Tag Archives: 2011

Hurling/Camogie – Round Three – Zurich – 25 June 2011

The 2011 convoy of Belgians to Zurich was conducted en voiture, as opposed to last year’s Great Train Journey. This year’s odyssey had two immediate results. Firstly the camogiers (pictured below) won their third tournament of the year and in doing so, retained the European Championship ahead of their home and final tournament in Leuven in July.

Photo courtesy of Clodagh P (c)
Photo courtesy of Clodagh P (c)

The second result was the following article by Shane Ryan, Hurling Officer, on the subject of the Hurlers’ Day Out.

(Photo courtesy of popeyee.images on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/popeyee/sets/72157626924977775/)

There was an uncanny sense of déjà vu walking off the immaculate field in Zurich on Saturday. Another sluggish start, another gallant defeat, another missed opportunity. This, however, was far from a wasted 16 hour round trip. There were great performances from each and every Belgium player and we go into the Belgium home tournament with a real sense that we can win end the season on a high.

Willie saw Machiavellian dealings at play when Belgium were drawn to play the first game at 9 o’clock. He responded well though and channelled his frustrations into a great performance in the back line all day. Unfortunately, the over-all team performance left a lot to be desired in the first half of the Zurich game. Miss-hit frees, wayward hand passes and wild pulls characterised a first half where we went into the half-time break having failed to register a score. Things improved in the second half. Conchur de Barra bullied the pantomime villain of the hour, holding him scoreless from play. Despite commendable performances from the returning Aonghus O’Muircheartaigh and Adrian Hiel, Belgium conceded too many long range points. Zurich players were content to shoot from far out and, unfortunately for us, they had the radar working. A game that fizzed and bubbled at times was ultimately unsatisfying as Zurich ran out easy winners in the end.


“There’s no need for sun cream today, sure it’s too cloudy” said a soon-to-be deep-fried Darragh Cotter to lobster impressionist extraordinaire Conor Aylward. The mercury was rising throughout the morning and our two hour break before playing The Hague garnered mixed feelings. As it turns out, it seems to have given us time to wake up (and play a little Frisbee). Our passionate and slightly hobbled captain, Phil Cushen, reminded us before the game that it was “do or die” and so it proved.


This game saw every player standing up to be counted. Darragh Cotter and Kevin Keary dominated. Darragh was majestic in the air while Kevin played his man from the front and won every ball that came his way. The frees started going over and there was a real feeling at half-time that this game was there to be won. Conchur, in midfield, was marking a man who eventually won “the player of the tournament” – I didn’t see this prize but I can’t help but wonder whether it would also fit in Conchur’s pocket, a place its owner is well accustomed to.


Fergal Mythen was his usual brilliant self, driving on the rest of us and surging up the field. With five minutes to go we were seven points down. Two lobbed in frees resulting in well taken goals were dissected by an exchange of long range points. We were one point down with one minute to go. The point wouldn’t come however. The “referee” blew the whistle and the game ended in an arguably undeserved victory for The Hague.


Unable to make the final, we went out unrestricted by pressure in the final two games and played with reckless abandon in finishing 3rd. We shot from wild angles, played cross-field balls and ruthlessly soloed for goals when points were on. Everything worked. Ciaran Kelly will probably remember these games as the time when we realised he was actually a back. He plucked high balls out of the sky, cleared ball into the forwards and generally put down a marker for the next day. Denis O’Sullivan also showed he has taken all of Martin’s training on board, scoring two goals. Martin himself had a great day. Excellent puck outs and goal-tending were complemented by well taken points when he decided to stretch his legs in the full forward line. Conor Aylward, Darragh Cotter and Conchur de Barra all scored points (and goals) from long range.


Overall it was enjoyable. We all want tough games and we are getting them. Last year we won the close ones, this year we have lost them. If it was a matter of luck, I’d say we have been unlucky with poor refereeing and bad decisions. Unfortunately, we can’t blame luck. We just need to work harder in training and drive on to Leuven.


Speaking of driving, thanks to Kevin, Phil and all the lads who drove down to Zurich – it’s a testament to your dedication. Let’s get everyone to training now for the next month. It’s summer-time, let’s play hurling.




Belgium Conquers Germany and Spain

Photo courtesy of DB

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” If Charles Dickens was a member of Belgium GAA, he might have rewritten A Tale of Two Cities, basing it in Frankfurt and Barcelona on the weekend of 11 June 2011, and making that first paragraph dramatically more positive. But he wasn’t, and he didn’t, so you will have to bear with this description.

