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Hurling reaches fever pitch in Austria as Vienna Gaels host hugely successful first hurling tournament

On May 4th 2019, the Vienna Gaels had the huge honour of hosting the first round of this year’s European Hurling and Camogie Championship, sponsored by Bank Austria and the Irish Embassy to Austria. The club succeeded in doing so in fine fashion, hosting 86 hurlers and 45 camógs representing 16 clubs across Europe, from Oslo to Zurich and from Den Haag to Dresden. Vienna Gaels PRO, Noel Fitzgerald, reports on what was a big day for the club from the Austrian Capital.

Hurlers start well to startle traditional European hurling powerhouses

Our hurling team fielded their largest squad in history, with Bainisteoir Kilian Smith and Maor Foirne Peter Mongey able to call on the services of a squad of sixteen players for this tournament. The quantity was matched with quality, as new blood such as Fionnán Garvey and Brian Eiffe gelled into a team of Vienna hurling stalwarts such as Darren Gilbert and Ray Abery.

The first game of the day for our men came against perennial cup challengers GSC Luxembourg. Early goals were key as Vienna raced out of the blocks to come into the half-time break with a scoreline of 3-1 to 2-4, Jimmy “Fingers” Cunningham falling foul to injury in this half, which would unfortunately be the end of his day on the field after an entertaining tussle with the Luxembourg full forward line. The game firmly in the melting pot the Luxembourg men went hunting for goals in the second half and ran out winners on this occasion on a scoreline of 5-7 to 3-6.

Big result against Hamburg earns the Gaels their first ever Cup semi-final

The second of our group games pitted us against another traditional cup team, Hamburg GAA, as the Gaels threatened to break new ground by making it into the cup competition for the very first time at a hurling tournament, their superior scoring difference meaning that a draw would be enough to make the cup semi-finals. Vienna started well, taking an early two point lead, Jack Rea scoring a sideline cut from out on the right before Hamburg responded with a goal. A point from team captain Stephen Walsh levelled things before Hamburg struck for a point and another goal to go four points clear, 2-1 to 0-3. The Gaels responded in great fashion, Diarmuid O’Riain pressuring the Hamburg goalkeeper into a short clearance which only found its way to Stephen Walsh, the skipper striking the ball into the empty net to leave Vienna within one. Hamburg would tack on another three points before a Jack Rea free and Fionnán Garvey goal would level the sides once again at 2-4 each going into half-time.

Fionnán Garvey would start the second half off with a converted ’65 and then trade points with Hamburg, before Hamburg would rattle off three points on the bounce. Fionnán would stem the flow with another point before scoring a spectacular goal to put us one to the good. Hamburg would respond with a point to level the game, earning the Gaels the draw they needed to go through to their first ever cup semi-final, on a scoreline of 3-6 to 2-9.

First ever cup semi-final doesn’t quite go to plan for Gaels

Facing into their cup semi-final, the Gaels were up against daunting opposition, the reigning champions of Europe, Belgium GAA, had won their group games by a combined score difference of 55 points. In an unfortunately one-sided game which finished 7-17 to 0-4, however, Vienna were able to blood some new players on the panel, with Mark Reidy, Eric Rearte, Victor Deseille and Ruairi Joyce all seeing their first action for the Gaels. This loss put the Gaels in the third/fourth place playoff against some old rivals in The Hague/Zurich/Cologne, with third place still a massive carrot to win at the end of a gruelling day of hurling.

Camogie heroines face each other in the final

Our camógs each had very successful days with their respective teams for the day, with Hannah Riedler’s Berlin GAA side facing Rachel Minogue’s Holland Gaels in the final of the camogie tournament, as perennial Camogie winners Belgium GAA were knocked out in the group stages, along with Hamburg GAA.

Once again, Rachel Minogue’s scores were key as Holland Gaels beat Berlin GAA in the final by 7-6 to 2-10 to take the honours for the day.

Ultimate honours for Belgium GAA as Hamburg GAA claim Shield spoils

The rest of the day’s hurling tournament went along with what the pre-tournament seedings suggested, with Berlin GAA besting Darmstadt GAA to make the Shield semi-finals before losing out to Hamburg GAA. On the other side of the draw, Dresden had the beating of the Viking Gaels/Belgium B combination to make the Shield final. Hamburg would claim the spoils eventually in the final. In the Cup final meanwhile, Belgium GAA claimed the ultimate honours with a comprehensive 6-10 to 3-6 win over GAC Luxembourg, the scoreline reflecting their overall strength on the day.

