A story of home from home from home …

I’m going to tell you a story about my family. Its a fairly typical one. I think that all Irish families have family members across the world (American cousins with impossibly straight teeth, who come to Ireland annually and want to spend time in the “homestead” – what is that when its at home?), but few get the chance to spend time with absolute legends. Like my granddad’s sister Nan. She is as Wexford as Wexford can be, and yet is utterly Birmingham. Its her adopted city, a place that offered a livelihood and a job and a future for her. As a similar annual migrants back ‘home’, we were always lucky enough to coincide with Nan Haycock’s visit. She swims in the sea every single day (its not warm kids), got a second ear piercing for her 95th birthday – announcing with great joy and delight that she had to keep us all guessing, and refuses to join the local *ahem* elderly persons Sunshine Club because, well, she’s just not old. Write her off at your peril she warned. And so, she continues, this utter force of nature, who has spent her who life between Wexford and the Midlands. But she didn’t come ‘home’ this summer. Such is.

Wolfe Tones Ladies from Liverpool will take on Belgium Ladies (and shoeless Pete) tomorrow at 2pm in Pairc na hEireann in Birmingham. This is a momentous, epic and historic moment. Honestly. We’re playing championship football, 15-a-side, traversing 3 countries to head to the heart of Britain’s GAA core, to take on a team we’ve never played before, and we’ll finally see what we’re made of. Its a first of of a first of, and they’re rare and special.

Capitana Fent, Anay the Awesome and shoeless Pete have been drilling away and working towards this. We’ve all of the hours thundering up and down the pitches in VUB to add up. We’ve the  of the kilometres travelled to tournaments the length and breadth of the Benelux, the eggs cracked and cakes baked to fundraise to pay for the pitches we train on week in week out. We’ve the hours of analytics and dissection and plotting and planning to fall back on. The emails, the logistics, the teamer, the endless doodles, we’ve our lives and loves and all of the other things that make people people. But more importantly and most tellingly, we’ve got this wonderful game. A game we love to play and play well. A love that binds. A love that bonds.

When settled, confident, we have passages of such beautiful play that it makes me want to and be able to wax lyrical about the way the ball flies, how players move faster than they have any right to, how people jump and field and catch and block balls they have no earthly right (according to the laws of physics) to be able to do so, kicking impossible angles and yet making the seemingly impossible possible. Its almost absurd. And yet it happens.

And its what holds players still on the goal line, waiting to see what’s in store next, ready to face down any challengers, and knowing that their body will be the difference, pain or no pain, in a game of millimetres and infinitesimally quick reactions. 

And what makes this happen? What makes this work? I believe it’s because  we love this game, and we also love each other. We choose to spend this time together, creating a home, a team, a history, and a spirit together. There are no better women. There are no better women to stand beside, proud and strong and nervous/excited – that absurdly delicious feeling of shi**ing it a bit before a match – well, its all there. My adopted family, these women I’d do anything for, they’ll be there beside me tomorrow.

And for our opposition – they’re just people too. They could be the Nan’s for their families. They could be 2nd, 3rd generation. They could be, gasp, county players! We don’t know their stories. And yet, despite all the unknowns, the knowns, and the known unknowns: we know them. We are them. They’re us. They’re people who love nothing more than chasing each other and a ball around a pitch. What could be more simple? And with that, my love song for Belgium GAA should stop. But know that come tomorrow afternoon, the paradox of being far from home, but with a family that we’ve knit together close to hand, and family members who might never make it home home right beside us, makes for a fairly emotional me. It’s going to be a great day. I can’t wait.

Birmingham beckons Belgium GAA

History in the making, as Belgium Ladies Footballers debut in the All-Ireland Championship

 

Belgium Ladies Footballers will take on Wolfe Tones of Liverpool in the preliminary round of the All-Ireland Junior championship on Saturday in Parc na hEireann, Birmingham. It will be the first time a team from Europe will compete in the All-Ireland Ladies Football Championship.

 

After a dominant display in the European Premier 15s final against Holland Ladies last Saturday, the Belgium Ladies will be hoping to continue this good form, with a win over the All Britain Champions.

