2018 Gaelic Games Europe Central/Eastern Championship: Vienna Gaels and Munich Colmcilles set out to defend their titles
All roads, railways and runways lead to Rome, Bratislava, Augsburg and Berlin as the 2018 Gaelic Games Europe Central/Eastern Europe Championship kicks off this April. After a dramatic 2017 campaign that saw the München Colmcilles’ ladies and the men of the Vienna Gaels earning the titles, they will be looking for strong defenses of their crowns while their rivals will be gunning to claim the 2018 titles. Here’s Noel Fitzgerald with the lowdown on this year’s contenders.
The 2017 Central/Eastern ladies football championship was a two horse race, with München Colmcilles pipping Berlin GAA to the title on home soil at the last round of the championship. The strength of these teams last year suggests that 2018 could be a similar story, however Cumann Warszawa are always capable of throwing a spanner into the works like they did in Vienna last year, while the ladies of Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Italy will also be looking to improve and cause some upsets.
The Colmcilles ladies overcame a strong challenge from the Berlin ladies to claim the 2017 crown, claiming three ‘player of the tournament’ accolades along the way for three different players, no less. With a squad of players heavily featuring in both 15-a-side Pan-Euro tournaments and Team Germany at the 2018 Paidi O Se tournament in County Kerry, this squad will take some stopping in 2018 as they seek to win their sixth consecutive Central/Eastern European crown.
The Berlin ladies came agonizingly close to their München counterparts in 2017, with a tournament win, two second place finishes and a third place finish. With very regular training sessions according to their Facebook page, they will be raring to go when the ball is thrown in for the first time this season in Rome and few would bet against them.
The Zürich ladies recovered from a poor start last year where they fielded a team with the help of the Vienna Gaels ‘B’ ladies, to eventually finishing in third place ahead of their Austrian counterparts with two third place finishes and a fourth place finish. Their Facebook page is advertising regular trainings as well as a new jersey design so plans are afoot for an eventful 2018.
The Gaelettes were just pipped to the bronze position in 2017 by the Zürich ladies by one point, and with two fourth place finishes and a third place tournament finish, they’ll be sharpening the knives for an assault on the championship this year. With a higher than usual turnover of playing personnel, it’s a tall order but with a new coaching structure in place, the sky’s the limit.
The Slovak ladies enjoyed a solid, if unspectacular 2017, fielding sides in three tournaments to finish fifth place in the region. They’ve given debuts to a series of new, exciting players in the annual Danube winter league, where they retained their title against the Vienna Gaelettes, they’ll be hoping to transfer that form to the bigger stage.
The enigmatic students of Warsaw romped to a tournament victory in the opening round of the 2017 championship in Vienna with a ‘B’ team finishing sixth, setting them up well for the year ahead, but they slipped to an eventual sixth place in the championship as they failed to attend any further tournaments. With news that they will be entering a full team for the opening round of the 2018 championship in Rome, will they maintain their form this year and claim ultimate honours?
Prague Hibernians Gaelic Football Club
Prague Hibernians fielded full ladies teams in two rounds of the 2017 championship as well as joining Vienna Gaels in fielding a side for a third round, ultimately finishing seventh place in the championship. With no home tournament this year, will they be able to keep up attendances and make a serious tilt at the 2018 championship?
S.S. Lazio Calcio Gaelico
The Lazio signore started off the 2017 season with a fifth place finish in Vienna, while also sending players to the Prague round of the championship, to seal an eighth place finish for 2017. With them hosting the first round of the 2018 championship in Rome, expect a fiery start to kick off their season with lots of momentum for the following rounds.
Ascaro Rovigo GAA
The ‘Venetian Lionesses’ sent a full team to the Prague round of the 2017 championship, claiming ten points in an impressive effort. With the opening round of this year’s championship on Italian soil, expect a strong start from these ladies in 2018.
