A month after our trip to Munich, the Cologne Celtics hurlers were back out on the pitch, and this time we hosted our very first home hurling tournament at Bezirkssportanlage Chorweiler. We were delighted to welcome the hardy bucks from Stuttgart GAA and Darmstadt GAA for some hard-fought games of iománaíocht.
We have crossed paths with the lads at Darmstadt many times in recent years, and we know it will always result in a battle, and with Stuttgart it was our first meeting with them since going to their tournament in October 2019. That tournament was our last hurling tournament before the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic which halted so many potential matches and tournaments.
Preparing for a tournament is always a huge amount of work. Getting all the pieces in place, such as sorting out pitches, fixing a schedule, sourcing the right equipment, having referees ready, making sure there is an after-party and just trying to make the day work as well as possible – there is always someone working away in the background to put that in place.
Thank yous need to go out to everyone who helped in the running of and build-up to the day. These include; Finbar Coyle and his great poster, Jan and Julia Stolle, Tom Noack and Wolfgang Heisel transporting the necessary refreshments, Stephen O’Rourke for organising the visit of Pie-Haus Colonia and Panzerfreunde-Ehrenfeld with their Ballerbrause IPA, Thomas and the team at O’Reilly Sports for designing, providing and sponsoring our new camogie jerseys, Gareth, Katharina and Fred for looking after the scores, the refreshments, the Corona-rules etc. at pitchside and Laura with transporting our first-aid kit, storage boxes and a lot more with Theresa!
Special thanks must go to Frank and Lea for really driving on the projects from the hurling and camogie sides. From organising the event and coordinating with teams, sorting the pitches, planning the schedule, organising teams etc. these two were immense throughout!
There are people I may have left out here in the preparation but to everybody who contributed to it, the evidence of your success is in how well the tournament went. So, go raibh mile maith agat, vielen Dank – thank you – for whatever role you played in the preparation and running of the day. It really is a team and club effort to get these events together.
The Hurling Tournament
The hurling started with Cologne v Darmstadt. Familiar rivals at this stage, this first match was an epic. Darmstadt’s tactics of starting a sweeper caught Cologne by surprise, and it took until the introduction of Dave from Düsseldorf as full-forward before Cologne got a handle of it. Darmstadt had a dream start with a goal in the opening minutes, but Cologne kept in touch with points from Finbar and Jack from midfield and Oisín and Dave in the forwards. Darmstadt’s puck-out strategies and use of their extra man around the middle of the field ensured that they kept the scoreboard ticking over. At half time Darmstadt were ahead by one point – 1.04 to 0.06.
Cologne got the break they needed in the second half with a goal through our Bonn stalwart – Fabian. This all led to a tight finish that was settled in spectacular fashion. Jack – our Kilkenny man based in Düsseldorf – picked up a ball around the middle of the field and drove towards the Darmstadt half. With skill and power in abundance, he eventually worked an opening and rattled the Darmstadt net! This goal was decisive as Cologne came out of a difficult encounter with a victory at 2.07 to 2.06.
The second match of the day put Cologne against Stuttgart. Cologne dominated the opening half reaching half-time 2.05 to 1.00 ahead. Getting on the pitch towards the end of the first half, Charles used his sporting experience to set up Dave for a great goal and was almost in for a goal himself. Such scores are vital and it really helped us to go into half time in a confident state of mind.
That first match against Darmstadt allowed Cologne to come in battle-hardened, and this was a tough opening match for the lads from Swabia. Cologne was able to use the bench more in this match, and everyone who came out to the tournament received plenty of game-time! Stuttgart put over a couple more points in the second half and made a fight of the second half but in the end, Cologne came away with a victory of 4.06 to 1.03. Unfortunately, there was a stoppage towards the end of the match due to an injury to Stuttgart’s Mick Cooney. We send him our best wishes and hope for a swift recovery!
The third match of the day put Darmstadt up against Stuttgart. In a match with plenty of points it showed that goals win games. Darmstadt recovered from the disappointment of the near defeat to Cologne to come away with a victory by 6.08 to 0.08. This put the final of the tournament as Darmstadt v Cologne in a rematch of the first game of the day.
The final proved to be another tough match but at this stage Cologne could better handle Darmstadt’s tactics and the sweeper system. With Dave established as full-forward our half-forwards Justus, Oisín, Niall and Fabian (on rotation) were able to put more pressure on the puckouts and pick up the extra man driving forward. Cologne established a lead at half-time of 0.06 to 0.00.
Our backline performed heroics throughout the tournament – lead by Frank (who delivered a couple of inspirational points from distance) and Liam and very ably supported by Jan, Vangelis, Boris, and Johannes – our lads fought for every ball and delivered when we were under pressure. Wolfgang was our goalkeeper for the day, and he put in a mighty performance! Goalkeeper is a tough and often lonely position as the buck really does stop with you, however, Wolfy not only pulled off some good saves but also delivered some excellent puck-outs.
