In our interview series we take the time to get to know our players and members and get a little insight into their lives. We find out about their experiences of Gaelic football and hurling, how they came to the sports, their experience with the Celtics, life in Germany and in particular about life in our „Domstadt“. As well as that we look to discover any cultural misunderstandings or differences they have felt and the vital questions such as the best place to get a cold Guinness. This time we asked Oisín O’Mahony, who’s also our new Chairman, a few questions.
Hey Oisín. Let’s start this with the most obvious question. What brought you to Germany?
The short answer is my girlfriend Ute however; there is a longer answer as well. I studied Law and German at UCC and during my time there I went on Erasmus. I spent my Erasmus year in the town of Marburg and absolutely loved it. From there I wanted to come back to Germany.
This led me to come back between to 2015/16 when I worked in a school in Dortmund (Robert-Schumann Berufskolleg). That time in Dortmund was also a fantastic experience and I met my girlfriend there. Following that I studied teaching with the idea that I could use that skill to work in Germany or work in Ireland. However, now that I’m back in Germany I am back working in the legal field and I am really enjoying it.
How would you describe your life in Germany?
Life in Germany is really good. I can afford my rent, travel expenses and necessities quite easily so that certainly helps with the quality of life. I live in the beautiful city of Bonn and have friends there as well as my mates with the Celtics. There is always quite a lot to do. Bonn is a smaller than Cologne but it’s like Cork – plenty to do and a nice size to get around.
Prior to Corona I started going to the theatre more often – and had hoped to go to King Lear in Bad Godesberg Theatre prior to the outbreak. I’ve seen Othello (in English) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (in German) since coming and I hope to see some more when it is safe to do so.
Nordrhein Westfalen is a dream for football fans. I’ve been to see most of the big teams in the area – Dortmund, Köln, Monchengladbach, Leverkusen, Fortuna Düsseldorf and more. My favourite football club here would be Borussia Dortmund having lived in the city and experienced the football culture there. However, I also really enjoy going to see other smaller clubs such as VFL Bochum. Bochum is easy to get in and out of, the Biergarten pre-match is great, the fans are genuine and the beer is lovely.
I work in Cologne and train in Cologne but honestly I really like living in Bonn and I have no plans to move. Work is great – I really enjoy what I do as well. Overall life in Germany is really good!
What differences exist between Germany and Ireland? What has stood out most?
There are big differences that is true. Germany is pretty easy to get around on public transport or by motorway and it really feels bigger. This of course has advantages and disadvantages. Anywhere can be reached by public transport, so for example a football game in Bochum or Dortmund (two+ hours away) can be reached pretty easily but also further away trips are possible with the right planning. If you want to go to Belgium or the Netherlands for a day trip they are both really close and there are usually ways to get around. On buses you just walk on here without showing your ticket and – in Bonn anyway – there are very rarely ticket inspectors on the bus. I’ve been checked once on a bus in almost two years.
The Germans are quite funny when you get to know them – and even sometimes you can hear funny comments at a shop or at a match – but at times “the craic” is missing. It’s hard to describe maybe the madness of a lock-in for example… (to be fair Germany has pretty late closing hours so it’s probably null and void) or the friendliness from random people you meet in the pub on the street. But sure that’s what we can bring with us…
Then again, I went to Gelsenkirchen for a Schalke game once and while on the street two Schalke fans realized I wasn’t German and essentially adopted me for the day! Fußballfreunde! They went to great lengths to show me the historic sports of the city that had meaning for the club and made sure that I wasn’t without a beer at any stage. At one point one of the lads handed me his one and went to buy another one for himself. They were truly fantastic lads and it was a nice way to see a new city.
What does the Cologne Celtics GAA club mean to you?
The Celtics is great for me! I’ve started playing hurling again for the first time in almost 15 years as I stopped as a teenager but now I find myself out every week playing again. It’s a project, a focus for energy, a chance to keep fit and a social club. GAA clubs look after their members and that doesn’t matter if it’s an old institution or a new club like ours. You go to a session and you’ve a group of mates already. On the pitch we’ll battle for the sliotar but off it we’ll go for pints and support each other.
As much as I loved my Erasmus experience, the Dortmund one was a bit more isolating at times. I had some really good friends who lived in other cities who I saw mostly on weekends. With the Celtics there is constant WhatsApp craic and there’s always some project going on. It keeps the brain and body ticking over! As we’re in isolation now I’ve a reason not to spend the whole day eating and instead do whatever sport I can when I get the chance. My experience thus far living in Germany would be completely different if the Celtics weren’t there.