12 lovely Belgium ladies headed to Bar-th-elona. As this writer was one of the unfortunates who had to miss out on what turned out to be a fantastic weekend, here is a summary from triumphant captain, Gráinne Ní Fhlatharta:

Congratulations to all the chicas who travelled to Bar-th-elona this weekend. It was an absolutely ‘stellar’ weekend.

Belgium Ladies had a convincing win over the home side, Barcelona Gaelettes, in our first group game and went on to top the group by beating Valencia in the second game. This set us up for a semi-final clash with Irunia, a strong side who had a mix of players from Pamplona, Holland and Estonia. Belgium ladies however had been improving with every game and another strong performance ensured a place in the final against a very strong Munich team who had run riot in Group B. Belgium went out with all guns blazing in the final and came away with a 5-16 to 3-01 victory over Munich Colmcilles. Our workrate was hugely impressive, and our very own Sinéad ‘they call her Fitz’ Fitzsimons, who covered every blade of grass on the field all day long, was deservedly awarded Player of the Tournament. Our heartiest congratulaions to you Sinéad, it was long overdue!!

 A  special mention to Gráinne Delaney who was unfortunate to pick up an injury during the week and couldn’t travel, we missed you at the weekend and no doubt you would’ve enjoyed the many many patatas bravas/pain con tomata/sangrias we had, we wish you a speedy recovery and hope to see you back in action very soon. Also a special thank you to Marian O’Malley who travelled from Germany.

A huge thank you also to Aonghus who flew straight from the States to be with us Saturday morning. Not only did he orchestrate everything from the sideline, he also led the way through the carnage that was Saturday night and was still going strong on Sunday…..we salute you!!!



Meanwhile, approximately 1,300 kilometres away in Frankfurt, the menfolk of Belgium GAA were also causing havoc (and would not cease doing so until they left the Joyce in Brussels around 7am on Monday morning).

Again, I was not in attendance, so will leave it to the supremely talented Mr. David Barrett Esq. (read more at http://footballingjourneymen.blogspot.com/) to give a rundown of an exciting tournament in the Benelux regional championship…

33 of us, at the last count, travelled to Frankfurt by train, car and bus last weekend. Some arrived Friday night whilst others hit the road at 05h30 on Saturday morning. In that group we had Conan and Eoin, trainers/mentors/managers or whatever title you feel befits their role. Crusher and Paul Hagan were injured but came to play the less glamorous roles of money collectors and water carriers.

The groupings pitted both Belgium teams against each other and we were also joined in the group by Amsterdam. Den Hague, Lux, Frankfurt and Amsterdam B were in the other group.

Our B’s started at a canter against Amsterdam A and were in a good position at half-time. However they had lost their workhorse Conor Mul to two yellow cards. Harsh is an understatement. In the outrageous world of crazy European GAA rules, that means a two game suspension. More to follow on this later in the week.

Amsterdam were a strong side and they powered on in the second half, aided handsomely by their fortune of having a spare man. The lads had to pick themselves up fast as they faced into a local derby against the A’s. Again it was a close first half but again the B’s seemed to fade in the second. The lads had put in similar first half displays up in Amsterdam, especially against Lux, but faded in the second half. It’s hard to put your finger on why. Maybe it’s just a case of getting a couple of wins under the belt and kicking on with the confidence that brings. In any case, the team is in much better shape than it was this time last year and if that problem can be solved, the Shield can become a realistic ambition.

The A’s then faced Amsterdam to decide the group winners. For the first time they had travelled with two full teams and having watched how strong their B’s were, I knew we were in for a battle. We led 0-4 0-3 at half-time and weren’t to concede again. Mike Lucey goaled and another four points were spread across the forwards. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. The backs looked shaky at times and needed Timmy’s class in goal with two point blank saves.

On we went to face our old sparring partners Den Hague in the semi. It was a tricky fixture. They weren’t looking too impressive on the day but they are also the masters at grinding out victories when they are on their knees. I can’t remember ever facing them in a semi before. Every game I can remember was a final (or a group game). In a final, you can completely empty yourself, physically and ‘emotionally’. In a semi though, you have to keep something in the tank, hoping you get to the final.

It was another ding dong battle. They relied primarily on frees early on whilst we blew chance after chance down the other end. It was either level or we led by a point at half time. A tense finish was in store. We couldn’t shake them but our defence, led by Ross and a far from fully fit Colm, was holding firm. We pointed with two or three minutes left and managed to hold out for a 0-7 0-6 win. Tight.

