The 2023 edition of the German Hurling and Camogie Cups was hosted by Darmstadt. The Sebastian Rießbeck and Chris Hennessy Cup competitions have become a big focus of our year over the last few editions. We went in hoping to replicate our form from the 2021 competition, where we won both trophies.
We also went into the tournament with great memories of our last visit to the facility at the Darmstädter Hochschulstadion. However, we did not come home with the trophies, as Hamburg (hurling) and Munich (camogie) were the victorious teams this year.
Our hurling team was made up of the following players: Ger, Jan, Padraig, Damo, Flo, Johannes, Malte, Cal, Chris, Pa, Tobias, Jack, Fabian and Aindrias, while our camogie team featured Laura, Katharina, Kea, Julia, Sarah Bermingham, Sarah Prendergast and Sarah Butler and we were backed up by Kristin, Patricia and Vanessa from Setanta Berlin.
Our coach and youth officer, Ger Cronin, and our camogie star, Sarah Bermingham, wrote the following article.
For the Cologne Celtics team, the German Cup 2023 involved an early start on the morning of Saturday, April 22nd. We needed to arrive in Darmstadt on time for our first game against the host themselves at 10am. Most of the team car-shared for the nearly 3-hour trip from the Domstadt to Darmstädter Hochschulstadion, and we were on the road at 6.15am. With the last members of the team arriving at 9.45, there wasn’t much time for adequately warming up and getting a feel for the Astro pitch surface. While the ladies played their games on the lawn-like grass surface on the neighbouring pitch, the men’s tournament was played on the artificial surface.
The Celts lined out with a potent mix of experienced players and a few less-experienced players, with Chris and Cal making their debut in the European hurling scene. We had a panel of 14 players, and in most cases, each position was shared by two players who subbed in or out at half-time. This ensured that all our players who made that long trip to Darmstadt got lots of playing time.
Cologne Celtics 2.07 v Darmstadt GAA 2.06
Darmstadt has always been a close rival of the Celts, and we have had some great encounters in the past. Since 2021, we have had the upper hand, but we know that we will always have a battle on our hands when we line up against the Darmstadt lads.
A warm sunny day was forecast; even at 10am, the temperature was up, and the sun shone. The Celts didn’t make the ideal start, and within the first 5 minutes, the Darmstadt forwards had hammered in two fast goals. Giving away early goals is becoming a bad habit we must resolve. The Celts were rocked. The backline of Damo, Jan and Chris got together with Ger for a quick wake-up call where we adopted the mantra, “No ball or man would get goal side of them”, and credit where it is due… this backline did precisely this.
The ship was steadied, and with Jack and Cillian now getting on top at midfield, our forward line of Pa, Aindeas and Fabian could get excellent quality ball. The points were flowing now as we had great scores from play from all the forwards, as well as faultless free taking from Jack, and the gap was closing.
Darmstadt did continue to score an odd point here and there from play. The home side is no longer made up of just native players from the Technical College, but with a few fine hurlers from Ireland have also joined their ranks. They showed their quality from the middle of the field, but the Celts‘ backline held. The half-time score was 2.04 to 1.05, with a two-point lead for the home side. After such a poor start, we felt we were back in the game with a chance.
In the second half, the subs came on with clear instructions to keep the defence robust, Tobias and Johannes picking up from Damo and Chris with the same intensity while Cal gave Jack a well-earned break at midfield. Malte and Padraig were now in the forwards with Aidrias. The new players took a while to settle in, and Darstadt were able to extend their lead to 3 points in the first few minutes of the second half.
While the teams exchanged points, the urgency for the Celts to net a second goal grew with every passing minute. Malte and Padraig fought hard battles with the Darmstadt defence fighting for every ball, but the elusive goal was not coming. In the final minutes, Jack returned to the play full of energy and hunger. Collecting a breaking ball won from the puckout by Aidrias, he broke through the Darmstadt defence and netted our second goal. The sides were level with just a couple of minutes to play.
Padraig showed his strength through various tussles with much larger Darmstadt defenders. In one instance, he hit Darmstadt’s Daniel with a fair but hard shoulder and then broke free to collect the ball that had broke a few meters ahead, but the frustrated Darmstadt defender countered with an unfair hit on Padraig’s back, knocking him to the ground as he was collecting the ball. A free for the Celts 40 meters out and slightly to the left of the goal. Cool as you like, Jack stepped up and struck the ball sweetly over the bar. The Kilkenny man had scored the winning point in a hard-fought 2.7 to 2.6 win from the Celts.
In the huddle after the game, we were all in agreement that we had played way below our potential, and we were so lucky to escape with a win. But we had the win, and that was all that mattered.
