The Vienna Gaels GAA Club enjoyed a very successful third hosting of the European Gaelic Football Championships on October 19th, as over 700 Gaelic footballers from all over Europe descended on Rudolf Tonn Stadion in the Austrian capital to compete in 13 different competitions. Here’s club PRO Noel Fitzgerald with a report on the day and how the Vienna teams fared on the day.
A ‘Thank You’
From an organisational perspective, this was a huge undertaking and not only do the participants on the day but also the Vienna Gaels owe a huge debt of gratitude to the army of volunteers who ensured that this tournament ran as smoothly as it did. From those who were at the stadium on Friday erecting goal posts to the pitch co-ordinators to tournament control to the clean-up operation in the evening, this was very much an ‘all hands on deck’ operation and the Vienna Gaels are very proud to have such a wonderful club with so many people to call on for help!
And now on to the football…
The Vienna Gaelettes were very much a new-look side at this tournament, with a new coach in Fiona Fleming alongside a host of new players. Blending the experience of club stalwarts such as Zina Scimemi-O’Sullivan and Aisling Pircher with debutants such as Emma Kielty and Johannah O’Mahony, this fresh side faced into some challenging fixtures, first up was a loss to traditional ladies football powerhouses Munich Colmcilles, before Laura Connally scored a goal in a 1-12 to 1-1 loss to Paris Gaels/Belgium. They rounded out the group stage with a 0-2 to 3-9 loss to Copenhagen/Augsburg, whom they would then face again in the Junior B semi-finals, this time tightening up their defence a bit, exiting the tournament with a 0-2 to 2-6 loss. In what was a tough day for the Gaelettes, they can be happy with themselves as so many players encountered competitive Ladies Gaelic Football for the very first time. The future is bright for Ladies Gaelic Football in Vienna!
Vienna Gael Force
Vienna Gael Force made their debut at the Pan Euros as for the first time ever, the Vienna Gaels had the luxury of fielding two full ladies teams at a tournament. As with the Gaelettes, it was a mixture of experienced players with those much newer to the sport, and they also faced a challenging schedule. Up first was their neighbours from the Prague Hibernians, where they were unlucky to lose out by 0-3 to 0-7. Up next was a bit of a mismatch with eventual Intermediate A champions, Fillas de Breogan, before they wrapped up their group stage with a more encouraging performance against eventual Junior A champions Cumann Warszawa B, with Ellie Jansa notching her first goal in a 1-2 to 3-5 loss. Their scoring form would continue in their final game of the day, as they lost 2-3 to 5-10 to eventual Junior B winners Zurich Inneoin/Lazio. The Gael Force ladies can be proud of themselves in a day of debuts for many of their players, alongside Gaels stalwarts such as Ciara Keenaghan, Anna O’Malley and Clara Meiners.
The Vienna Gaels men returned to the Intermediate grade at this Pan-Euros after their last outing in Maastricht in 2017, where they came runners-up in the Senior B championship. Able to field a full-strength side, they were able to give a debut to Micheal Conneely as player/coach alongside club stalwarts such as Mark Campbell, Chris Wright and skipper for the day, Alan McKenna. Losing their first group game to the Frankfurt Sarsfields by 0-3 to 1-5 put them on the back foot before they steadied the ship with a 0-7 to 0-1 win over Cumann Warszawa B. This left them with straight knockout games for the rest of the day, as they beat Den Haag GAA 0-9 to 0-3 before their performance of the day, facing Jersey Irish in the Intermediate A semi-final. In a battling display, the Gaels were leading by three points when a Darren Gilbert diving save was required to keep the ball out of the Vienna net, as they held on for a rematch of their first game of the day in the Intermediate A final against the Frankfurt Sarsfields. Unfortunately for our men the gas just wasn’t left in the tank as a more youthful Frankfurt side won out by 2-11 to 1-3.
The Vienna Vipers were a motley crew gathered from our hurling squad, family members, various people’s phone contacts and the pub but they gelled quickly after learning each others names in the morning. Their first game was a 2-6 to 0-2 points loss to eventual Junior A winners Copenhagen GAA before a chastening loss to the Eindhoven Shamrocks by 3-6 to 0-1 after being level at half time. A narrow loss by 2-4 to 1-5 to a Madrid/Moscow combination was next as the Vipers showed steady improvement before coming back from going 2-1 to 0-0 down to within three points of the Prague Hibernians, only to fall to our neighbours by 3-4 to 2-2. Their finest hour was still to come though, as they took on the Paris Gaels ‘B’ in the Junior D semi-final. Though leading the game early through a long-range Tony Murphy goal, they couldn’t quite shake off the Paris side, who stayed in touch throughout the game. Coach Noel Fitzgerald turned to the bench, was unimpressed by what he saw but utilised it nonetheless, springing Nigel ‘Doc’ Fleming, James ‘Hightower’ Keeney and Niall ‘Student’ Buckley on for some ‘fresh’ legs. The plan somehow worked, as ‘Doc’ got on the end of a speculative attempt at goal to fist the ball over the bar, while Niall claimed a Tom Birch kickout, sparking the move which lead to the game’s winner, as star man Brian McGorrian rifled over the winner to rapturous applause on the sideline. The less said about the following Junior D final afterwards, the better.
Banquet dinner and afterparty
Once the long day of Gaelic football ended, the events moved to Schutzhaus Zukunft, where a banquet dinner was served while local band ‘Express Train’ entertained the crowd before and after the awards ceremony. Afterwards, the fun and frolics moved to club sponsor bars Charlie P’s and Flanagan’s.