Final placings – Hurling

1st – Belgium GAA, 2nd – GAC Luxembourg, 3rd – Vienna Gaels, 4th – Den Haag/Zurich/Cologne, 5th – Hamburg GAA, 6th – Dresden, 7th – Belgium GAA B/Viking Gaels, 8th – Berlin GAA, 9th – Darmstadt GAA

Final placings – Camogie

1st – Holland Gaels, 2nd – Berlin GAA, 3rd – Belgium GAA, 4th – Hamburg GAA

Third place for Vienna Gaels as extra-time is required to best Den Haag/Zurich/Cologne

The Gaels lead off well into this game from the throw-in, Jack Rea winning the ball and scoring from distance. Den Haag tacked on two points then to take the lead before Jack would strike again this time for a goal, to give Vienna the lead. John Baxter and Den Haag would then trade points before Tom Birch would produce a stunning save to deny a goal chance at the back, only for Den Haag to convert the resulting ’65. Johnny ‘Rage’ then struck again, this time, pressuring a short puck out and sneaking the ball into the net, before a quick move from Den Haag got their first goal of the game right before the half-time break, with Vienna leading by 2-2 to 1-4.

Fionnán Garvey would start the second half well for Vienna with a point, only for Den Haag to score three points in succession to leave Vienna in need of a score to bring the teams back on level terms. After some prolonged pressure, the Gaels were finally awarded a free, converted by Jack Rea, before the referee blew for full time, the teams tied at a scoreline of 2-4 for Vienna, 1-7 for Den Haag/Zurich/Cologne, bringing the teams to extra time.

The Gaels started extra time straight out of the blocks, Diarmuid ‘The Dragon’ O’Riain firing in a goal from the restart before Jack Rea landed a point from the resulting puck out. Den Haag would reply with a point to stay in touch, before Jack Rea scored another point from way out on the right. John Baxter would then knock over a point after some great interplay from Diarmuid O’Riain and Eric Rearte, before Diarmuid O’Riain would score a vintage Dragon goal, nicking it past an oncoming goalkeeper and into the net. John Baxter knocked over another point from distance before Jack Rea wrapped up the scoring with a free to earn Vienna their first ever third placing at a European hurling tournament on a scoreline of 4-9 to 1-8, their best ever placing at a European hurling tournament, three years after their debut on this stage.

Awards for Rachel and Eric as Gaels host awards ceremony and afterparty

That evening, the Gaels hosted tournament attendees at Schutzhaus Zukunft for the official awards ceremony. Hosted by club chairperson Jimmy Cunningham, award recipients included our own Rachel Minogue, winning ‘Camogie player of the tournament’, as well as Eric Rearte, who won ‘Non-Irish player of the tournament’.

Both of these awards were the first of their kind to be awarded to Vienna Gaels members, huge congratulations to them both. After the dinner and awards ceremony, the fun and frolics moved to hurling team sponsors Flanagan’s Irish Bar and Restaurant. The following morning, we also hosted a free walking tour of Vienna’s historical first district, led by Stephen Walsh.

A big ‘Thank You’ to all of our volunteers

As always, a tournament of this size could not be done without the help, support and hard work of the many volunteers from the Vienna Gaels who helped out in preparation for, and on the day of the tournament. From the securing of playing fields to catering, lining of the pitches, tournament control, player registration and photography, all of this work was done free of charge by Vienna Gaels members, to which the club must give a huge ‘Thank You’. We look forward to calling on your help once again when we host the Pan-European Gaelic Football Finals in Vienna on October 19th.

What’s up next for the Gaels?

In what will be a jam-packed couple of weeks, first up for the Gaels is their second annual Cúl Camp on the 25th and 26th of May. This year the club is delighted to welcome two expert coaches from CLG Na Fianna, Dublin, funded by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, who will give some GAA coaching sessions in local schools in the days leading up to the Cúl Camp, before leading the coaching of the Cúl Camp that weekend. For more details, please contact us at secretary.vienna.europe@gaa.ie.

Meanwhile, our Gaelic Football teams head to Prague on June 1st for round two of the Central/Eastern European Gaelic Football Championship, while up next for our hurlers is round two of the European Hurling and Camogie Championship on June 15th in Brussels. To follow us as we embark on these adventures, be sure to follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter and the Vienna Gaels WhatsApp group!