13 Vienna Gaels make the trip to Dresden, a German city known for being a hotbed for hipsters – demonstrated by the fact it has a hurling-only GAA club, for the final round of the Cultec European Hurling & Camogie championship on Saturday 30 September.
A group of 12 men and one woman (Katie Riley) represent the Gaels this weekend, just three weeks after their first tournament of the season was called off in Den Haag.
The wet weather put off three of the nine teams that day, but the six teams which braved the weather played an unofficial tournament and Vienna reached the final of it.
Buoyed by that positive performance, expectations are higher for this weekend than they were ahead of the previous round, when glorious hurling leader Darren Gilbert said he hoped “to win at least one match and come home with as few broken hurls and bones as possible.”
The 12-team men’s tournament sees Vienna placed in a group alongside Stuttgart and top seeds Luxembourg.
First place in each group goes to the cup semi-finals, while second enters the shield. Although confidence is high, beating a Luxembourg team with experience of playing at the highest level will be a huge task for a Gaels squad still in search of a first competitive victory in just their second-ever event.
Katie will compete in the camogie championship for the second year running, as part of the Setanta Berlin/Holland amalgamation, as Vienna continues to build a camogie team of its own.
The teams are confirmed and the schedule is set for the first Gaelic football tournament of the season!
With more than 30 men’s players making themselves available for Vienna Gaels on 8 April, the squad had to be split in two – the Gaels and the Vipers.
And the schedule has thrown out a cracking start to Saturday morning’s play at Rudolf-Tonn Stadion in the form of an all-Vienna clash.
After months of training side by side, the two sides must face-off at 09:00 hrs, before taking on Group A’s remaining contenders: Munich, Prague and Lazio.
Group B consists of four teams with the highlight encounter between Berlin and Warsaw at 11:00 hrs, while Slovak Shamrocks and the combined Augsburg/Zurich/Basel team will try to upset the odds.
The top two sides from each group will contest the semi-finals and the final is scheduled to take place around 15:30 hrs.
Warsaw the team to beat
There’s always a degree of intrigue and uncertainty when Cumann Warszawa’s ladies team come to town. Having won their one and only tournament last year on home soil, they arrive in Vienna with two teams this weekend and both are certain to make an impact.
Vienna’s ladies find themselves in Group B alongside Berlin, Prague and Warsaw B, a perfect test to measure how far they have come since the end of last season.
Defending champions Munich Colmcilles are in Group A alongside Slovak Shamrocks, Warsaw’s A team and a combined team featuring six Vienna players and Zurich.
The top two sides from each group will contest the semi-finals and the final is scheduled to take place around 17:00 hrs.
The full schedule for both men’s and ladies’ competitions can be found below.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
This weekend’s European Hurling & Camogie Championship Finals will be played by Vienna Gaels for the very first time.
The traditionally Gaelic football-focused club broadened its horizons last year with entry into the European Gaelic Handball Championship in Italy and this year sees the Gaels go one step further with entry into all three European GAA final tournaments. Continue reading →