The second half of the final saw Darmstadt come back into the match, but Cologne always had enough to keep them at bay. In the second half, Darmstadt were able to put over a few more points and came close on more than one occasion to rattling our net but by the end of the match we kept them to 1.04. We got over the line on a score of 1.11 to 1.04.
The Camogie Tournament
As great as it was to host our first tournament, it was arguably an even bigger achievement to host our very first camogie tournament! It is not long ago that Lea was our only camogie player at training sessions flying the flag. However, since early 2020 we have built a solid core of camogie players with Laura, Kea, Katharina, and Clara present and training most Saturdays. Lorna and Charlotte have also joined them since end-of-lockdown in 2021. Unfortunately, both Lorna and Charlotte were not able to get to this tournament, but we will see them at future matches. Our first camogie-only session, held in August, was also a massive success as we had 30 ladies playing, including many who had never played before.
Since becoming Ladies’ Officer, Lea has put in an enormous amount of work to grow this section of the club. Our involvement in the 20×20 Campaign, the Cologne Celtics Ladies’ WhatsApp group, their own team-bonding events like the Muddy Angel Run last month and the ladies’ only training have all contributed to the development of this area of the club, and all these steps culminated in this tournament.
Taking to the field in their new jerseys provided and sponsored by O’Reilly Sports, the first match brought Cologne up against Darmstadt. Cologne came away with a win on a score of 5.01 to 2.02. The Cologne ladies for the day – Lea, Katharina, Laura, Elena, Fiona, and Clara – were reinforced by Elisa and Róisín from Vienna Gaels. In a mighty performance, Cologne won their first ever camogie match. Clara, in particularly, showed her skill and ability throughout the tournament, and really established herself as Cologne’s star player.
The second and third matches of the tournament showed the quality of the Munich Colmcille’s camogie team as they beat both Cologne and Darmstadt. Scoring some quality points and putting together well-worked goals, they proved to be the team-to-beat. They beat Cologne by 1.08 to 0.03 and Darmstadt by 3.05 to 0.01.
This put Cologne into the final against Munich and in a much closer match to the first game, Munich came out worthy winners by 0.08 to 1.02. Well done to Munich for showing their ability throughout the day, and they showed the standard that our ladies can now aim to reach.
The Social Side
Of course, the hurling and camogie aspect of hurling/camogie tournaments are important, but the social side is what keeps us coming back. It was a pleasure to meet the hurling men and women from Darmstadt, Stuttgart, Vienna and Munich, and there was a nice and relaxed atmosphere on the side of the pitch throughout. No animosity, no troubles – just a chance to have the craic, demonstrate this wonderful sport and discuss the important issues in life – like pretending you know where Ballinasloe is…
On the side of the pitch, we were also joined by Pie-Haus Colonia and the lads from Panzerfrunde-Ehrenfeld with their delicious IPA “Ballerbrause Colonia Pale Ale”. Both of them had a productive day as their stocks completely sold out! I just about got my hands on a Steak and Guinness Pie – there were only four pies in total left when I reached the stall – and it was just what was needed. As for the beer, my description of it as “delicious” is unfortunately not based on experience but from hearing it through the grapevine… Hopefully, we will see them again for our next tournaments.
Following the tournament, our players went to celebrate in Jameson’s Distillery Pub, and all I’ve been allowed to disclose is that there was karaoke and some alleged crimes against music and singing involved!
Winning matches is always a great feeling, but this event really showed the value of building a squad and a club.
The tournament turned out to be a success but there are definitely lessons we as a club can take away from this experience. We will store those lessons in our collective memory bank and try and implement them for our next tournament, until then here are some other lessons we learned:
- Seán Fuchs found his true calling in life – nevermind teaching, he really was always destined to be an umpire.
- Wolfgang has an incredibly practical bike when it comes to transporting crates of beer!
- Someone involved with our club, who shall not be mentioned, has reached the age of 30(plus) without knowing the story of the “Three Little Pigs”/ ”die Drei Kleine Schweinchen”.
- Pie-Haus Colonia found an ideal niche market in hungry hurlers/camógs and our supporters!
- It is always better to prepare in advance as the condition of a pitch and goalposts can often surprise you!
- We now have a squad of players – a genuine squad of players – and it is looking bright for hurling in the Rhineland!
Once again, big thank yous to everyone who made this tournament happen. If you are in the areas of Darmstadt, Stuttgart, Munich, and Vienna, and want to try out these Gaelic sports – make sure to get in touch with the clubs there! Better still, if you are in Cologne, Bonn, Düsseldorf etc. and want to get involved, please get in touch with us. We are always looking for new members, players, volunteers, and partners.
This was the first big hurling/camogie tournament in Cologne. It won’t be the last!
Photos courtesy of: Tom Noack, Julia Stolle, Laura Kennedy and Oisín O’Mahony