Cologne Celtics 1.10
Setanta Berlin/Stuttgart 0:02
The next game for the Celts was against Setanta Berlin and Stuttgart in a combined team. But we had a 2-hour wait, and we could watch the competition play. Hamburg had two full teams, and their A team, the current German cup champions, had an impressive opening game against their second team, winning 6.14 to 1.0. Impressive scoring against any competition! We watched Darmstadt play a good win over the Setanta/Stuttgart combination, 1.5 to 0.2, which gave us a positive perspective for our next game.
After reflecting on our first performance, we changed just one position in our lineup. We moved Cal into full forward, as our target man, for the puckouts, with Pa and Aidrias playing off him on either side. From the opening minute, this plan worked really well for the Celts. Jack and Cillian at midfield were joined by Pa, who, by joining midfield, gave Cal much more space to outplay his defender and feed the ball to the on-running forwards to score. Jack, Pa and Aidrias got in on the scoring while Cal himself was also hitting over points.
The Setanta/Stuttgart team fought hard but couldn’t break the defence of Damo, Chris and Jan, who were supported by Cillian, who filled his role as defensive midfield to a tee. At half-time, the Celts had 1.5 on the scoreboard, and the opposition had not a single point. At half-time, the Celts got together in the huddle and were buzzing with positive energy. We just played an outstanding half of hurling.
In the second half, we made the same changes as in the first game, but Flo also joined the defence (he had missed the first game due to train delays) and maintained the status quo of keeping the forwards out. In the final 5mins of the game, the opposition struck over a point to a great cheer from the sympathetic crowd. A second would follow in the final seconds of the game, but the Celt had assumed a total of 1.10 to achieve a great win and also to finish top of our 3-team group.
Cologne Celtics 3.15
Munich Colmcilles 4.14
„We played the German Cup semi-final against the men from the south, the Munich Colmcilles, who was a strong team with whom we have had tough games in the past (see“„Munich Tournament Report 2021“). In that tournament, the team from the deep south of Germany came out on top, but the Celts were on a high after the previous win.“We played the German Cup semi-final against the men from the south, the Munich Colmcilles, who was a strong team with whom we have had tough games in the past (see „Munich Tournament Report 2021“). In that tournament, the team from the deep south of Germany came out on top, but the Celts were on a high after the previous win.
The match between Cologne and Munich would prove to be the match of the tournament. Intense and hard-fought from the opening moments. The strongest player for Munich was their full forward, and he was in top form. He successfully pulled our backline out the field and then used the space when in possession to break through and score. Like against Darmstadt in our first game, we conceded two fast goals in the opening minutes. But Jan, Damo and Chris corrected their mistake and, with the help of Cillian, were able to double up on the Munich full forward and stem his attack.
Meanwhile, Jack was playing the game of the tournament up front and breaking through the Munich defence again and again, creating chances for himself, Pa and Cal, who kept the points ticking over. By half-time, the gap was just three points again, but we were struggling to score goals. For the start of the second half, we agreed to keep the same lineup to start but to change out tired players after a few minutes. Munich extended their lead with a couple of points, and we looked out of it with a 5-point deficit with just 10mins top to play.
Cal had been well marked by the Munich defence but won the next puck out that landed in his path; turning his defender, he laid on a clean pass to Aidrias, who took it cleanly, took a step clear and struck into the back of the net… we were back in the game! Two points down with just a couple of minutes to play.
Jack won the ball again in the middle of the field, and with an outstanding solo effort, he broke through the Munich defence and hammered home the goal to put us in the lead. The next puckout from Munich was won by their midfielder, who went on a strong solo run towards our goal. Cillian followed him and challenged him the whole way until Jan joined the effort, and they dispossessed him. The ball went forward and was won by Pa, who was fouled.. another 40-meter free for Jack. Cool as you like, he struck it over, and Celts were now two points clear. But it wasn’t over yet!
The full forward from Munich collected the ball in the middle of the field and again rounded our defence. He soloed through, and reaching the 21-meter line, he struck a point! A point when a goal was possible, and they were two points behind. There were groans from his teammates. As we stuck our puckout, the ref blew full time, and the Munich full forward fell to his knees, consoled by the Celt players who were celebrating a great win and getting to the German Cup final. But the ref was checking the score and declared to the collected pool of players around him that it was a draw. 3.12 each! Extra time!
The change in emotions across the two sets of players was noticeable!!
There was hardly time to discuss how we would play the extra time before it was started already. We started well and scored two points from play. Munich pulled one back before the first half of extra time was over, 3.14 to 3.13. We were ahead!
