded opponent in the semi-finals. They started well, disposing of Darmstadt with a 5-7 to 0-8 rout, before Dresden posed them bigger problems in the second game of the day. A poor first half saw them trailing by 0-3 to 0-0, before a fightback in the second half led by Peter Mongey brought them back in touch. With the Gaels trailing by three late into the second half, a Noel Fitzgerald goal tied the sides only to be cancelled out by a Dresden goal, which in turn was cancelled out by a Peter Mongey three-pointer. The Gaels were then controversially disallowed a Diarmuid O’Riain goal, and with the final whistle blown the controversy continued as Dresden were given a one-point victory, much to the dismay of the Vienna Gaels, who had believed the scoreline was a draw. A hangover from the controversy seemed to continue into the final group game against Setanta Berlin, as two early goals left the Gaels with a six point mountain to climb to make their way into the shield semi-finals. Fight back they did however, and they came out the other side by the skins of their teeth with a one point victory, 2-7 to 3-3, a trend which would continue for the day.
Shield semi-finals: Gaels upset old footballing rivals Berlin
Their two wins gave them a second place finish in group C, and plotted them against top seeded Berlin GAA, who were dropping down from group A to compete for the shield. Rank underdogs, the Gaels went out and played aggressively, the combination of their tigerish play and Peter Mongey’s long-range point scoring giving them a 0-3 to 0-0 lead at half time. As Berlin began chipping away at the Gaels lead, they were dealt a hammer blow as a free was unsuspectingly hammered at a poorly guarded goal and the Gaels got their key three pointer. A quick change in tactics then aided the Gaels in holding out with the lead, as Berlin struggled with long balls down on their square, big men such as Darren Gleeson and Ray Abery preventing fast ball out from their defence and slowing down their play. In the end goalkeeper Tom Birch was the hero as his full-stretch diving stop turned a Berlin goal effort around the posts and the Gaels claimed their first upset of the day, with a 1-7 to 1-6 win.
Shield final: Gaels claim silverware as Earls of Leuven and Hamburg are toppled
The Gaels took their tigerish, aggressive play into the final against the combination side of the Earls of Leuven and Hamburg GAA, again taking the lead early, however the Earls were more able to cope with the Vienna vanguard, with two star players in particular causing the Gaels headaches. Vienna took the slimmest of one point leads into half-time and, revved up by the words of manager Kilian Smith coming in to the second half, won a free on the edge of the square. The men in yellow and red expected Peter Mongey to go for goal and manned the goal line, however it didn’t matter as a piledriver of a shot was deflected off the goalkeeper’s hurl and into the net. The Earls would respond by tearing up the field and claiming a goal of their own, to leave a cliffhanger of a game finale. Vienna resorted to the same tactics that closed out their second half against Berlin, sending in forwards Rob McMahon and Noel Fitzgerald to cause trouble on the opposition square, but with the Gaels leading by one, a free was awarded to the Earls on the edge of the square. Sensing a terrible case of déjà vu, the Gaels lined as many men as they could on their goal line and the Earls popped the free over the bar, leveling the sides for what would be the last time. The hero for the Gaels would then arise as a Peter Mongey sideline cut skidded past intended target Diarmuid O’Riain and found its way to the well-refreshed Rob McMahon, who dinked left, dinked right and scraped the winner over the bar, to much delirium on the sideline. The Gaels held out for a 1-6 to 1-5 win and claimed a famous victory.
First ever medals for the hurlers as Peter Mongey wins ‘Shield player of the tournament’ gong
At that night’s awards ceremony held in Dresden city centre, the Gaels would collect their first medals of 2018 and the hurlers first medals in history, as Peter Mongey would win their first hurling ‘Player of the tournament’ award. Traditionally a football club, these are tremendous achievements for the hurling side of the club who have been regularly training through the winter, spring and now into the summer.
Hurling eyes turn towards Berlin as footballers head to Bratislava
The hurling squad now turn their eyes toward round two of the Cultec European Hurling and Camogie Championships in Berlin on June 16th, aiming for a full squad to attend once again, however next up for the club is round two of the Central/Eastern European Gaelic Football Championships in Bratislava on May 26th. Watch this space for a preview for that tournament next week as the Gaels go for gold once again!