James O Dowd is a relatively quiet man and more often than not gives off an impression that he doesn’t care. He was quite animated after the game though and if there was any complacency creeping in before the final, he put it to rest.

Amsterdam A won a very controversial semi against Lux. Lux were adamant they had won the game with a couple of points to spare but the referee’s notebook didn’t agree. If there was an error, it’s the cruelest way to depart.

Our opponents had called up some of their B players for the final which strengthened them considerably as they were quality players, omitted originally for lack of training apparently. We wouldn’t shake them off so easily this time and again; we went in level at the interval. Eoin made two big switches at half time. The first was to bring Timmy to wing-forward from goal. With his first possession he soloed through their defence only to be denied by a great save. Still, it sent them a message that he needed watching and it gave us a boost as we knew we had fresh legs to pick up some of the slack.

The second move came when Paddy returned to the fray. We have a load of backs who were going well and he found himself on the outside looking in for a share of the day. Still, when his chance came he proved why Eoin and Conan had him in the squad. He won the first ball that came into his corner when we were just a point up. The ball was transferred up the pitch and ended with a white flag being raised. We never looked back and added a third and fourth point to our lead to seal the win.

It gave us a second Benelux victory. Now, the lads (Eoin and Conan) have been clear from the off that we wouldn’t get worked up about Benelux this year and instead use it to test out as many guys as possible. However, we also realise the importance a win has on the group. This was sparticularily sweet as some great lads will pack their packs in the coming weeks. Duffer, Alec, Johnny, Andrew, Mike, Ricky and Killian will all move on. They’ve all played big roles in the development of the team and it’s spirit and we’ll miss them. Saturday may well have been their final act and if it was then it was a fitting goodbye.

Note; A more ‘social type commentary’ of the weekends activities will follow later in the week.


Kelly getting stuck into European GAA

(The following is an article by Belgium GAA’s own Dave Barrett, published on www.joe.ie on 6 April 2011)

It’s nearly two years since former GAA President Sean Kelly was elected to the European Parliament. In that time he’s also served as Honorary President of Belgium GAA. This week he tells JOE about the challenges facing GAA clubs abroad.

The GAA began with a seed of thought, first sown in a room in Hayes Hotel, Thurles in 1884. In the 127 years that have followed, it has flourished, dispersing its roots to every corner of the country. It has even stretched beyond to reach the major landing places of the Irish all over the world; from New York to Sydney and on again.

Sitting in his office in Brussels, Sean Kelly, Fine Gael MEP and former President of the GAA is watching it take an ever stronger grip on Europe.

Boom time

It’s boom time for GAA on the continent with new clubs popping up at a rapid rate. From Coruna to Stockholm to Tallinn to St. Gallen, Gaelic Games are setting their roots in the ground.

It is not just down to emigration, in a lot of cases it is non-Irish people who have seen the games first hand in Ireland that are bringing the games home to their country. Kelly has been able to observe its development closely in his role as Honorary President of Belgium GAA.

Of course, as President of the Association and through his work with the overseas committee, he has been familiar with the activity in Europe for some time.

“I attended the Annual European Convention in Luxembourg some years ago and was told how hurling in Europe dates back to the 14th century when two legions of the French army played against each other. There were so many Irish enlisted at the time.”

Kelly’s previous involvement was from a distance but now that he is based in Brussels, he has been able to observe things more closely. One thing he says hasn’t changed since he was last involved is the profile of the people: “young, educated, smart Irish”.


Since his return, Kelly has been impressed by what he has seen. “The commitment to the club and the sense of community is just the same (as home) and the rivalry also. Usually in Ireland, your rival will be just down the road whereas here it could be a couple of hundred miles away in Paris or The Hague. I found that particularly enthralling”.

Having hosted and attended the last two Belgium GAA AGMs, he has also admired the way in which the club is run off the field.

“The meetings were more focused than an AGM might be at home, which may be more general. Here there is a great focus on what the club wants to do, very specific. The decision making is almost businesslike.” Belgium is just one example but you will find similar approaches across the clubs of Europe.

Another feature which caught Kelly’s attention was the number of females in attendance; something he feels is an example to clubs at home. “The ladies are far more involved and not just in traditional ways like fundraising, but in all aspects of the club.”


When he compares other overseas units to Europe, he sees the main difference to be the transient nature of the people in clubs in Europe. “In England, the US and Canada, people have put down roots and are very settled. They have people involved for 30, 40 or 50 years and it’s passed on to the next generation.”

Belgium is a good example in this regard, as there was a club in Brussels in the 90s but it disappeared, only to be resurrected in 2004.

