Our hurlers have been on one big, long adventure this season and it all comes to a head this Saturday as the final round of the Cúltec European Camogie & Hurling Championship Finals 2018 brings them to Amsterdam. Here’s Noel FitzGerald with a recap on their exploits to date along with a preview of this weekend’s excitement.
2018 kicks off with shock victory in Dresden
The season began on a high, with a Peter Mongey-inspired side recovering from a contentious defeat to Dresden in the group stage to beat Berlin GAA and the Earls of Leuven en route to winning the club’s first ever hurling tournament shield trophy, just seven months on from claiming the club’s first plate title, also in Dresden. Robert ‘Ice’ McMahon and Alan ‘Chili’ McKenna made their sole appearances to date this year, with the former overcoming many obstacles on the way to slipping the winning point over in the shield final, while Chili brought his dogged footballing attributes to a new stage.
Strong start continues with a good performance in Berlin
The Gaels kept up the momentum at the next round of the championship in Berlin, emerging out of their group on top before running into a tough Amsterdam outfit, giving in a strong show before coming out six point losers. They rounded off the day with a win however, taking a well deserved victory over perennial cup side, Den Haag GAA. Jack Rea made a sparkling debut, while Matthew Dane and Noel FitzGerald scored outrageous points, capping Matthew’s time with the Gaels off in fine fashion.
Gaels field a side with Setanta Berlin for round three in Hamburg
Seven Gaels along with a manager made the trip to Hamburg for round three of the championship for their debut in the cup bracket of the competition, where the gulf in class was evident. Finishing eighth overall, those points collected may prove crucial in the race for the overall shield trophy. Tom Birch was a standout performer in this round, with some outstanding goalkeeping performances from the Aussie.
Round four in Den Haag sees more crucial points collected in shield race
Finally, the Gaels headed to the Hague for the penultimate round of the championship. Once more starting in the cup bracket of the tournament, they fought hard for every ball against top sides from Belgium, Hamburg and Amsterdam, coming bottom in the group and looking at a shield semi-final against overall shield rivals, Dresden. A potentially critical loss there has made the last tournament in Amsterdam that bit tougher for the Gaels, who placed seventh in the tournament. Luckily for some of our more illustrious Gaels, they found time to recuperate their courageously earned injuries in a nearby spa.
All boils down to final round in Amsterdam
Manager Kilian Smith brings what is both the largest and strongest hurling squad in Gaels history to the final round of the championship in Amsterdam, finally getting both the steely defence as well as attacking firepower to be able to compete with any of the sides they will face in the Dutch capital. Peter Mongey returns, as Jack Rea makes his swansong for the side. There are season debuts for John Baxter and Cian Scollard, while cup enthusiast Eamonn Boland returns with the hope of completing an entire tournament of ballsy performances.
First up, our men face the combination side of Setanta Berlin and Dresden B, after which the Gaels face the Viking Gaels and then a combination side of Leuven, Zurich and Den Haag B. After that will be the all-important play off round, where the Gaels will be aiming to take both the tournament shield trophy, as well as the overall championship shield. A three point swing is necessary for the Gaels to overtake rivals Dresden, in what is sure to be a dramatic day of action.
Follow us on the day