On Saturday, April 1st 2023, a large Cologne Celtics GAA Club contingent travelled across the border to Maastricht to represent the club at the European Hurling/Camogie Championship Round 1. Our players represented us with pride, with our camógs and hurlers reaching their respective finals before suffering heartbreak.
It is not that long ago that we sent our first-ever team to represent us on the European stage – June 2019 in Amsterdam – and considering we lost every match we played in at that tournament and came last… it is fair to say we have developed enormously in that time. We hope this is just the start of what will be a successful 2023 campaign.
This tournament report has been written by our club hurling officer – Frank O’Connor – and our club secretary – Lea Janssen.
Following our St. Patrick’s Weekend tournament – the Francie O’Connor Cup – we sent a strong team to this tournament. Although at that tournament, we did not have a memorable day on the pitch with defeats to Eindhoven and Monagea, it did prepare us for what was to come on the European stage.
Our team in Maastricht consisted of Finbar, Frank, Jan, Malte, Arun, Colin, Jack Cotter, Jack McCarron, Fred, Tobi, Vangelis, Anto, Aindrias, Dave and Fabian, with Santiago, coming along to provide very valuable support to us off the field.
Group: Cologne Celtics 1-12 Den Haag 3-3
Our first match put us up against Den Haag. Den Haag GAA is one of the most established clubs in Europe, and they had played their first match against Darmstadt immediately before playing us. Their first match finished as a comfortable victory for them with a score of 6-10 to 1-2; however, they came in for a shock when they faced our Celts.
We started well and scored a few points to establish a lead. We held a narrow lead at half-time and could build from there. Our performance was more convincing than the final score allowed for, as we possibly could have done more to prevent some of the Den Haag goals.
However, although those scores had the potential to derail us, our players kept a cool head and a consistent scoring pace throughout the match. Our scoring ability from distance was a crucial aspect of our play, with the two Jacks and Colin being particularly prominent. Our new Kilkenny sensation, Jack Cotter, scored our goal, which ultimately proved to be the decisive factor.
Group: Cologne Celtics 3-07 Darmstadt 1-02
Our second match of the day put us up against our traditional rivals, Darmstadt. It is fair to say since 2021, we have had the upper hand on the men from Hessen, but we have the ultimate respect for them and are looking forward to facing off against them at the upcoming German Cup.
We made several changes to our starting team against them on a very wet and boggy pitch which made quick and snappy hurling difficult. As is their wont, and as they always do, Darmstadt scored an early goal against us and dominated the first half. We were conceding frees and failed to get any rhythm going.
We slowly settled and managed to use the full extent of our panel, resting some of the players from the Den Haag match, and their fresh legs helped us push ahead in a much better second-half performance from our lads. A second-half highlight was Malte’s transformation from a goal-getter extraordinaire to a point-scoring sniper!!
The impact of our St. Patrick’s Day tournament was to be seen here, as two of our star men on the Rheinland Gaels team, Vangelis and Arun, were very effective. Fred and Damo were also hugely imposing and used their physical power significantly.
With two wins under our belt, the Celtics topped our group and progressed through to the semi-finals.
Shield Semi-Final: Cologne Celtics 4-11 Hamburg GAA 2-06
In the last year, we have built up a solid rivalry with the men (and women) from the Hafenstadt up north in Hamburg – having beaten them to win the 2021 German Cup and the Darmstadt Invitational but suffering a heartbreaking defeat in the 2022 German Cup in our own backyard. There was no getting away from them here, either, and we may face up against them soon in the upcoming 2023 German Cup.
Hamburg started well, and we were a bit careless in our defending. We conceded two goals from poorly-defended high balls, and Hamburg took full advantage of the frees we were, at times, needlessly giving away. However, our strength in depth proved crucial to this victory, as our squad battled through the muddy and boggy conditions to deliver success.
Our forwards – Anto, Aindrias and Dave Haughton were extremely accurate and took their scores well. Colin Maher scored abundantly from the backs, including a wonder goal following a solo run the length of the field. Our defenders also proved their absolute worth by putting their bodies on the line in the closing quarter when Hamburg pushed hard to fight back. We defended a few shots on goal from 20-metre frees and eventually came out victorious.
We have to state here that Hamburg was missing some of their more experienced players, which will significantly impact how they will line up at the upcoming tournaments later this year. We expect more and closer battles in the coming months with them. Our players must train hard to ensure they will be ready for a Hamburg team looking for revenge at the next tournaments.
Shield Final: Luxembourg B 2-06 Cologne Celtics: 0-04
With the victory over Hamburg, we were through to the Shield Final, and we were aiming to bring our first European trophy back to the Domstadt. However, it was not to be.
We found ourselves playing on a much better pitch, and the mud and bog were not as big an issue as in the previous matches. However, after four tough matches, even with a big squad, we had tired legs and heads, leading to a lower-scoring and more cagey game.
Our players matched Luxembourg, and we even had more possession, but the Luxembourg defence was resolute and demonstrated how we could also improve as a team. Their display of hooking, blocking and defending was aspirational, showing the benefit they have of regularly training with a large panel of excellent hurlers.
The match itself was a feisty affair, and our players played with bravery, commitment, and no little skill, but Luxembourg showed their experience and craft and took their chances when they got them. In the end, Luxembourg ran out comfortable winners, but we also learned a massive amount as a club.
Overall, we showed a marked improvement from our last outing with a full panel in Amsterdam in 2019, where we were trounced in every match. This development is a testament to all the work that we have been doing on the field, the commitment of our players coming back from mittel-Hessen, Hannover, Heilbronn and Ireland to play and train as often as they can and to the people doing all the work in the background, securing pitches, ordering gear, lugging hurleys and helmets around and much much more.