How would you describe the GAA scene in Germany? And in Europe?
Personally, I’d be more focused on our own club and growing it. But there is a GAA scene here most definitely and some of the clubs are further along than ours such as Berlin and Hamburg. However, it’s great to see clubs like Stuttgart GAA coming up and they gave us a great game back in October. I’m looking forward to playing them again. The Darmstadt GAA club is an impressive one as it’s pretty much all Germans. That’s a great sign and they can certainly play – there are some good hurlers among that group!
Having the chance to travel around Europe and play teams like Paris, Berlin and Oslo in Amsterdam is pretty mad but it’s great. It’s fantastic that it’s open to players of all levels. Long may it continue! Fair play to all the clubs around Europe who keep our sports growing and hopefully we’ll all be back on the pitch before too long!
Which is your preferred sport – Hurling or Gaelic Football? Why?
Hurling is definitely my preferred sport. Hurling is magical, hurling is Ireland, hurling is wild, skilful, spiritual, tough and beautiful. I grew up on a diet of points by Joe Deane, the athleticism of Seán Óg and the skill and trickery of Ben and Jerry O’Connor. Wayne Sherlock was a local hero and when you step into Blackrock Hurling Club you can’t stop yourself from meeting legends of the game: Tom Cashman, John and Alan Browne, Eamon O’Donoghue, Jimmy Brohan, Fergal Ryan and so many more. I went to hurling games, I played hurling and my club is primarily hurling so definitely hurling.
Did you play GAA back in Ireland?
I did a bit. I played for my club Blackrock National Hurling Club up to the time I was a teenager but at the time I didn’t really enjoy it. I played in primary school as well. Maybe I should’ve played longer but to be honest it just wasn’t for me at the time and the lads there won plenty of trophies afterwards! This year the club got over the line and won the Cork County Championship which was great.
I coached for a few years and also helped out with some of the Cúl Camps at the club so I always kept my hand in even when I wasn’t playing. It’s pretty nice to see some of the lads I helped coach at the age of 10 now playing for the adult teams at the club. It’s great to see them doing so well.
Can you describe what the GAA is like back home in Ireland?
The GAA is massive in Ireland. It’s everywhere. The stars of the GAA are normal, local people so as I said walking into our club at home you see legends of the game with All Irelands coming out their back pockets. The GAA is the summer in Ireland. It’s titanic battles of great rivals, it’s the passion of the Town End Terrace on a sunny May day, it’s the last minute of an All-Ireland Final and nail-biting „can we get over the line?“ finishes. But it’s also school teachers, your classmates and the stars like Jack McCaffrey who are working in the health service at this difficult time. The GAA is politics, it’s front page news, it’s back page news, it’s local, it’s national, it’s Ireland.
What are your hopes for the Cologne Celtics club going into the future?
Personally I just want to see it grow and remain creative! It’s great seeing people from all over the world come to our training sessions and thus experience our sports and our culture. My hope is to see that continue. In terms of on-the-field, winning matches is brilliant no doubt about it but for me it’s great to have this social outlet and piece of Ireland in the Rheinland. Seeing how it will develop and how we can mix Germany and Ireland will be great going forward. We’ve already had Karnival-Training and we’ve started having Gaeilge gatherings (Pop-Up Gaeltachts) so let’s see how it continues on.
Favourite Gaeilge seanfhocail?
“Is minic a bhris beál duine a shrón.” – It is often that a person’s mouth broke his nose.
“Giorraíonn beirt bóthar” – two people shorten the road (the trip).
There are so many wonderful Gaeilge proverbs. It would take a long time to list them all!
How’s your German?
It could be better. One of my 2020 aims is to start German lessons. I have enough to live here comfortably but as my job is in English and my social circle is mostly English speakers I need to do some lessons to really drive on. Thankfully, my girlfriend Ute is German so that really helps! But yes I would like to improve it. I read in German pretty often and I come across German texts a lot in work but yes to really move it forward I should do more classes.
Any funny stories / observations about Germany you can share?
I’m not sure how many of those stories I could share over the internet but just an observation on German life. German trains do not run on time. It’s something that blows the mind of many people I talk to at home but the trains at home are more reliable. The caveat is that the train system in Germany is far bigger, more integrated and much more complex than what we have at home but train delays in Germany is a fact of life. You should almost factor in a delay of about 20 minutes when traveling anywhere on German trains! I love the train system – don’t get me wrong- as it gets me everywhere I want to go, but the myth of perfect German efficiency is definitely just a myth!