2021 was a big year for the Cologne Celtics GAA club. It was a year when we held our first hurling tournament and then won it. It was a year where our ladies’ section experienced tremendous growth, and we had our very first “ladies-only” camogie session. We welcomed new faces and said goodbye to familiar names. It was a year that was bookended by the coronavirus pandemic but one where our club discovered new opportunities, found exciting partnerships and one where we made progress.
However, it has also been a year that has shown that further growth is possible. With the energy of our members and players, we can make the next step. As much as we want our club to have sporting success, the heart of our project is to maintain a welcoming environment for those with all levels of experience and of all backgrounds. It makes for an exciting journey, and we are happy that you are taking it with us.
Early Year: Corona-Difficulties and Opportunities
2021 had a difficult start. The early months were quite bleak as there was no training in sight and no opportunities to do in-person social events. The second and third waves of the pandemic raged on, and we had to be creative to find ways of staying connected. With online events such as our Pop-Up Gaeltacht, St. Patrick’s Day Quiz and Online Karneval, we kept in touch together. Our Pop-Up Gaeltacht was split into two parts whereby learners could come for an hour to learn some basics of the Irish language, while the second part was for more experienced speakers.
Bearing in mind the challenges that many people have faced during this time of lockdown, isolation and fears, we had an important mental health workshop with our healthy club officer Tom. This is becoming an annual event at the Celts and one that we will continue to promote and develop. Our club members are appreciated for who they are, and they should know that there is always someone they can talk to in times of difficulty or crisis. We fight for each other on the pitch, and we support and raise each other up off the pitch.
Our hope for 2022 is for more in-person events and gatherings, particularly with our friends and partners at Jameson’s Distillery Pub. However, we are always careful to adhere to regulations and recommendations.
Charity Fundraising & Other Ventures
Another way we stayed in touch was through our #NoLazyHurl project, whereby we encouraged our members to keep track of their sporting endeavours – whether they were jogging, cycling, hiking or inline skating. Some of our members took part in the #RunningHome initiative, which has raised close to €20,000 for the charities “Focus Ireland” and the “Peter McVerry Trust”. Our own fundraising has (so far) raised €1500.
Stephen joined the organising committee of the #RunningHome project, and the founder of it, Aisling Demaison, contributed a fantastic article to our club website outlining its goals and how the project came about. As part of the organising committee, Stephen was central to initiatives such as “Puck the Path”, which saw other GAA clubs in Europe get involved, and the “Run Without” challenge. Our Cork/Waterford, consisting of Laura and Oisín, “reached home” in July.
Our team of runners also got involved with the Virtual Cork City Marathon in June, and we ran in support of the Sanctuary Runners group. With runners across Bonn and Cologne, our players displayed the Sanctuary Runners jerseys around the Rhineland, and we now hope to see some of our friends from the Cork Sanctuary Runners when we come to visit Cork later in 2022.
Eventually, we could return to the pitch. Malte did a great job at checking the regulations, as at one point, they were changing on an almost daily basis. In the beginning, we had strong numbers for training sessions, and there have been signs of progress on the hurling pitch. We are happy to see that players who started coming around 2019 and 2020 are still turning up for training and matches, and with them, we can create a competitive squad of players.
“My personal highlight for 2021 was the tournament below in Munich, especially the third match against a good Vienna team. On a very hot day, we had tired bodies, and a few injuries, but we hung on at the end for the victory. I’m not sure if we would have made it if the match had gone on a few minutes longer! That showed a resilience that we have in the team, and that is something to build on for next year.”Frank (Registrar and Hurling Officer 2021)
Our first match of the year put us against our friends and rivals from Darmstadt. No game against Darmstadt is easy, and we were delighted to come away with a win. Considering we were missing some very strong players, it shows our less-experienced players that there is space to show their skills if they come to training and keep improving. This match against the men (and ladies) from Hesse was our first hurling match since the Stuttgart tournament in October 2019, we all saw plenty of action, and overall, it was a fantastic day for the club.
Our further performances in the Munich tournament and our victories in our home tournament was further proof that we are now developing. The home tournament we held was the first event of its kind in Cologne, but it won’t be the last! We had a great day with a welcoming environment for family, friends and family and excellent support from local businesses such as PieHaus Colonia.
