The Road to Rennes: Mothers & Others take over Europe!

On April 6, a superb event took place in Rennes, France, marking a historic first in mainland Europe. The Rennes Ar Gwazi Gouez GAA club hosted a gathering that saw five Irish Gaelic4Mothers&Others (G4MO) teams invited to a celebration of not only Gaelic Football, but a festival of culture, craic, family, and friendship. This was far more than a sporting event; it was a demonstration of the GAA’s unmatched ability to bring people together and create memories under the banner of the Gaelic Games (and quite possibly the most hyped-up GAA event in European history!)

This gathering of 68 ladies, alongside an invitation to all former Rennes players, was to show the G4MO initiative’s emphasis on inclusivity, openness, and shared Irish culture. The Participating teams were:  Coolkenno (Wicklow), Réalt na nGleannta (Kerry), St. Patrick’s (Camolin, Wexford), Kickhams Creggan (Antrim), and Killarney Legion (Kerry).


Below is a montage of some of the build-up footage, made by the participating clubs, including the hosts.


The day was led by Anna Marie O’Rourke, Gaelic Games Europe’s Coaching Officer, and all-round legend. Hailing from Coolkenno, Wicklow, Anna Marie has called Rennes her home for two decades, bearing a rich heritage of GAA bestowed by her lineage, especially her Mother, Ann. Ann’s unwavering commitment to the Coolkenno club was fondly commemorated and celebrated at this event, a fitting tribute to a lifetime of dedication.


Honoring a Legacy

The idea of bringing the G4MO team from Coolkenno to Rennes as a tribute to Anna Maries late mother, Ann, was proposed by a Coolkenno Stalwart, PJ Tompkins, marking the first anniversary of Ann’s passing. Ann had been a volunteer for the club for 43 years, a testament to the deep-rooted community spirit inherent in Gaelic games. This spirit was further echoed by Sinead Riordan, a friend and former teammate of Anna Marie, who proposed a similar idea. Sinead and Anna Marie began exploring the idea, and the response was overwhelming, with over 60 applications from G4MO teams across Ireland, eager to be part of this unique celebration. Sinead took on the role of lead organiser, liaising with both the hosts and guests throughout all the planning.


A Weekend of Celebration and Inclusivity – The Activities

To kick off the weekend, a warm welcome was extended on Friday night at the Fox and Friends Pub, courtesy of owner Eoghan, a proud Galway native who was delighted to be able to host such a friendly group! The G4MO visitors were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by Trad music upon arrival in the Breton city, and of course, a multicultural céilí would erupt soon after. This céilí was a cultural exchange where the Irish and Bretons took turns teaching each other how to dance!

On the Saturday – April 6th, the festivities began with a coaching session for children, followed by a fun warm-up for the participating teams. The focus of the day was on fostering friendship and inclusivity, with non-competitive games aimed at promoting the ethos of Gaelic4Mothers&Others, which emphasizes participation, fun, and community engagement over winning.

Additionally, a Rennes Ladies gala match was held, with invitations extended to other local women’s sports clubs to discover Ladies’ Gaelic Football. The event’s schedule was a testament to the GAA’s ethos, featuring children’s coaching sessions, native Breton games to foster cultural exchange, and a communal meal that brought everyone together in celebration. The highlight was a Gala match, spotlighting ladies’ sports and honoring the club’s volunteers, emphasizing the role of women in sports.

In a beautiful full circle, the men’s senior team ran the event on the day, underscoring the ethos of inclusion and the one-club model. This not only celebrated the G4MO initiative but also elevated the role of volunteerism and community support in sustaining the Gaelic games tradition.




Some feedback from the guests


Killarney G4MO Legion team (who are not done yet for the year, with a trip to Barcelona ahead of them).

“Our host Rennes GAA, with representatives from the French Parliament in Brittany, were beyond welcoming, from supplying food, beverages, activities, energy, laughs… we don’t own the craic when we’re with another Celt nation!”

“We played, celebrated, saw the beautiful area, and built relationships with Clubs that we can call on as friends and associates to make more connections for G4MO and our club”

Kickhams Creggan from Antrim had this to say about this extra special event, (as this is their clubs centenary year!)

“It was a day of celebrating women in sport and an initiative to promote Gaelic football among mothers and others … France! Memories and new friendships made. We thank the four other teams for the great games and plenty of craic on and off the pitch! As a token of appreciation we presented a certificate and our club centenary jersey to Anna-Marie, the inspiration behind the event. We sincerely thank Rennes GAA for their generous hospitality and organisation throughout our stay.”


Perhaps the most moving tribute came from Coolkenno, a beautiful poem about the weekend, written by Ruth Byrne, the Coolkenno captain. The poem’s title comes from a trophy, named by some players from the tournament.


