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Mid-season review: Three championships in a row; the wall gets built!

2017 has been packed full of action for the Vienna Gaels and we’re far from done as the business end of the season approaches.

So before we head into this weekend’s Vienna 7s tournament (26 August from 13:00 hrs at Meiereistraße 18, 1020 Vienna) and the final weekends of Gaelic football, hurling and GAA handball, let’s take a quick look back at our exploits to date.

The third edition of the Austro-Slovak Indoor Winter League proved to be another enjoyable and useful start to the season for the Vienna Gaels and neighbours Slovak Shamrocks.

After February’s opening round in Vienna was a one-sided day in favour of the Gaels, the second half of the competition saw the Slovaks fight back on home court.

The Yellow Tits – led by the ferocious defence of Justin “Terminator” Walker and unrelenting pace of Bernie “The Body” Motal – were the most consistent side throughout the league and deservedly picked up first place.

The women’s competition could not have been any closer at the conclusion as both Slovak sides ended the second round level on points, one ahead of Vienna’s Black Mambas.

Men make it three-in-a-row

The outdoor season began with a regional tournament in Vienna, which proved to be a brilliant day of football, which saw Cumann Warszawa’s youthful and talented squads saw them come out on top in both men’s and ladies’ competitions at Rudolf-Tonn Stadion.

Vienna’s men’s fortunes improved significantly in the following tournaments, coming out on top in Zurich (with Niall Colleran as tournament MVP) and Prague (with John Baxter as MVP). The victory in Prague was particularly sweet as an understrength squad came from behind to beat Berlin in the semi-final and avenged an earlier loss to Prague in the final.

Berlin got their own back in the final regional event, beating Vienna in the final, but the third regional championship in as many years was already safely wrapped up.

The women’s team was involved in a season-long battle for the bronze medal with Zurich, which went right down to the final tournament.

At their home tournament, a narrow loss to eventual runners-up Berlin showed they can match the best the region has to offer. A consistent set of tournaments resulted in a fourth place finish, a single point behind the Swiss side.

Aisling Pircher, Laura Sinnott and Isabelle Wolfsgruber picked up MVP awards during the season so far, backed up by brilliant team effort and spirit by the women’s team at each tournament.

There’s one big tournament left for the footballers in 2017, the Pan-European Championship, held in Maastricht on 21 October, and Vienna will be represented by both men’s and women’s teams for the season finale.

Hurlers ready themselves for European competition

After making their debut at the end of last season, the hurling section of the club has reached a new level this year, with its own training slot, more equipment and ambitious plans for the rest of the year.

The Gaels played against a combined Slovak/Moscow Shamrocks side at the Bratislava 7s tournament in June (video above) and are working hard to get a competitive team for the final two European tournaments of the season – 9 September in Den Haag and 30 September in Dresden.

Hurling training takes place every Wednesday at 19:00 hrs at Steinergasse 12, Atzgersdorf, 1230 Vienna and beginners are very welcome.

Fun and games galore at the summer party

This summer’s party doubled up as a farewell to our dear members Laura and Conan and it turned out to be a fabulous day and night, filled with great food and even better games.

Races of various shapes and sizes, dizzy penalties and a ‘poc fada’ provided more than enough entertainment and we can relive the highlights thanks to the video below.

We built the wall!

Thanks to the support provided by the GAA and the Department of Foreign Affairs, the GAA handball section of the club now has a place to call home.

Two one-wall handball courts have been set up at USZ Hietzing, training will begin there soon and the Gaels plan to host tournaments in the very near future, with a long-term goal of becoming the hub of the sport in Europe.

Plenty has been achieved and experienced so far this year, but a thrilling few months lay ahead for Vienna Gaels GAA club, starting with Saturday’s tournament in our own back yard.

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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