Central/Eastern European Gaelic Football Championship: Vienna Gaels collect important points as the race for the 2019 championship begins in Warsaw

The Vienna Gaels were in Warsaw last weekend as they had mixed results in round one of the Central/Eastern European Gaelic Football Championship. Here’s club PRO, ladies team coach and men’s team benchwarmer Noel Fitzgerald with his report on the weekend’s action.

Men emerge from tough group to make semi-finals

It was an early start for our men’s team as they faced Cumann Warszawa B at 8:30 in the morning, in what could only be described as Arctic conditions. Early goals were key, as a hat-trick from John Baxter lead the Gaels to a 4-4 to 1-3 win over the young student side. It was Munich Colmcilles next, as our men struggled to eke past the Bavarian side by 1-5 to 0-3, John Baxter once again the deciding factor as his converted penalty was the key to victory. Finally, the men’s team management shuffled the pack somewhat for their final group game with Cumann Warszawa A with one eye on the semi-final tie later on in the day, slumping to a defeat which left them second in their group and still in the hunt for tournament honours.

New-look ladies side compete with vigour in their first outing of the year

Our ladies side fielded four debutants in what was yet another new look team at a regional tournament, and this naivety maybe showed itself a bit in their first game, while battling well, they fell to a defeat to defending regional champions Munich Colmcilles by 1-8 to 0-2. They upped the ante considerably for their second fixture however, going toe-to-toe with Cumann Warszawa B for the entire game in what was the game of the tournament for the club against the team who would eventually finish in third place overall. Warsaw struck early for a goal as they reaped the benefits of drawing on some experienced Cumann Warszawa A players, but the Gaelettes replied with a first goal for debutant Anneliese O’Malley. Level at half time, the Gaelettes went ahead for the first time with a point from Ciara Keenaghan, which Warsaw B replied to with a point of their own. Rachel Minogue then ticked over a point to put the Gaelettes ahead again, before tragedy looked to strike as Warsaw moved in on goal, only for goalkeeper Clara Meiners to put in a brave challenge, conceding a penalty in the process, which she then duly saved. The Gaelettes defence held stiff until the very last moment where Warsaw broke their hearts, their star player breaking forward to grab a second goal and take the game by 2-1 to 1-2. Finally, the Gaelettes lost their final group game to a well-stocked Prague Hibernians team by 0-5 to 0-4, putting them in the 7th/8th place playoff later on in the day.

Ladies finish seventh as they look with optimism to round two

Our ladies tend to save the best for last and this tournament was no different, as goals from Anneliese O’Malley and Ciara Keenaghan helped them to a 2-0 to 0-1 win over Berlin GAA B to seal seventh place and some valuable points in the 2019 Championship race, as they strive to better last year’s sixth place and Shield win. Rachel Minogue starred in midfield in her first appearances for the Gaels, while there were solid performances all over the field from usuals such as Zina Scimemi-O’Sullivan and Jenny Cockton. Hannah Riedler and Rachael Benéid were solid in their debuts, while Anneliese O’Malley secure the golden boot with her two goals. Ciara Keenaghan and Clara Meiners rotated being focal points for the team outfield with playing in goal, as this outing puts the ladies in good stead heading into round two of the championship in Prague.

Men’s side settle for third place as they’re caught off guard by Berlin once again in the semi-finals

Still sore from losing their grip on their regional title last year, the Gaels faced into their semi-final with Berlin GAA with much vigour. However, they were undone once again early on in the tie, as Berlin capitalised on Vienna’s kick-out difficulties to rack up a 1-6 to 0-1 lead by half time. This lead was compounded in the second half as our men’s side slumped to a fifth consecutive defeat to the reigning regional champions, who would then go on to take the final by the scruff of the neck against Cumann Warszawa A, eventually succumbing to a last second penalty against the side from the Polish capital.

This left our men’s side in a third/fourth place playoff with a Zurich Inneion/Lazio team, who had made the semi-finals courtesy of a win over Prague Hibernians. Shuffling the pack once again for this tie, the Gaels led early through a Noel Fitzgerald fisted goal, only to be cancelled out by a goal for the Swiss/Italian side. Bernie Motal then broke forward to put one in the bottom corner before debutant Cullen Holas and Zurich/Lazio traded points, to leave the Gaels ahead by 2-1 to 1-1 at the half-time break. The second half was a more terse affair, as Zurich scored a second goal to level the scores and both sides missed chances to go ahead from placed balls, before Ciarán Roe zipped down by the byline to cut the ball back for Noel Fitzgerald to score a point from close range. The Gaels held out for the remainder of the game thanks to some last-ditch defending and a large portion of luck as Zurich/Lazio missed a series of convertible frees, to take the win and third place by 2-2 to 2-1.

This result also leaves the Gaels in third place in the Championship race, within four points of rivals Berlin GAA in second, with first place Cumann Warszawa not expected to field sides for the rest of the championship. John Sullivan, John Baxter, Cormac Walsh and debutant Ciarán Roe led from the front for the Gaels in this tournament, while Stephen Walsh, Justin Walker, Jimmy Cunningham, Victor Deseille and Bernie Motal put in dependable performances at the back. Brian Eiffe and Cullen Holas made encouraging debuts, while Darren Gleeson was commendable in goal after being thrust into action following Alan McKenna’s injury in the group stages.

May looms large as a huge month of action for the Vienna Gaels

For now Vienna Gaels eyes turn towards the first ever hosting of a European Hurling and Camogie tournament in the Austrian capital on May 4th, as well as the second hosting of a children’s Cúl camp on the 25th and 26th of May, before round two of the Central/Eastern European Gaelic Football Championship in Prague on the 1st of June. Stay in touch with the Gaels for news on all of the above by following us on FacebookInstagramTwitter and the Vienna Gaels WhatsApp group!