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The Weird & Wonderful World of European GAA Crests (Part 2)

Part 2 of our series where we give you a crash course on the more unique GAA crests that can be found across Europe. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet you can by clicking here. This time round we have a pig, a dragon, a few birds and everything and anything in between, so let’s get stuck into it.


Leuven may not not be very well known outside of Belgium but it is a place that is extremely important to all involved with Gaelic Games in Europe. Gaelic Games Europe holds their Annual Convention there every year as well as many other events at The Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe. The standout feature of Leuven’s crest is definitely the five beer glasses that adorn the top half of the crest and if being a Belgian club wasn’t already explanation enough for this, Leuven is also the birthplace of Stella Artois!


If you’ve never heard of Liffré, they are to the Brittany Championship what Kerry are to the All-Ireland Football Championship. In the last 12 years they have won the Brittany Championship no less than 10 times. The only thing that’s perhaps more striking than their dominance on the field is their club crest. Half size 5, half wild beast, you’ve certainly never seen anything like this on a GAA crest before. In order to make sense of it we must look at the club’s nickname; “Les Sangliers” which translates from French to “Wild Boars.” The choice of nickname may have something to do with the fact that Liffré itself is surrounded by forests where many wild boars can be found.


The second dragon to feature in this series belongs to the French club of Niort. Niort’s dragon comes from an 18th century legend about a terrible dragon that was terrorising the city. The dragon killed men, women & children alike & had easily defeated several groups of armed men who had tried to kill it. The legend tells of a soldier who had been condemned to death for desertion, offering to kill the dragon in return for his freedom. The soldier, in a full suit of armor, attacked the dragon in its lair and managed to stab it in the neck. The dragon, spitting blood, fell to the ground. Believing the fight over, the soldier removed his helmet, but with its dying breath the dragon bit the soldier in the face and both the dragon & soldier died at the same time. A tomb was erected for the soldier in the general hospital’s cemetery.


Oslo are the sole club in the Nordic nation of Norway and and first glance seem to have quite a typical crest. The Irish & Norwegian flags are there, two hurls & a football, as well as a high cross with Eire emblazoned across it, all pretty pedestrian. It’s the forth & final element of the crest that makes it unique however. With Norway once being ruled by the Vikings it’s no surprise to see a horned helmet featuring. Horned helmets have been associated with the Vikings since the 19th century despite there being zero evidence to suggest that Vikings ever wore them but they have been a stereotypical symbol of the Vikings ever since.


Oulu in Northern Finland have the distinction of having played in the northernmost Gaelic Football match ever when they took on the Helsinki Harps on home soil back in 2013 (Click here for a great documentary about the match) Their remote location doesn’t make things easy on the club with their nearest rivals Jyväskylä (who featured in Part 1) being a short, eight hour, 680km round-trip. Their remote location is also linked to their unique name & crest with northern Finland being famous for its moose & elk and thus, the Irish Elks were born. The Irish Mooses doesn’t quite have the same ring to it does it?


The region of Provence in the south of France predominately draws players from two major cities; Marseille & Aix-en-Provence & the striking image of the bull on the crest is what sets it apart. The bull is synonymous with the Camargue region of Provence which is famous for its wild bulls & bull fights. The Camargue bull fights are unique in so far as none of the bulls are harmed, the matadors, or ‘raseteurs’ in French, try to snatch a red ribbon from between the bull’s horns. The club motto “ab obice saevior” translates to “Fiercer when opposed” which sums up the spirit of the club nicely.


We don’t blame you if you have no idea what creature adorns the crest of Catalan club Sitges, we didn’t know either. Well turns out that it is a cross between an eagle and a dragon which are both synonymous with the “Festa Major de Sitges”, a major festival held in the city each year. Giant fiber glass versions of the beast are paraded through the streets during the festival as it shoots fireworks from its beak. The move to fiber glass was made after versions made out of less “fire-proof” materials kept getting damaged!


A lot of the crests featured on these lists have animals to the forefront. Quite often the animals can seem to be a strange choice on first viewing but more often than not they have some sort of connection to the place themselves. Looking at Vannes’ crest you would be asking yourself “what connection does a toucan have to the city?” The answer to that question is absolutely none. A toucan’s natural habitat is the Caribbean & South America and certainly not cloudy Brittany. The toucan was chosen as the emblem of the club in a nod to Guinness, who have used the toucan as a mascot since 1935. Bretons take great pride in their Celtic heritage & it’s no different for their ability to consume copious amounts of the black stuff so the toucan is as apt a mascot for Vannes as any.


Viking Gaels

Whilst Oslo might have gone with a more minimalist display on their crest, the Nordic heritage is very much in your face on the Viking Gaels crest. The Viking Gaels are actually an amalgamated team made up of players from the various Nordic clubs and play at European tournaments. The horned helmet once again makes an appearance along with a Viking Age or Carolingian sword & Dane axe. Finally, an ornate round shield provides the backdrop for the crest.


Zurich have an anvil on their crest and no it’s not because “they like getting hammered” as one person suggested to me! The reason for the anvil is actually linked to the historical guilds or “Zünfte” of the city, of which there are 14. The anvil is linked to one of the 14 guilds specifically known as the “Zunft zur Schmiden.” The Zunfr zur Schmiden is the guild of blacksmiths, silversmiths, goldsmiths, clockmakers & physicians hence the anvil you see on Zurich’s crest. (We don’t know why clockmakers & physicians are in this guild either!)


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