St. Patrick’s Day, or fortnight, depending on your take on the whole national celebration thing, has become a wonderful fixture in the life of our little club. This year, 2014, was to be no different.
The sun shone, people showed up, the cakes were unreal, as ever, games were played, cruciate ligaments were dispatched with as is tradition, and the military pitch in the Cinquantenaire Park was home for one wonderful day. With our friends in FC Ireland, Bia Mara and the Irish Permanent Representation to the EU and the Irish Embassy, De Valera’s and the Old Oak, John Martin’s, Vyzion and the time, effort and energy of everyone who came, played, volunteers, enjoyed the sunshine and the day, it was a really lovely event. We had club members from near and far join for the weekend, which points to how much more than a sports club Belgium GAA is.
We were blessed with the weather and the iron fist organisation skills of our secretary Jelena, and for those of you who missed it, you’ll be able to see the footage from the weekend at the end of the year, when ‘One Life, Two Clubs‘ the current documentary film project of our very own Breandán Kearney gets released. If you’ve been at training recently, you’ll have noticed a man with a tripod in a rain jacket, not creeping about in the bushes, but filming the very rusty pre-season trainings, and traipsing up the road to Holland in the Benelux regionals at the begining of the year. This labour of love is the brain child of Breandán, who, despite living in Gent, really adds to Belgium GAA´s claim to the all country title.
The documentary will chart the rise and well, rise (we hope) of the 2014 season, from the 1st training sessions at the start of the year, to the Maastricht final in October, months ahead. There’s something insane about working or studying full time and spending the bones of 8 hours of each week thundering up and down the astroturf pitches in the VUB, spending the weekend pucking around in the park and Sundays training the kids club out in Tervuren. Something insane, if you look at it at a purely rational point of view – ‘What, you play only tournaments?’, ‘You only get to play matches every six weeks if you’re lucky’… but playing GAA in Belgium isn’t fully rational. It’s slightly mad, and absolutely wonderful. It’s hard to describe the bonds that develop between the people you train hard with, play hard with, traipse around Europe with, playing these games that cause other commuters to stand back far away from you on crowded metros because hurls just seem to be that little bit scary. The way they become your surrogate family, your automatic go-to friends, and be it endorphins, be it the pure release of getting to run around and let it all go behind you, or the pure love of the games we play, the pleasure of sharing it with other people and seeing them in their turn start to adore it too, to seeing old friends coming back to play after injury and it feeling like they never left, its something that I know that my life would be much the poorer without. For many in our club, Belgium GAA is their first club, but for others, there are deep ties to others in Ireland, or even Canada too. And this, in our quintessential diaspora GAA club, our pan-European region, is part of the evolving face of the GAA.
It’s irrational, enriching, impoverishing (from a dry financial cost benefit point of view) but gives so very much more back in every other possible way. Let me not evangelise any more. But please let me point you to this exciting and really deadly project that we’re part of. If you’re interested in finding out more about it, it has it’s own website and nifty blog too, on One Life, Two Clubs, so feel free to check it out.
In his own eloquent words, Brendán describes the project thusly.
There is a famous GAA quote that reflects the unique parochial and community nature of the Association. It goes something along the lines that every member has only one life and in that one life, they have by birth right only one club. It is a sentiment that reaches deep into the GAA psyche.
Many of us in Belgium GAA were indeed committed members of our clubs back home in Ireland. We were born into them. They taught us to play. They brought us community. They introduced us to the ideals of an Ireland in which we all wanted to be involved.
But there is a problem with that saying. Because we are here building a new community. It may be in a strange place and it may have a different dynamic to those clubs at home in Ireland, but it is no less important and certainly no less a part of us. In fact, for some, it has become the first club. For Belgium GAA members, that GAA saying is wrong.
In our club, there is a story.
There are amazing characters sprinkled out among all of the playing codes, committees and social networks.
There are friendships that have evolved into life-changing journeys together from chance meetings at tournaments where GAA seems, if it is possible, so out of place.
There are fascinating sporting relationships that have developed between clubs so unlinked it would not have seemed feasible only a few years ago, including the intense football rivalry with Guernsey.
And there are personal stories of emigration and transience; of community and togetherness; of personal failure and triumphant achievement.
‘One Life. Two Clubs’ is a film documentary project which sets out to tell this story. It is being produced by former Belgium GAA player and current member, Breandán Kearney, with the assistance of club committee member and player, Darragh Cotter. Mutiny Filmhouse, based in Belfast, will be assisting in a consultancy role.
The project invites anyone with a passion for Belgium GAA to get involved. That can be helping out with requests to film events within the club throughout the year; or contributing
any archive footage of club events in previous years and during 2014; or simply raising awareness of the project with friends and family in Belgium and back in Ireland, GAA or
To find out more and to become part of the community of this project, sign up for email updates and ‘like’ the project on facebook. All details are on the blog site for this project: http://onelifetwoclubs.wordpress.com/