GAA crests in Ireland are all pretty similar when you think about it. Take a quick glance at the crests for the county sides and you will see common elements popping up again & again. The Celtic Cross is everywhere, as are round towers, ships, books, crowns and the classic two crossed hurls with a ball in the middle. A lot of the GAA crests in Europe don’t stray too far from the tried & tested formula but there are plenty of examples where European clubs have crests that are not only a million miles from what we are used to but completely bonkers at the same time. In Part 1 of this series we will go through a selection of some of the most unique GAA crests you can find in Europe and we will try to explain some of the more interesting elements of them.
It’s not every day that you see a Roman helmet as the focal point of a GAA crest but the German club of Augsburg have just that. Why the Roman helmet you say? Well, as with many of the crests on our list, the clue is in the club name. The club’s full Gaelic name is Rómhánaigh Augsburg Óg which translates to Young Romans. Why the Young Romans you say? Well the city of Augsburg just happened to be an ancient Roman stronghold once upon a time. The slightly odd looking plant that’s not a shamrock is a zirbelnuss (pine cone in English), which was originally the Roman insignia for the area known as Raetia, of which Augsburg was a part of. The zirbelnuss has since been adopted as the emblem of Augsburg.
Not too many clubs in the world of sport can claim to have a Basilisk on their crest, let alone in the GAA, but that’s just what Swiss club Basel have on theirs. The Basilisk seen here is based off the real life statue of a Basilisk that can been seen in the city of Basel and it is overlooking the Rhein river which runs through the city.
The Belgian crest is the first of two crests on our list that prominently feature a skull. The significance of the skull can be found in the Gaelic name of the club “Craobh Rua” which translates to “Red Branch” in English. The Red Branch Knights were legendary, elite warriors who, as the stories go, would psyche themselves up for battle by playing Hurling. Cúchulainn, happened to be one of these knights and was considered Ireland’s greatest hurler. These Knights belonged to the House of the Red Branch and it was here that the severed heads of their enemies were kept as trophies, hence the skull as the centrepiece of the crest.
Clermont recently welcomed Donegal All-Star Michael Murphy to one of their training sessions while he was in the city to film the latest installment of “The Toughest Trade” with ASM. We are sure he would have had a double take when he laid eyes on Clermont’s unique crest. In order to understand the crest we must first look at the team’s nickname; “Les Bougnats.” A Bougnat was a person who moved from rural France, to Paris, predominately from the Massif Central region, of which the city of Clermont is a part of. The mustached man clutching a Gaelic football is a Bougnat wearing a Bougnat’s traditional garb of a hat and a neckerchief.
The Clermont Gaels recently started a Ladies team and “Les Bougnates” did not want to be outdone in the crest department by their male counterparts. The Ladies team’s crest takes it’s inspiration from the WWII American wartime propaganda poster “We Can Do It!” which was used to boost worker moral during the war.
Fillos de Breogán
The Fillos de Breogán (Sons of Breogán) club are one of the most feared clubs in the Galician region of northern Spain and their ominous crest only adds fuel to the fire. The significance of the eerie skull & crossbones can be found in both ancient Greek & Gaelic legend. On one hand, the skull & crossbones represents the three-headed giant Geryon which was killed by Hercules. Geryon’s remains are said to be buried under the Tower of Hercules which was built by the Romans, which leads us nicely onto Breogán. Breogán built the city of Brigantia, which is modern day A Coruña where the club is based. Íth, one of Breogán’s sons spied Ireland from the top of the Tower of Hercules and he along with several of Breogán’s other sons sailed to Ireland to conquer it. Many of Breogán’s sons died during the conquest hence the skull & crossbones to symbolise their remembrance.
The Holland Ladies football team is made up of an amalgamation of players from two separate clubs and this is where significance of the two birds and the crosses comes from. The windmill is a well-known symbol of The Netherlands so no need to explain that. The two birds seen on the crest are storks and these are linked to the first of the two clubs that make up the amalgamation; The Hague. The official symbol of The Hague is the stork and it can be found on the city’s coat of arms, so this is why the birds were included. The crosses represent the players from the Amsterdam club. The Amsterdam coat of arms contains three St. Andrew Crosses and these crosses are repeated here with the blades of the windmill making up the third cross.
Jyväskylä (No, we won’t attempt to pronounce it) in Finland have one of the more minimalist, yet striking crests in Europe. The quite scary looking creature that dominates the crest is an Irish Wolfhound. Irish Wolfhounds are featured heavily in Irish mythology, being linked to both Fionn mac Cumhall & Cú Chulain. The club also sees themselves as the “lone wolves” of the Nordic GAA scene (Yes, that’s a thing!) due to their extremely diverse player base which brings with it its own unique playing style. The design of the crest itself takes inspiration from an NHL logo.
At first glance the crest of the Madrid Harps team appears to be like any other traditional GAA crest. Celtic harp after which the club was named, two hurls crossed with a sliotar and a football. So far so good….wait, is that a bear grabbing a tree? Like lot’s of the crests in Europe, features that appear at first to be out of place can be explained quite simply and it’s no different with Madrid. In Madrid’s most central square, La Puerta del Sol, you will find the “El Oso y El Madrono” (the Bear and the Strawberry Tree) statue. This statue is the official symbol of the city. The Strawberry Tree or Arbutus unedo also happens to extremely prevalent across Ireland so there is a nice coincidental link there.
The final crest on our list comes from Brittany club Trégor. The province of Trégor or “Bro Dreger” in Bréton was founded by Saint Tudwal. Saint Tudwal is also the patron saint of Trégor and his emblem was a red dragon which the province adapted as their own emblem. The emblem also has links with King Arthur who, according to legend was born in Trygger (Treger in Bréton) in British Cornwall and whose tomb was depicted with the emblem of a red dragon.
Author: Alan Jennings, Gaelic Games Europe PRO.