„A new power is rising.“
On March 12th 2022, history was made for the Cologne Celtics GAA club. We collected the first two trophies of our club’s history, as we won both the hurling (Chris Hennessy) and camogie (Sebastian Rießbeck) German Cups at the ISD (International School of Düsseldorf) sports facilities in Düsseldorf. This tournament was the rescheduled 2021 competition, as in September this year, we will be hosting the 2022 edition! We’re hoping that these wins will be just the start of a successful year for the Celts.
The first German Hurling Cup took place in 2015 and was hosted by Dresden, and the first German Camogie Cup took place a year later in Hamburg. This was the sixth edition of the Chris Hennessy Cup and the fifth Sebastian Rießbeck Cup. The Cologne Celtics now joins Hamburg GAA (3x winners) and Berlin GAA (2x winners) in the roll of honour for the Chris Hennessy Cup, and Hamburg GAA (2x winners), Berlin GAA and Munich Colmcilles in the list of winners of the Sebastian Rießbeck Cup.
Training, Running and Focus
These German Cup triumphs were not an overnight success. Many hard hours and work has gone in to deliver victory. Our hurling officer, Frank O’Connor, really pushed our players to focus on this competition and bring our first trophies back to the Domstadt. After a couple of wins last year during the Munich tournament and our home tournament, we had a short break over Christmas before getting back to training at the start of January.
Since the start of 2022, we have trained hard, focused on fitness and linked up closely with our friends at Düsseldorf GFC to come together more often and share our expertise with joint training sessions. This year, we have also redoubled our efforts to host ladies‘ only sessions to ensure that our camogie team is ready to work as a unit and work on challenging for the ball, perfecting skills and building a team ethos.
The weekend before the Cup, we held our biggest training session of the year, with a big turnout from our friends at Düsseldorf, and had a ladies‘ session the following day. Both training sessions were held to focus on team shape and to prepare our bodies and minds for the competition to come. In particular, during the Saturday session, our players ripped into each other and got ourselves ready for the games.
Not everything went according to plan in the build-up, as some of our more established players (for both hurling and camogie) were forced to pull out, due to work reasons, holiday plans and unfortunate corona infections. However, there will be plenty of ample opportunities for them with the year ahead!
Hurlers: Two wins in the group
After making our way to the ISD sports grounds in Düsseldorf, our players trained together. Our hurlers and camógs came together for a joint warm-up led by Frank and Damo (Damien Ellis), where we got the heart rate up, got the eye in and started to prepare mentally for the game to come.
For our men, the Chris Hennessy Cup consisted of six teams split into two groups of three. Our group consisted of Prague Hibernians and „The Gaels“. „The Gaels“ consisted of some of our fellow teammates, players from Düsseldorf and Hamburg, playing in Düsseldorf jerseys. The second group consisted of Hamburg GAA, Darmstadt and Setanta Berlin. From there, the top team in the group played against the top team in the other group, 2nd against 2nd and so on. This ensured that everyone had plenty of hurling! In our first match, our hurlers were up against the Prague Hibernians.
Two years ago, Prague beat us in Cologne in the first Celtics-Hibernians Cup, so we were looking to even the score! Prague is a tough team with plenty of players who can run all day, so we knew we were in for a battle. Our team consisted of Otso in goal, a defence of Cathal, Damo and Eoin, a midfield of Ciarán and Finbar, with our forward three as Oisín, Tommy and Malte. Johannes and Tobias were our „jokers“ on the bench – super subs – who made their impact known whenever they were called upon! It was not an easy start to a tournament, but with goals from Tommy, Ciarán and Oisín, and Ciarán having a storming point-taking display, the Celts won out by 3:09 to 2:04.
Our next match happened shortly afterwards, and this time we were up against „the Gaels“. We know how tough some of these lads are, as we play against them every week in training, and we were not taking this lightly. However, after a tough match against Prague, our bodies and heads were warmed up. In the end, we scored 7:17 with Tommy, Oisín, Malte and Ciarán all raising green flags (goals) with points from out the field from Cathal and Finbar to supplement them. Although the scoreline was not kind to „the Gaels“, speaking as a player, those lads battled hard, did not lie down, and it was a real physical battle at times!
We had achieved our first goal, as we came out of our group with two wins. We now had a long wait before the German Cup final against Hamburg.
The Sebastian Rießbeck Cup – Camogie
Our ladies section has undergone an enormous transformation in the last two years. It was not long ago that it consisted of just our Ladies‘ Officer Lea coming to training by herself. Her tireless work and the commitment of our camógs are to be commended!
Coming into the tournament, we were confident that we could do well this year. Our performance in our home tournament in October 2021 and our ladies‘ training sessions have shown that there is talent in the Rhineland. However, we did face some drawbacks as some key players could not come to the tournament, meaning we only had six available players to start off with (however, Fiona joined later). For this reason, we were delighted to be joined by two Setanta Berlin players, Róisín and Christine, who played with our camógs.
Cologne (and Setanta) won their first two matches against Hamburg and Darmstadt, ensuring that they would make the final. Lining out in our specially designed jerseys from sponsors O’Reilly’s, we had a defence consisting of Katharina, Lea and Róisín (2 out of the 3), a midfield of Aoibhín and Caitlín, and Lucie and Christine, as our forwards.