Still, whether they are in Ireland or abroad, GAA clubs face many of the same challenges; player numbers, funding, fixtures, competition from other codes etc.


However, one challenge which is more unique to the units abroad, especially in places like Europe and Asia, where the history of the games does not stretch so far back, is securing places to train and play games. Where established sports like soccer and rugby can apply for use of public facilities, the lack of international recognition for GAA clubs means their requests often fall on deaf ears.

Recently, Kelly made headlines on various GAA news outlets, calling for the GAA, Ladies Football and Camogie Associations to work together and seek international recognition for Gaelic Games.

Speaking at the Belgium GAA AGM he commented: “As it stands, our games have no international status and therefore no legal status in countries such as Belgium, France or Germany. This means in practical terms that clubs based in these countries can not apply to local authorities for free use of public sports facilities, as our games are not seen as sports per se.”


“The lack of recognition is hobbling the development of our games on the ground. Our clubs in units such as Europe have to go to great expense to hire private pitches, while other sports can access public facilities for free.”

“Therefore I call on the three associations running our games to come together and found an International Federation and affiliate it to the European and International Olympic Committee, the gold standard for recognition of Sports.

His comments were heard around the world and have received support from units in the USA, Great Britain and Europe. According to Kelly, the reaction has been positive, from clubs at least.

“People have been in touch, wondering how it could be done, who would you have to get in touch with and how they can help progress it.”

But what can Kelly do to push this initiative forward, whilst sitting in his Brussels office, far from the rooms where such decisions are made? As far as concrete decisions are concerned, he can’t do a whole lot in the immediate future, but he is undeterred.

Kelly recalls his experience of Rule 42. “Change takes time within the GAA. You must articulate your idea, give people the opportunity to discuss it and let it take root.”

Importance of GAA abroad

International recognition is more important than ever for the association with so many leaving the country. The GAA abroad can provide a soft landing for those people.

“If you wanted to reach out to the broadest possible community you could do it through the GAA. Getting involved in a GAA club is possibly the best thing a young person emigrating can do in terms of networking, getting jobs etc.”

Securing the future of these clubs is paramount and international recognition will help overcome some of the blocking points. “Many at home don’t realise the sacrifices players abroad make to play the game.

“First of all, most clubs in Europe and Asia don’t have a pitch. They have to go looking for one, pay for it, get goalposts, put them up, and then they have to more or less pay to play and it’s all done by the players themselves. If you could get Gaelic Games recognised, that would free up funding from the local councils and reduce some of the burden.”

Receiving this international recognition would go some way to solving these problems, but it will also open other doors. When Kelly touted the idea of having hurling as a demonstration sport at the 2012 Olympics, he was told that without the recognition, it was a non-runner.

Kelly believes the GAA is missing an opportunity by not being officially recognised abroad. Now he says, “It’s time to take the opportunity”.

With his backing and the growing swell of support amongst the GAA abroad, it will hopefully become a reality in the not too distant future.


Fundraising with Belgium GAA

(back row, l-r): JP Mulherin, Dermot Bergin, Fergal Mythen, Kevin Keary, Sinead Fitzsimons, Laura Whiskerd, Anay Rios and Gráinne Ní Fhlatharta
(front row, l-r): Marian O’ Malley, Jess O’ Flynn, Jane Brennan
Missing from photo: Caoimhe Ní Shuilleabháin

Congratulations to the Belgium GAA members who ran the Dendermonde 10K race on Sunday 20 March, raising well over €2,000 in sponsorship for the club in the process. The ladies footballers, who organised club participation in the race, have set a great example for the rest of the club to get raising money in the rest of the year.

Thanks to all those friends, families and colleagues who sponsered the runners.

(Note: everyone is welcome to join Sylvia McCarthy in her replacement race later in the year.)

A New Year, A New Season…But First, An AGM

January, the most depressing month of the year, is drawing to a close. With spring only around the corner, Belgium GAA is waking up from its winter hibernation, squinting up at the slightest hint of sun in the sky, stretching its lazy limbs and proclaiming itself ready to get back to work.

Before the torturous training sessions can take place, a bit of housekeeping has to be looked after, in the form of the Annual General Meeting (AGM). Kevin Keary will chair the AGM in the European Parliament on Tuesday 25 January 2011 at 19h (if you need a card to gain access to the EP, please email Kevin on kevinkeary@gmail.com).

Everyone is welcome to attend the meeting and to take advantage of the opportunity to get active in the committee. In the words of Chairman Keary, “It is important to have fresh involvement, so all members of the club – new school, old school or any school – are welcome to express their interest“.

See you there!