Gaelic Games are thriving here in Ireland, but not many know it is also thriving abroad. The recent recession in Ireland has forced so many of our young people to travel abroad to work, but if we look on the bright side a large number of our emigrants are continuing their cultural games in Europe. Some are even starting to play Gaelic Games for the first time. Gaelic Games in Ireland is synonymous with community spirit and this is no different when Irish people find themselves in a different country.
Four camogie teams and five hurling teams took part in this year’s Belgium tournament held in Brussels. It was the end of the season for the European ladies and gents and the tournament and overall European trophies in both camogie and hurling were to be decided this weekend.
Camogie teams travelled from Holland and Zurich playing against the home club in Brussels who fielded two teams. Unfortunately, Paris Gaels who also play camogie were not able to travel on this occasion.
Hurling teams travelled from Amsterdam, The Hague, Paris, Dresden and Scandinavia and along with the host team from Brussels made up the hurling participants.
The standard of camogie was very good. It was great to see such skill and talent on display from all players. Some who are Irish and played at home, while others were Irish but had never played before and were taking it up for the first time while there were also European born players taking part.
Holland are a relatively new team only in their second year of participation. They have a very talented ex Cork camogie player Rosarie Holland at the helm who is doing tremendous work to get camogie up and running in Holland. They have players who are from non-traditional camogie backgrounds in Ireland, some who played at home and some who didn’t. They gave a great performance showing great promise on the field of play.
Zurich had a small panel this weekend but were supplemented by the other two teams to make sure there were even numbers playing each game. Catherine Mc Loughlin is the driving force here and works tirelessly to promote the game even though the distances to be travelled have their drawbacks. It was great to see Belgium having enough numbers to enter two teams.
The Belgium girls are spearheaded by Irene Kirwan who is a well-known volunteer in Brussels and has plenty of silverware to her credit back home where she played for Ballyboden St. Enda’s and Dublin. She continues to work very hard in Brussels to keep camogie alive and she is succeeding.
In Ireland we take it for granted that we will have games close by, every second weekend, and no journey is more than a couple of hours away. Players in European cities have to hop on a plane to play camogie and it requires huge financial and time commitments. They commit because they love the game and really enjoy that participation and are driven to keep their connection with their Irish roots.
Belgium ended up playing against their second team in the final, the Reds v the Greys with the latter winning out. It was a very competitive and thrilling final with a great sporting atmosphere with Holland coming third and Zurich fourth. It was a great display of camogie for all the spectators. There were many parents and family members of the players who travelled from Ireland to Brussels for the tournament. It was a very enjoyable sporting competition for all.
There were four referees officiating on the day, who did a tremendous job. Such was the sporting atmosphere during the games, it was noted as being the first tournament in Europe where there were no cards given to any player. Belgium camogie team and Belgium hurling team were winners in both the tournament and the overall European Championship. Orla Vesey from Zurich and Kildare won Camogie player of the tournament and Darragh Cotter, Belgium the Hurler of the tournament. Hurling runners up were The Hague coming second and Amsterdam third.
Presentations were made to Belgium Captain Irene Kirwan and Belgium Hurling Captain Niall Goodwin by President of the Camogie Association Aileen Lawlor at a function held at their sponsors venue De Valera’s Brussels. Congratulations and well done to Kevin Keary, Belgium Chairperson, Jelena Radakovic, Belgium Secretary, from Serbia who incidentally is a playing camogie member, and all of the many volunteers who made the event a weekend to remember.