“We went to the community to support our team, to travel to France and fulfil our dreams.

From the moment we left we were treated like royalty and found us a new sisterhood loyalty.

We turned up to play in our fantastic gear we looked so well we were proud to be there.

We played teams of like minded people, we played so well thanks to Noelle and PJ.

This mothers and others has given me a new sense of purpose, new friendships, and special bonds a love like no other!

I won player of our group, a moment I felt so proud, so honoured to be here with this special crowd.

We came away from a weekend that was planned to a T, with laughter and memories thanks to you Anna Marie.

So thank you to all involved, for giving the opportunity for us to grow and evolve. Roll on next year for whatever is to come, Coolkenno will be ready to bring Grace back home.” 


Coolkenno players Sandra McNally and Rosemary Dempsey echoed the praise for the weekend, especially the hosts from Rennes, particularly the men who cooked up the feast on Saturday. They thoroughly enjoyed learning the local dances and culture and were proud to be the first Coolkenno team to travel abroad in 44 years. It was a great weekend, well earned by the Coolkenno crowd, who worked hard on fundraising all the way up to the flight, raffles, table quizzes, and much more!

Theres no shortage of passion and pride in Coolkenno, it’s a model GAA club with a history worthy of a Netflix mini-series! PJ Tompkins – team mentor, told us the great stories of Anna Marie’s Father, who has been the groundsman for 44 years, her Mother Ann’s jersey-washing duties, and Anna Marie’s childhood coach who is still on duty in the club after all these years. We know where the energy comes from now!

Strengthening Communities Through Sport

It all started 20 years ago, in 2004, while on Erasmus in France, Sinead Riordan from Glenbeigh-Glencar, Kerry was recruited to the first-ever ladies football team in Rennes by Anna Marie O ‘Rourke. Sinead, along with her friend Kayleigh O’Sullivan, would later go on to set up the club in Angers, Anjou Gaels. Also, Kayleigh is now the Health and Well-being Officer on the European County Board, volunteering her skills and experience to enhance the European community.

After 13 years driving it on in France, Sinead would return to Glenbeigh-Glencar GAA, getting straight back involved with coaching and club admin, demonstrating great leadership and a relentless level of dedication. Not done yet – She would soon set up the Réalt na nGleannta G4MO team too, and has nothing but great things to say about how it has energized her community and helped her adjust to life back in Kerry after her time away in France. Perhaps more importantly, Sinead reveals that the benefits go beyond personal, the G4MO infrastructure empowers individuals to take on coaching roles, and volunteering roles, and buy into the clubs they may already be involved in – Lifting the whole community.

Sinead Riordan’s proactive approach and collaboration with Anna Marie O’Rourke in organizing the event in Rennes exemplify the powerful impact of sports on community building and the promotion of a cohesive, inclusive culture within, and beyond Ireland.

Tragedy struck in the few days before the tournament was due to take place, leaving everyone heartbroken. Sinead’s Father was taken ill and admitted to hospital, but she was not alone. Her community had her back. The Réalt na nGleannta squad stayed by her side during this stressful time, selflessly missing out on the great weekend they had all been looking forward to for months. An act of kindness and a bond that can be found in GAA clubs around the world.


The Réalt na nGleannta team together, in Ireland.


Final word

It’s no accident that GAA is booming globally, and it’s the O’Roukes and the Rioirdans of the world that we have to thank. They bring people together and get the jobs done. Leading by example, and making friends along the way!

Events like this can only benefit international GAA communities. It’s a shining reminder of our ethos, ‘where we all belong’. The social games have a big future around the world, the GAA is for everyone. G4MO teams should continue to travel and light up Europe. Hopefully, someday soon, Europe will be able to contribute to the community of G4MO teams.  The GAA’s unique ability to unite through the shared love of games, culture, and heritage was vividly displayed in Rennes, setting a precedent for future G4MO celebrations of Gaelic games across the globe.

Anna Marie’s impact extends beyond the pitch; it resonates in the pride of a community rallying to support their teams. She has shown us that the essence of the GAA is not just in winning but in belonging, in contributing to something larger than ourselves. Her infectious passion has lifted the community not only in Brittany’s Celtic nooks but in all of France.

The fruits of the hard work were on display at the 2023 World Games, where a French crowd shook the Oak Leaf County with an unmatched atmosphere while fielding the strongest assembly of non-Irish GAA warriors yet; France sent 13 teams, more than 200 players! Setting the bar high for European regions in the future.



This landmark event was made possible through the support of the LGFA, Rennes City Council, Gaelic Games Europe, the World GAA Global Development Fund Grant, and the French Federation for Gaelic Sports, highlighting a collective effort to promote Gaelic Games in France





By Alan Fitzgerald Wed 3rd Apr