We learned much from our experiences battling for the Francie O’Connor Cup and applied those lessons in Maastricht. There we saw the intensity and fitness required to consolidate our progress at the European level.
On the day, our best player was undoubtedly Colin Maher, who at times seemed to be playing in every position on the field and committed to shouldering everyone in Limburg province. Our German national team lads (Fabian, Jan and Malte) were also in excellent form, showing the very high standard of hurling in Germany. Our team was also one of the most multinational teams in the tournament, with players from Greece, Australia, India and our many German stalwarts there.
And special thanks to Santi for keeping an eye on us through the day and getting us to where we needed to be. Tournaments are a team affair, and getting to the Shield Final was a clear demonstration of the strength of our panel in 2023, but we now aim to go one step further in the coming tournaments and deliver more silverware to our club.
Here are the final results from the tournament:
A big shout out to everyone at Maastricht GAA for all their organisational efforts and for the warm welcome.
Our camogie team didn’t get the benefit of the run-out at our St. Patrick’s Day tournament, but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm to get to Maastricht. Four camógs represented the Celtics in Maastricht, with Club chairperson Laura Kennedy, Ladies Officer Katharina Breuer, Julia Jeske and Sarah Prendergast swapping the beloved Rut un Wiess for Oranje as we teamed up with Den Haag.
Our players complemented the Dutch team, as whereas our ladies provided strength in defence with Laura lining up in goal, Kat in the backline, and Julia and Sarah playing between the defence and midfield, the Den Haag ladies provided the craft and guile in the forward line. Emily led the ladies from the Hague and was an inspirational leader.
After a long wait for matches through the winter season, we had four matches all at once in Maastricht. The first match put us up against the ladies of Belgium B and Eindhoven, and we came away with the victory with a scoreline of Cologne/Den Haag 1-05 Belgium B/Eindhoven 0-04.
The weather throughout the day was a factor, as it was a lousy, cold, wet day. The pitch conditions weren’t the best either, as they were muddy and boggy… When the ladies weren’t playing, they made sure to cover themselves in coats, hats, scarves and umbrellas since the weather didn’t know any mercy. However, our players shone in these conditions and came away with a motivating victory against strong opponents.
Our second match of the day put us up against Luxembourg, and the ladies in white and sky blue lost to us by one goal. It didn’t look good at half-time for our ladies when we were 1 goal and 3 points behind. But we turned it around in the second half and ended the match with 2-4 to 1-4 against Luxembourg. Cologne/Den Haag 2-04 Luxembourg 1-04.
The Cologne/Den Haag combination worked wonders as we entered our third match. This game brought us up against a lot of familiar faces as we faced off against a Hamburg/Berlin/Darmstadt/Paris combination. Our odyssey continued as we won a relatively tight match by the final scoreline of 3-08 to 3-05. Cologne/Den Haag 3-08 Hamburg/Berlin/Darmstadt/Paris 3-05. This game was another close match, and our hearts were on our sleeves throughout, but we got over the line and into the final!
Throughout the tournament, Sarah produced barnstorming performances in defence/midfield and built upon her performance at the 2022 German Cup, where she won Player of the Tournament. Julia Jeske demonstrated the skills and techniques she has learned in the months with the club. Since joining the Celtics in late 2022, Julia has been one of our most active members and has been involved with several aspects of running our club. We are most grateful for everything that she has done since joining.
Laura and Kath are two of our most experienced club members, and they produced fantastic displays in defence. Laura has really established her place in the defence/goal while nothing gets past Kath too easily!
The final put us up against Belgium A – the royalty of European Camogie. We skipped the last matches of the group round because these two groups would be top no matter what, so decided to not play the final group game against each other and instead play the final directly. Belgium proved far too strong for us and came away as comfortable champions with a scoreline of 4-15 to 1-06. Belgium A 4-15 Cologne/Den Haag 1-06.
We saw the levels needed to become champions of Europe and know that we need to put in a lot of work as a club to get to that level. For now, we are happy to say we came second in a European competition, but with work, patience and further building, we hope to come home with the big trophy from a future tournament.
Overall, it was a great day, meeting many familiar faces and new people and making friends, putting on the Oranje for the first time teaming up with Den Haag. We didn’t win any trophies, but the hurlers and the camógs were presented with bags of sliotars for the clubs by the GGE, so thanks again here!
Our ladies‘ footballers were also in action, with Ammi, Laura Martin and Sarah Butler representing the Celtics at Dendermonde. There, they teamed up with Nijmegen and played with pride as Cologne/Nijmegen beat Luxembourg B – 6-08 to 0-01, lost to Amsterdam by 5-08 to 0-01 and reached the Shield Final but lost there to Leuven/Den Haag by 3-03 to 1-06.
Well done, ladies, for ensuring that Cologne was represented at such a big tournament. We hope to see more of our footballers taking part and playing significant roles in further tournaments in the future!
It is great to have the Celtics back on the European and Benelux stage. 2023 has now officially begun for us, and we believe that this year will be a strong year for the Celtics. With a new training home at Bezirkssportanlage Bocklemünd, bigger training sessions and more members than ever before, our aims have never been higher.
However, we are always looking for new playing and social members to get involved with our club. We are open to beginners and those who have not played in many years. Even if you do not want to play, you can become a social member of the club from anywhere in Germany, Ireland and further afield. By becoming a club member, you can get involved with club activities and help drive our club to further success on the field and grow further off the field.
If you would like to join in a training session in either Gaelic football or hurling/camogie, please do not hesitate to contact us here on the website or via social media.
Our players will be back in action at the 2023 German Cup later this month, and our summer schedule is already filled with tournaments and matches. We expect to face more Irish opposition in Cologne later this year but keep an eye on our club website and social media for further information on that project.