The Vienna Gaels converged on the eternal city on April 21st for round one of this year’s Central/Eastern Gaelic Games Europe Gaelic Football Championship. The ladies faced stiff competition as they took on seven other teams in the ladies tournament, while the men were one of nine teams looking to claim the honours on the day.
Ladies off to a flyer in local derby
The ladies burst out of the blocks in the first game of the day, a Clara Meiners goal the deciding factor in a 1-1 to 0-2 win over neighbours, the Slovak Shamrocks, as Anna Psintrou led a tenacious defensive rearguard to hold off the Slovaks in the second half. After losing out to champions-to-be Lazio, they gave reigning Central/Eastern champions Munich Colmcilles a serious fright in their final group game, leading at half time before finally running out of steam to lose by 0-11 to 2-2.
Group stage loss hardens men for the long road to the final
With nine teams split into three groups of three teams each, the men’s team faced a tall order to make the semi-finals through the ‘front door’, finding themselves in a group with hosts Lazio and reigning Senior Pan-European champions Cumann Warszawa. After recovering from a scare to beat the host side by 1-6 to 1-4, they were edged out by the Warsaw side by 1-7 to 0-5, subjecting them to the round robin in order to make the semi-finals.
Ladies lose out in goalfest to finish in sixth place
Their third place group finish secured the Gaelettes a place in the 5th/6th playoff against perennial rivals, Zurich Inneoin. The Zurich ladies were an impressive side on the day, beating eventual finalists Cumann Warszawa on the way to their third place group finish, however the Vienna Gaelettes showed no respect for reputations, starting the game off with a Clara Meiners goal. As Zurich ticked the scoreboard over with points, the Vienna ladies stayed in the hunt for goals, Clara adding another to her tally for the day as Jordan Arnswald claimed her first score in Vienna colours. Aisling Pircher saved a penalty harshly awarded against her on the stroke of half time as the Gaelettes trailed by three at the break. They would continue in goal-scoring fashion in the second half, as a long-range Aisling Pircher effort, a Katie Riley fisted goal and a Jordan Arnswald penalty kept them in the game, eventually losing out to a more consistent Zurich side by 5-10 to 6-2.
Men travail the long road to the final
Consigned to the back door, the men’s team made up for lost time, dispatching the sides from Prague and Zurich in quick succession to face group winners Munich Colmcilles in the semi-finals. Early goals were the key here, as a clinical scoring performance led by John Baxter gave the Vienna Gaels a controlled 3-7 to 0-3 win, and a shot at revenge over their early conquerors, Cumann Warszawa.
Men finish runners up as long day in the sun catches up with them
With five games already under their belt, the battle-hardened men’s side squared up once again with Cumann Warszawa, in a rematch of the round one tournament final of 2017, where the Polish side were winners on the day. The game started brightly for Vienna, a John Baxter point giving them the lead, however a fortuitous goal gave the Warsaw side a 1-5 to 0-3 lead at half time. The Polish side would start the second half with a goal from the throw in, and despite giving as much fight as they got, the Vienna side came out on the wrong side of this result, a late penalty putting the sheen on a 2-8 to 1-4 loss.
Player of the tournament awards for Baxter, O’ Riain and Psintrou as Gaels tour the eternal city
Following their superb efforts over the day, Diarmuid ‘The Dragon’ O’ Riain and Anna Psintrou claimed the ‘players’ player of the tournament’ accolades from their peers, while John Baxter collected an official ‘player of the tournament’ award from the referees committee. The Gaels attended the official tournament night out in Scholars bar in Rome, and the following day would coin the catchphrase “When in Rome” far too many times as they enjoyed the sunshine and sights that the Italian capital had to offer.
All signs now point to Bratislava, hurlers head to Dresden
The emphasis for the footballers now shifts towards round two of the Central/Eastern European Football Championship, as the Slovak Shamrocks host what is sure to be a keenly attended tournament for the Vienna Gaels on the 26th of May. First up in May, however, is round one of the The Cultec European Camogie & Hurling Championship, as the Vienna Gaels hurlers travel to Dresden for the opening round. With superb training sessions led by Peter Mongey and a raft of new recruits, excitement is high among the Gaels for this year’s hurling season.