The five Leagues of Europe – The Central East

Below is an interview with Ben Grobman, Central & Eastern European regional representative, and Vienna Gaels Handballing hero!


How did you get involved with GAA in Europe?

About 10 years ago, a friend of my at the time partner told me about the Vienna Gaels. I was already a passionate hurling fan, so I was very excited to join. Unfortunately, we were a football-only club at the time, but as we started with hurling and eventually handball as well, I started playing regularly. I was eventually approached for the position of GGE Handball Officer a few years back, and since then I have been asked to take on more responsibility in Europe!

Tell us a bit about Vienna, the club, and the City.

Vienna is a wonderful city with a quality of life that consistently ranks among the best in the world thanks to the reasonable cost of living, amazing arts and architecture, and fantastic transit options, both within the city and internationally. The Gaels ourselves are a great mix of local, Irish, and international players who love training, competing, socialising, and of course a bit of craic. We actively train and compete in Football, Hurling, and Handball for both men and ladies, and are also proud to have a committee that reflects our values, containing about 50-50 Irish/non-Irish and Ladies/Men. We also sent several players to the GAA World Games in Derry to compete in all 4 codes on offer, and I would bet that our teams have the most nationalities represented on the pitch per year across Europe! We love being active in both the local and Irish communities here in Vienna, and are looking forward to another successful year in 2024.

Can you tell us a bit about the Central East?

Our region is massive, stretching all the way from Siberia to the Mediterranian Sea through Poland, half of Germany, Switzerland, Czechia, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, the Balkans, Italy, and more. We have our own Regional Football Championship through the spring and summer, with 4 one-day tournaments throughout the region. This year, we have rounds in Prague, Rome, Augsburg, and Berlin. We can have up to 250 players out one day! We also regularly send teams to the European Hurling/Camogie Championships, which are held at the same time. This can make scheduling very tough! We also hold Handball tournaments in both 1-wall and 4-wall, mostly in the fall and winter. Because of the geography of our region, the travel involved is a serious commitment for clubs and players, and we are all proud and grateful to everyone who dedicates the time and money to compete!

What are the biggest challenges facing the Central East in 2024?

As previously stated, our biggest challenge is travel. Rome to Berlin or Warsaw to Basel isn’t exactly a drive down the road to the next club! We are also committed to increasing the number of Ladies participating and expanding Hurling/Camogie and Handball participation across our clubs.

What are you most looking forward to this season in the Central East?

Personally, I am very much looking forward to the tournament in Rome in May (tomorrow!). They haven’t posted in quite some time, and it should be a great day out and fantastic afters in the eternal city!

Have you got any information on the youth sections in the CE?

All of our youth sections are run by the clubs individually, as we unfortunately don’t have nearly enough youth players to compete in a championship. Lots of our players come over from Ireland as students, so our age group doesn’t typically have a lot of children of playing age. Since none of our clubs own their own facilities, adding full-time youth sections is a massive cost for renting extra pitches at in-demand times. We do however have a few clubs who hold Cul Camps throughout the year, including my own club.

What has been your best memory with Vienna Gaels so far??

Our Hurling keeper, Tom, is Australian and he’s like a brother to me. As a full-back, it’s my job to protect him. He would always joke that he would get me a beer if I scored from back there. One day, we were playing against Munich who had our former club chairman playing for them. I kept him scoreless all game and right after he was subbed off, their keeper pucked out deep and I plucked it straight out of the air and hit it right back over his head from across the length of the field. I turned straight around to Tom who was already looking for his wallet!


See the full list of clubs in the Central East here

By Alan Fitzgerald Fri 24th May