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A year of firsts

2016 was a memorable year for the Vienna Gaels and while it may not have brought a repeat of the previous year’s success, there were many achievements to be proud of.

The past season saw the club travel to an incredible number of tournaments, across all GAA sports, creating history in the process.

Early season fun

After blowing off the cobwebs with the now-traditional indoor Winter League, played in Vienna and Bratislava, April saw the Gaels head south to Rubano in Italy for the opening round of the regional Gaelic football championship.

Both men’s and women’s teams produced fine performances throughout the day en route to the final, before coming up short against German opposition. However, the following day provided one of the many firsts of the year.

Nine players took on Rovigo in a GAA handball challenge match, just the second competitive outing for the club in the sport. Rovigo took the victory after a morning filled with some tense and entertaining matches, which sparked new interest in the sport.

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Retaining regional gold

After an underwhelming visit to Warsaw in Round 2, the final regional tournament in Berlin would decide the overall men’s champion and it came down to the semi-final clash between Vienna and the hosts.

Despite not hitting top gear, Vienna found a way through sheer will and a goal by John Sullivan in the dying seconds to force the match into extra-time. The equalising goal signalled a clear shift in momentum and another goal early in the 2×5 minute extra-time by Diarmuid O’Riain meant that Vienna retained the title for the first time and won it for the third time in four years.

Some bizarre organisational issues left the ladies battling for 5th place on this occasion, but they did it with style and ended their campaign with victories over Venetian Lionesses and Berlin.

Gaels on the world stage

The summer months featured the usual 7-a-side tournaments in Bratislava, won against the hosts and Kuwait Harps, and Wetzelsdorf, which featured the very first hurling match since the code was introduced to the club during the summer, but the big news came from Dublin at the GAA World Games.

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Vienna was represented by three players at the massive event, John Baxter (playing for Europe’s Irish men), Katie Riley (European Ladies native team) and Andreas Magerle (Germany native team).

Baxter’s team just missed out on taking home the Shield with a loss to Australasia in the final, Andreas and the German team finished 8th overall, while Katie’s side took the plate after a win over Middle East.

Hurlers and handballers make history

The Gaelic football Pan-European championship tournaments in Munich and Maastricht saw the ladies earn a silver medal in the Shield competition, losing to France in an entertaining final. There was little success for the men, but it provided a valuable reminder of what is needed to compete at that level and will surely set the tone for 2017.

Hurling and GAA handball grabbed the spotlight in October and November, another first for the club and the GAA in Europe.

The traditionally Gaelic football-focused club broadened its horizons in 2015 with entry into the European Gaelic Handball Championship in Italy and the Gaels went one step further in 2016 with entry into all three European GAA final tournaments.

12 men made the trip to Dresden in Germany to take part in the hurling tournament, joined by Katie Riley, who played camogie for Switzerland.

All credit goes to Rob McMahon and Darren Gilbert, who were instrumental in introducing the sport and developing the team.

Our “handball heroes” rounded off the European season in Italy with Jimmy Cunningham, Katie Riley and captain Michael Organ competing in the men’s and mixed tournaments.

An injury to Michael in the opening match brought an end to hopes of winning gold this year, but the club is set for big things over the next 12 months.

Deignan returns

2016 concluded with a bang thanks to the first Charlie P’s Champions League, which saw over 40 players take part in a four-team mixed (non-contact) friendly competition over the final two training sessions of the year, won by the Golden Eagles.

This marked the return of Simon Deignan to the field, after a lengthy layoff following a shoulder operation. Big thanks to him for leading the club at training, on the sideline and behind the scenes this year.

We look set for a fabulous year on and off the field in 2017 and it all kicks off with the Winter League in February!

Awards

Footballer of the year (male) – John Sullivan
Footballer of the year (female) – Katie Riley
Hurlers of the year – Darren Gilbert and Rob McMahon
Handballer of the year – Michael Organ

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Katie Riley relives World Games adventure

On Thursday 11 August, the European Ladies Native Gaelic football team saw their Etihad Airways GAA Worlds Games come to a close. Two days before that, the team of 14 ladies, made up of almost just as many nationalities, took the pitch together for the first time with one goal in site: winning the championship in Croke Park.

On the European Ladies Native Football team, was the Vienna Gaels’ very own Katie Riley. While Katie is native to Upstate New York, she qualified to play for Europe due to the fact that she became a resident of Europe during the summer of 2015. Continue reading