 

Captain Aisling Fenton, a Kerry native, is hoping that her side can continue their winning ways and prove that European Ladies Football can compete with the best in the UK and Ireland.

 

‘Our preparations for the Championship have been going very well, and we are adapting our playing style to suit the larger numbers and bigger pitch. We are more used to playing nine or seven aside in Europe, but every single girl is thrilled to be playing in a 15 aside championship. It’s a new challenge and we are hoping for a big performance.’

 

The prize for the winner is a date with the Munster champions in a home All Ireland quarter final, a prospect that Fenton relishes.

 

‘Of course it would be an honour as captain to welcome an Irish team over to Maastricht to play an All-Ireland quarter final, but we are not focusing on that, all our focus is on next Saturday’s game’

 

It is a testament to the work done by European GAA and Belgium GAA that the Ladies Gaelic Football Association had the confidence in European players to enter them into an All-Ireland Championship. Let’s hope that this situation continues into the future.

Maidens march to Maastricht

Going to play football in Maastricht, but only have to play one match, for one hour, with thirty players on a really big pitch! What is this madness?

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It’s the start of the Junior Ladies Football Championship for Belgium GAA a lady, that’s what it is.  

Tomorrow at 2pm in Maastricht Belgium GAA ladies footballers take on Holland Ladies in the ALL Ireland Junior Championship, with the winners going on to face the UK champions in Birmingham.

Exciting times lie ahead as BGAA Ladies wander into unknown territory.

 

#HappyGAA meets @BelgiumGAA, in the shape of one P. Varley

Dearest ladies and men of Belgium GAA, tis the season to be on Irish National media. Beware. There’ll be even more snap happy folk this afternoon as we take on the All Stars. The photo competition will go on all day, tweet your snaps to @BelgiumGAA with the hash tag #BelgiumGAA_AllStars2014; with some snappy caption too. Between TV3’s @Brosie8/Maria Brosnan, Elaine’s family wedding in the Irish Times, and now this, we’re just a terribly photogenic, telegenic, media coverage friendly sort of bunch of people. But the point of this post?

One P Varley losing his mind in the crowd as Galway equalised in one of this summers stunners. 

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More of this inimitable celebration dance can be seen on RTE’s #HappyGAA show of last night – from 1min 40 seconds in.

Wedding Bubbles? #AllIrelandFinal meets #MOTD

There are many ways in which you could arrange your wedding – but planning for September weddings when both the bride and grooms families could be described as ‘stone mad’ for hurling, well, it just adds another layer of complications. And what if the wedding was on today, in Clonmel, between Erraine’s lovely sister and her fiancée? Options could include changing schedule, arranging for a choir to learn the words to the most magical song “Tipp, Tipp, Tipp“, getting your sister to come back from Brussels (giving a certain advantages to the All Stars), and carry on with things.

Today’s Irish Times features the happy couple and their plans for today’s festivities.

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And the most important fizzy thing? That won’t be the champagne, but local boy and Tipp player Bubbles, who has been forecast by Anne Marie to score the winning point (for real this time, da*n you Hawkeye). We’d like to wish all the best to the Kennedy and Aylward families; and really hope that the post-match wedding celebrations aren’t marred by the final result, come what may. Love (and hurling) conquers all.

All Stars you say?

 

BelgiumGAA_AllStars2014 - it's here.
BelgiumGAA_AllStars2014 – it’s here.

Kicking off early in the VUB, we’ll have mens, ladies, not quite ladies, not yet men’s matches all day: bring small change and notes because the formidable current players of Belgium GAA will be selling *raffle tickets* – oh yes, we’ll be doling out the prizes in Devs in the evening.

 

BUT – we’re also having a photo competition too, for the glory, honour and recognition and the promise of ‘Irish alcohol’ – tweet your photos of the day to @BelgiumGAA and @BelgiumGAA_AllStars2014 (quite the mouthful) and the best prizes, judged by an impartial jury, will be awarded the prize.