Our hope in 2022 is to see more European hurling action, and we are very much looking forward to the two German Cups that will be held.
Even as we develop, though, we are always looking for new players! If you would like to try out our sports, please get in contact with us as we would very much like to hear from you!
Camogie and our Ladies’ section
This year we took part in 20×20 programme whereby a focus was on growing our ladies’ section. It is fair to say that since 2020 our ladies’ section has had an incredible transformation. Well done to Lea as ladies’ officer for overseeing this impressive growth! However, we want this to be a starting point to further success.
Sending a group to play in Munich (Lea, Laura and Charlotte) with the ladies from Vienna Gaels was a starting point but fielding a team in our home tournament at Chorweiler who reached the final of our home tournament was an even bigger success. The Munich team is likely further ahead in this development, but our ladies matched them in that final. Our hope going forward is to send our camogie team out against teams all over the region and further afield. As a club, we want it to be the case that our ladies’ team will play in tournaments wherever our men’s team go to play!
Allied to our tournament success, we had a wonderful day with ladies’ training back in August – a day that showed there is interest in playing camogie in the Rhineland. We collaborated with our friends at Düsseldorf GAA and with the Rheinland Lionesses Australian Rules team to make this day a reality. This was an excellent day for the club and one we’re sure our visitor, Lukas Podolski, will never forget. Next year, we aim to have even more female players involved regularly and for even further growth in this area.
„A special event off-the-pitch was the Muddy Angel run that four of our ladies did in the middle of September. We had specially designed jerseys with the motto “#NoMoreExcuses” and our ladies mascot Niamh (designed by Finbar). They all made it successfully across the finish line. The Celts ladies have also had jogging sessions to stay fit. Returning for the second year this winter, our running club has become something like a nice new tradition. Via WhatsApp our ladies stay connected, motivate each other and share their running results.“Lea Janssen – Ladies‘ Officer
If you would like to get involved with our thriving ladies’ group, please get in contact with us and join our Ladies’ WhatsApp chat!
The support of our ladies‘ jerseys sponsors, O’Reilly Sports, is the culmination of the successful growth in this area. We are looking forward to more collaboration and even more significant development in the future.
It has not been all good news in 2021, as our Gaelic football development has lost momentum to some degree. Our only football outings have either been to Düsseldorf GAA or in very small numbers. Whereas in 2019, we had the upper hand in the very first “Rheinderby”, in 2021, we did not (to put it mildly). We have lost some brilliant Gaelic footballers from our team in recent years, and one of our aims in 2022 is to rebuild this part of the club.
Other than some matches against Düsseldorf, we sent a couple of players to the Düsseldorf tournament in September and the German Cup in October. We can learn from our friends at Düsseldorf GAA with their growth in recent years. Our collaborations with them in recent times have allowed their hurlers to see plenty of action with us, and next year we hope to have further collaborations together.
New Friends, Sponsors & Partners
This year has also been a big year for sponsors and partners. In a challenging year for businesses, our Commercial & Partnership Director, Stephen, did enormous work in bringing in both Irishify and O’Reilly Sport for sponsoring (and supplying in the case of O’Reillys) our training and ladies‘ team jerseys, respectively.
Make sure to check out their websites; Irishify has some fantastic services for the Father Ted fans amongst us.
„The Cologne Celtics has made massive progress over the years, and that’s down to the perseverance and team work spirit shown by all members! The club is in a great position, especially in terms of partnerships, with many longterm and committed partners now on board. A big thanks to them! And Kölle Abú!“Stephen O’Rourke, Commercial & Partnership Director (outgoing), Cologne Celtics.
We have Jameson’ Distillery Pub back on board as our principal and jersey sponsor for the coming year. They supported us throughout 2020 at a difficult time for all businesses. It is great that they are with us for 2022, and once things calm down again, we will have many club socials there.
The Verein zur Förderung der Städtepartnerschaft Köln-Cork will support us with our Cork project – and if you want to get involved with a group of Irish enthusiasts, why not check them out. For €20 a year, it is worth supporting them.
With further partnerships with groups such as Torpey and Mycro, our club is in a good place, and our brand is growing.
