Monday 12 April – Belgium Gaelic Footballers Take Honours in Den Haag
The men of Belgium GAA recorded a famous victory on Saturday last in the final of the 2nd round of the Benelux Championship in extra time over hosts and 2009 European Champions Den Haag.
The final score was 2-11 to 1-9. The result was only put beyond doubt with two minutes of extra time remaining, with Kilkenny man Pearse O Caoimh notching the decisive goal.
There is very little to separate these two teams, who have dominated European football over the past couple of years. The game started thus, with James O’Dowd of Belgium and DH’s Danny Craven exchanging a series of points from play and from dead balls. Jim McGrath and Alec Elliott also finished off well-worked moves to leave Belgium one up at 0-5 to 0-4 at half time.
The first half finished on an ugly note with a vicious assault on Tipp man Jim McGrath by one of Den Haag players, which the referee unfortunately missed.
Den Haag started brightly in the second half, scoring two points in a row. Former Offaly Senior Club Footballer and Morgan Parra lookalike Dave Collins tagged a point back for the Belgians, however Den Haag rattled the men in grey with a goal from Down native Craven.
With the clock ticking down the intensity of the game reached a new level, with some of the most keenly contested and best exchanges of play that European football has seen to date.
Belgium came storming back into it. A well-worked move saw Belgium skipper Eoin O Seanáin dragged down in the area for a penalty. Clareman and debutant James O’Dowd, who hadn’t put a foot wrong from dead balls all day, stepped up to slot the ball beyond the Den Haag goalkeeper.
Nevertheless the game was not over yet with Sean Simpson of Den Haag scoring an equaliser with virtually the last kick of the game.
Extra time ensued, and weary bodies were thrown into the fray for one last battle.
Olof Gill and Eoin O Seanain exchanged points with Danny Craven before James O’Dowd put Belgium 2 up with 2 minutes remaining on the clock. As tired bodies on both sides struggled manfully to win the crucial breaks, the ball was worked down the left wing with Pearse O Caoimh slotting in from the left to scuff a 15 yard kick past the Haag goalkeeper.
The ball trickled into the far corner of the net and the crowd erupted in delight – Belgium had taken a famous scalp, winning the Den Haag Benelux Tournament for the first time ever.
In what is only the 2nd Round of a 4 Round Championship, the sides are level heading for the May 8th Belgium Tournament in Leuven, with Den Haag victors in Amsterdam.
All is still to play for in what is turning into an epic battle between Belgium and Den Haag footballers.