Basel returned to training for 2018 this month, and their ladies side will hope to send players to compete again, as they did in the Zürich and München round in 2017.
The 2017 Central/Eastern men’s football championship was wrapped up by round three in Prague, as the Vienna Gaels overcame Berlin GAA and the Prague Hibernians on their way to one of two tournament wins in the season, eventually finishing the season sixteen points clear of their nearest rivals. However, it was Berlin GAA who finally claimed a Vienna scalp at the last round of the championship, taking home tournament honours for the first time. If the 2018 championship will boil down to these two again will depend on how many tournaments the 2017 Pan-Euro Senior ‘A’ title-winning Cumann Warszawa can attend, not to mention potential improvements among the other sides in Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Italy.
The Vienna Gaels men claimed their third Central/Eastern European championship on the trot in 2017 with tournament wins in Zürich and Prague to go along with second place finishes in Vienna and München. A side laced with experience, they contested the ‘B’ final after a successful debut in Senior football at the 2017 Maastricht Pan-Euros and must be considered favourites for a four-in-a-row.
Berlin finally overcame their regular tormentors Vienna in the final of the München tournament after being denied success by the Austrian side in each previous tournament round in 2017, that success helping solidify a second place finish. With regular trainings and a competitive intra-club league over the early part of this year, they will be sharpening the knives for a shot at the 2018 crown.
The 2014 winners of this title enjoyed a solid 2017 season, comfortably finishing third in the region while also finishing runners-up in the Junior A division of the Maastricht Pan-Euros. With star players regularly winning ‘Player of the Tournament’ accolades, will this be the year they return to former glories?
The highlight of the Zürich Inneoin’s season was hosting the second tournament of 2017, finishing in a commendable fourth place thanks to a fourth place finish at that tournament and a fifth place finish in München. They’ll be hoping to get to each tournament again this year and make some progress up that league table.
Rómhánaigh Augsburg Óg GAA e.V.
Augsburg also had representation at each round of the 2017 season, and they’ll be hoping to improve on their fifth place finish this year. With the third tournament of the year scheduled to be hosted by the German club, hopes will be high that they can cause some surprises.
Prague Hibernians Gaelic Football Club
The Prague men sent a full team to Vienna along with hosting the third tournament of 2017, their runners up finish at their home tournament in particular contributing to their sixth place finish in the league table. Always a tough nut to crack thanks to their Australian Rules influences, they’re keen to claim some more scalps in 2018.
Put simply, Warsaw’s seventh place finish in the Central/Eastern European region in 2017 does not reflect the strength of this squad. They entered two tournaments in the season, the Vienna round of this competition and the Maastricht Pan-Euros at senior grade, and won both outright. Youth, talent and strength in depth is on their side, however consistency may be their undoing once again this year, as they struggle to field sides for each round of this competition.
S.S. Lazio Calcio Gaelico
Lazio have the honour of hosting the first round of this competition to be held in Rome, as they host the opening round of the Central/Eastern European regional competition this month. Fielding sides at all but one round of the 2017 competition, they are improving with each year and will be looking to kick off the year in style on home soil.
The Slovaks brought sides to Vienna and Prague in 2017, giving them a ninth place finish for the year. With a change in leadership having taken place, will they be able to push on in 2018 and move up the league table? They’ll certainly be hoping to do so in round two of this year’s championship, as they will aim to make the most of home advantage.
Padova Gaelic Football
Padova featured players at all but one round of the 2017 championship, however they required the aid of some other sides. With the first round of the competition taking place in Italy, will they be able to start the season as they mean to go on, field a full side and make an impression?
The Geneva Gaels represented Swiss GAA well in 2017, fielding a full side for the Zürich tournament. Will they be able to venture up the road to Augsburg in 2018 perhaps?
Basel were able to send some players to feature in the Vienna, Zürich and München tournaments in 2017. Will they be able to join Zürich and Geneva in representing Swiss GAA once again in 2018?