A Belgian belle returns

MBros on TV3, showing them how it's done

A post from our very own Bros about the impending weekend

It’s been six long months since I last set foot in Brussels – the longest I’ve stayed away since 2008, and I feel it, most acutely, in my soul. I’m in denial that Brussels and Belgium GAA continues on without me – sure how in the name of God could it survive without the Bomber? But it does, and training goes on, and new members join, and the craic is had and Championships are won. But it’s incredibly comforting to know that when I do return I can slide right back in as if I never left. And that’s all down to the club spirit of openness and the common bond that once you’ve thrown on the Craobh Rua jersey – the team, the club, Belgium GAA, never leaves you!

This is the second year for the Ladies All Stars and turnout from our side is a bit low. I could have done a bit more to cajole former players to book flights, but we have Malice, Aine Mc, and Rosine making the huge effort to fly over from Dublin. I’ve also tempted Jess, Mary B, Amy-Louise, Aine Murph and Clare Applebee to don the jersey for the day! We have numbers for a Camogie match and for the football we’re going to divide up the games into All Stars V Belgium GAA, Over 30s v Under 30s, but my personal favourite is 2008/2009 vs the rest. With the latter I’m allowed to return to my 23 year old self walking through the gates of Park 50 basking in the sunshine, with a quick glance up at the lads to spot the talent – not bad in fairness. At my first training, despite having clocked Anay, Babs invited me to Madrid for the tournament. That’s how it is with Belgium GAA – throw yourself into it or stay on the sidelines.

2008 was the most special. We had five pan-euro tournaments that year – hard fought. We had the bare bones of a team and had epic battles. Our spirit strengthened, friendships were forged. We were a new club, a new team, against the odds, taking on Europe. Victories in Madrid, Luxembourg, Rennes, Munich ensued and we took our first European Championship in Maastricht. We didn’t know what it meant but we knew it felt good to win and we didn’t want to let go of that trophy. And we haven’t since!

Camogie holds a place in my heart – in all the sports I’ve played I have never felt a bond with my teammates as I have with a hurl in my hand. The sacrifice and determination to win a Camogie championship takes sheer hard work, one that binds a team together for life. Ill never forget Aisling Fenton stopping a fast sliotar with her chest in Thurles. She tempted serious injury by putting her body on the line for the good of the team. I sympathise with people who have never experienced that connection.

Whenever Belgium GAA wins, we use to shout out “Its a great day for the Parish”. There is a sense of community instilled in the Club. The Club welcomes anyone who has moved to the parish with open arms. Members give up so much of their time for the good of the parish- to coach, plan trainings, fundraise, volunteer, collect goalposts in a different country, sell raffle tickets, clean toilets after a Fr.Ted night – but they reap what they sow – Belgium GAA is the best club in Europe.

I have moved back to Dublin to start a different life but I am grateful to the universe for allowing me be part of this club. I learnt a lot in my years, some great lessons on and off the pitch that made me a better person. Even now in Dublin, my closest friends are ex-club members and I know for certain that they will be friends for life. There is something so special about this club, the community it creates, the meitheal it instills. I miss it dearly.

Craobh Rua abú!

Race Against Nature: Belgium GAA overcome muddy obstacles

That’s where they were! Men’s fundraising efforts going on wonderfully well! Still time to support them! Hat tip of course to the wonderful people behind One Life Two Clubs

One Life. Two Clubs.

A group of seven brave footballers from Belgium GAA accepted the challenge set down by the Race Against Nature in Averbode on Sunday and took on the muddy obstacle course to raise money for the club.

Race Against Nature

The day began at a meeting point on the outskirts of Brussels because of car-free day and ended in an Irish pub in Leuven with the All-Ireland final between Donegal and Kerry.

Race Against Nature

The Race Against Nature is part of the Spartacus Series and involves team members crawling through mud, jumping over walls, wading through rivers and running through forests. It is an exhilarating challenge and one which the Belgium GAA team accomplished with no small amount of gritty determination and strong teamwork.

Race Against Nature

There were a few celebratory pints of Guinness at the end of the day to celebrate….

Race Against Nature

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