Website & Social Media
As a club, our social media presence has continued to grow, and it is an excellent way of finding new members and opportunities. Anyone reading this who is not following our social media, make sure to check us out and give us a like, or a follow! Due to our social media following (over 1000 followers on Facebook, 250 on Twitter and 650 on Instagram), we have had groups such as Running Home, the Sanctuary Runners, the Loaf of Bread GAA podcast contact us regarding various projects. Our social media presence is also part of our brand and encourages groups like O’Reilly Sports, Irishify and Jameson’s Distillery Pub to support us.
If you are involved with any GAA-related or Irish-German related project that you believe may be of interest to us at the Cologne Celtics, make sure to get in touch with us.
Another success story has been the Cologne Celtics Website – this website that you are enjoying right now! Steffi at Pen Paper Story has designed this wonderful website, and it has received praise from far and wide. Via the website, we have reached people worldwide, showing how far our brand can extend. Considering the niche area that is a GAA club in Germany, our website has reached over 5000 people worldwide and has had over 10,500 views in just over 12 months. Thanks for the views!
Here are our top viewed posts in 2021!
The introduction of the coaching group has been a massive success in planning and coordinating our training sessions this year. Our group consisting of Frank, Malte, Niall, Oisín and Cathal, has put in a lot of hard work to develop our players. Next year Jan Stolle will be joining up with the group, and already there are rumours of big plans for pre-season training with aims to further build on this year.
Coaching is where our development lies, and we can see the impact on the pitch. In matches, our experienced players have contributed a lot; however, arguably more impressive has been the role of less experienced and international players. Our further development lies in building on our current core of players and developing newer players as they arrive.
Watching players who started playing in the last two years ago and were only getting to terms with the basics turn into the players they are now, has been some journey. Therefore, if you are reading this thinking, “I’d like to play, but I’ve no experience of Gaelic sports”, – do not be afraid! Our coaching team will ensure that you receive the support you need to develop and grow as a player. If you enjoy the sports along the way, we would love to see you join our group!
Our Club Committee
Off-the-pitch, we had new members join our committee this year – namely Katharina as PRO, Seán Fuchs and Niall Kavanagh as Football Officers, Gareth as Irish Language and Cultural Officer and Lea Janssen as Ladies’ Officer. We also had some reshuffling with experienced members changing positions. Niall took over from Seán, as Seán is now in Heidelberg setting up Heidelberg GAA!
A lot of work goes into organising significant events such as tournaments, ladies’ training, trips away, and so forth – thank you to the committee members.
For 2022, we are set to welcome even more new faces, which is for the club’s benefit. Change can bring new ideas and freshen up a set-up before it gets stale. As a young club in a sports-mad city, new ideas and approaches are central to us reaching even more people. We are always looking for new members and always looking for fresh input from our current members and players for further opportunities to expand.
New Players & Members
We have been delighted to have new players join our set-up this year. However, what has been even more promising is that the many more recent players who started coming in 2019/2020 are still here and still training away. Some of the performances of these players in matches this year have been very promising and symbolise that hard work on the training pitch does pay off.
Just like last year, we were limited with the amount of in-person socialising we could do this year. Our plans for a Christmas party and an in-person AGM had to be changed once the Covid-19 situation changed towards the wintertime. We were able to have meet-ups to watch the All-Ireland Hurling and All-Ireland Football Finals, and our time in Munich was great craic, but hopefully, our newer players will also get the chance to experience the real fun of the club once the situation allows for that.
If you have friends, partners, family members, enemies who might want to join up with us, please bring them along. We now have social membership for those who wish to support our work, and for €20 a year, they can keep up to date with everything going on at the Cologne Celtics!
2021 has been a promising year, but it has shown us that further growth is necessary to achieve our ambitious goals! We want to continue improving in all aspects as a club. Hopefully, 2022 will see more action than the previous two years, but we will also grow as a club and community off-the-pitch. The Cologne Celtics are nowhere near the end of their journey!
If you would like to get in touch with us, make sure to contact us directly. If you would like to stay updated with what we have going on, follow our social media, subscribe to our website, become a social member of our club or reach out to us if you want to discuss partnering with our club.
We are going to enjoy a nice Christmas break with our friends and families, but we are already looking forward to what 2022 has to bring! It should make for a fantastic year, so keep an eye out for us.