It is fair to say that Cologne started like a rocket, with the tournament’s standout player, Caitlín knocking in scores from all angles. She was very ably reinforced by Aoibhín and Lucie, who kept the scoreboard ticking over throughout. Our defence gave little away, as Katharina and Lea showed plenty of drive and aggression to ensure they got to the sliotar first. Laura was very capable in goal (especially considering it was her first time playing in the position!) and made some impressive blocks. The Cologne ladies were in flying form with a free-scoring attack and a solid defence.
For the final, Fiona was ready to reinforce the tiring bodies. She slotted into the backline and contributed admirably as our ladies faced up against Darmstadt. Our ladies scored some vital goals in a tough first half, with Aoibhín, Lucie and Caitlín all getting on the scoresheet. After getting to half-time, our players never looked back and earned their victory in the end. The first trophy in the history of the Cologne Celtics GAA Club was secured!
|Sebastian Rießbeck Cup 2021|
|Game 1||Darmstadt (& Setanta)|
Cologne Celtics (& Setanta)
|Game 3||Darmstadt (& Setanta)|
Cologne Celtics (& Setanta)
The Chris Hennessy Cup Final
Following our match with „The Gaels“, there was a long break until the final. In that time, our players had the chance to relax, do some refereeing, umpiring, support our ladies and manage the ladies‘ team (in Finbar’s case). As the final drew closer, we had to get our bodies warmed up again. Well done to Cathal and Damo for taking control of that situation. Speaking as a player, I really did fear that my muscles would cramp after the long break! Thankfully they did not.
Going into the final, we knew this would be our most formidable challenge. As a club, we have enormous respect for Hamburg GAA, and as they won both the hurling and camogie competitions in 2019, we knew this would not be easy.
That final was a really hard-fought battle, a tough match. We went in saying it would be won in the early stages; however, our game plan went out the window when Hamburg scored a goal in the opening 30 seconds! We did not panic and instead focused on our game plan, using our accurate shooting from distance and the physical presence of Tommy playing full forward to our advantage. We knocked away at the lead with points from distance and then got ahead through a characteristic Malte poacher’s goal! However, we could not relax as Hamburg came back into it with points from frees. At half-time, the teams were level.
Our team talk focused on what we were doing well, and we knew we had one half to seal it. We could not drop the intensity, and it was time to push to the end. Our players fought for each other, went into battle, and in the second half, we scored two decisive goals through Tommy capitalising on the harrying and blocking of our forwards and Finbar scoring a rocket of a free. Damo scored a brilliant point from a driving run from defence, and we built a lead.
Towards the end, the game boiled over as tensions rose high. We put our bodies on the line to protect our goal and keep the lead. In the end, I don’t think I was the only one who was relieved to hear the final whistle! We had got over the line.
The final finished Cologne 3:08 Hamburg 1:06. Cue celebrations!
|Game 1 |
Following the final, the trophies were presented. Club captains Lea and Finbar collected them, and Caitlín collected her „Player of the Tournament“ award. Our players could celebrate together and then enjoy our pies from Pie-Haus Colonia and some other well-deserved refreshments!
Afterwards, we headed to McLoughlin’s Irish Pub in Düsseldorf to continue the celebrations, watch Mayo v Kerry and have a few pints. It was a good chance for us to celebrate together and to meet players from other teams in a social setting.
The Tournament as an Experience for the Celts
It is easy to focus on who scored how many points in match reports and list the scorers‘ names. Especially when playing as well, it is a nice shortcut. However, it is more challenging to include the players who covered a crucial run, stood in front of a free or a sideline, intercepted a key pass, put in the critical block, saved the shot on goal etc. As an experience for the Celts‘ team, this tournament was brilliant for our continuing development. Every player who appeared for us had a vital role to play. Even then, we know there are many other players regularly at training who could not be there on Saturday, and they will want to be in the team for the next tournaments.
Vangelis Bita is a man who deserves mention in this regard. Not someone who comes from a known hurling stronghold, Vangelis volunteered to play with Prague as they were short a player and then proceeded to play with the Gaels when they were playing. The rumour is he even volunteered for the camogie team when they were short a player! As much as winning is fantastic, it is brilliant to see our regular players getting plenty of matches and playing this sport we all love. That is what brings us back every week.
From a club perspective, it is fair to say that we learned a tremendous amount from observing how Düsseldorf GFC ran the tournament. Initially, this tournament looked unlikely to occur until Düsseldorf put their hands up to host it! A big thank you has to be given to Sinéad, Paul and the rest of the crew for a brilliantly run competition. Special thanks also have to be given to Daniel, Chris and the other referees, as without them such events cannot take place. As we are hosting the next German Cup, we know we have a lot to do to match Düsseldorf’s effort.
There is plenty of GAA talent in the Rheinland, and soon, our attention will switch to Football with the German Gaelic Football Cup taking place in Augsburg on April 2nd.
For the next few days, though, we will celebrate the first trophies in the history of the Cologne Celtics! German Cup hurling and camogie champions!
If you would like to get involved with the Cologne Celtics or would like to contact us regarding future projects or collaborations, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We are always looking for new players, social members and those who can help out in any way. Many of our players are Irish, but we have as many German and other international members – for our male and female teams. Most of our international players were complete beginners before evolving into the players they are today. If you want to try a fantastic new sport, meet a friendly community from all over the world, and travel Germany and further afield playing in tournaments – why not sign up with us!
We look forward to hearing from you.