In the second half of extra time, we got a 65, and Jack struck it over the bar. 2 point lead and less than two minutes to play. Surely, we had it now!? Their puck out was won by their full forward again, and he broke through. With Damo and Jan still literally hanging off him, he go in a one-handed strike, and Ger had no chance to stop it… Munich were a point ahead, and we were rattled. As Ger rushed the next puck out, it was won by Munich, and they added a winning point. 3.15 to 4.14, the final score. The Celts were gallant in defeat, but this hurt. We had it in our hands twice, and it was whipped away from us. Munich would play Hamburg in a mostly one-sided final.
Cologne Celtics: 4.02
Darmstadt GAA: 4.06
The Celts had a final game, one that none of us wanted. The third-place shield playoff against Darmstadt. Even as we all warmed up under the now-strong afternoon sun, the enthusiasm of the team was dented by a mixture of defeat and fatigue. But we rallied our efforts and made a bright start against the hosts.
The well-oiled Celts offence with Cal, Aindrias and Pa, with the impulse from Jack bursting through midfield, had us up at half-time by a large margin. We had scored 4 goals by half-time, and Jack had shot over a point as well, while Darmstadt had only managed a couple of points from out the field as the Celts‘ defence held solid. Just on the stroke of half-time, we conceded a soft goal as our goalie miss judged a long ball, but with a 4.1 to 1.3 lead, we were more than comfortable and totally dominated the game.
We changed the team at half-time to ensure the subs, who had missed much of the close encounter against Munich, were now on the field. Darmstadt came out fighting and got back a couple of points to close the margin a little. Our defenders, as in the first game, were drawn out to the middle of the field, and suddenly the Darmstadt forwards were in space before our goal. In a period of less than 5mins, they banged in three goals and took the lead. We were totally rocked by this.
Jack returned to the fray and managed to get through for a consolation point, but in the end, we were deserving losers to a fighting Darmstadt team who never gave up in spite of the large margin they were behind. Cologne had defeated themselves in this final game and, in doing so, have given Darmstadt some moral encouragement for future games. That rivalry is now intensified!
In summary, it was a wonderful tournament at a great facility in Darmstadt. While Hamburg was by far the strongest team on the day, there was really good competition and rivalry between the 6 teams competing. The high standard can be seen in the high scoring, mainly from play, as European refs like to let the game “flow”, so to speak. But what was most outstanding was the positive interaction between the players of all teams throughout the day.
The Celts put in a great performance, and our new players gained some valuable experience, while in general, we learnt more about setting ourselves up and the tactics needed for the 9-a-side game, which is the most of our European tournaments. Here’s to the next one!
Camogie Report and Final Comments
For this tournament, we had a sizeable contingent of our own players, and we were also joined by Vanessa, Kristin and Patricia (from Berlin GAA and Setanta Berlin). The Cologne Celtics had a shaky start to the tournament as we faced off against the hosts, Darmstadt. Darmstadt had already played a match against Hamburg, and although they had a tough match against them, it helped the hosts to get into the right mindset. As the match went on, we got a bit more into it, and it finished as a close match… However, the hosts came away with the victory by a scoreline of 3.03 to 2.02.
The promising start, though, did not help much for the next match. Munich brought a very strong team to the tournament, and they really dominated it from the start until the finish. They won every game convincingly, and against us, it was unfortunately no different. They followed up a 6.08 to 0.01 victory over Hamburg by beating us comfortably 6.15 to 0.01.
Our third match brought us up against Hamburg, and after two defeats, we were a bit low, but with each game, we grew stronger and better. We found out what was working and what didn’t work. We played an extremely close match with our rivals from Hamburg, but unfortunately, we came up short by one point. The final score was 3.02 to 3.01.
Our final match of the day brought us up against Darmstadt. After three defeats, we were ravenous for a victory to bring home with us. Darmstadt gave us a great game, but there was going to be no stopping us this time around as we came away with a 2.07 to 2.05 victory. This result meant that we finished the day on a high.
It came as no surprise to see that Munich won the final, as their dominant form carried on throughout. They beat Hamburg in the final by a score of 6.10 to 1.02.
Kea played extremely well as our team goalkeeper for all four matches. Without a doubt, playing in goal in camogie is one of the hardest positions, but Kea made it look so easy, smacking down and catching sliotars as they hurtled towards her.
Sarah Prendergast played an absolute stormer, as usual. When it came to battling for the ball on the ground, she showed everyone who was boss and, the majority of the time, won the ball. In the last game, she was just pucking sliotars over the bar with complete certainty and ease.
Sarah Bermingham scored an amazing point where she kicked the sliotar over the bar.
Sarah Butler scored a goal after only two weeks of playing camogie.
Julia also played excellently in her first full tournament for the club and scored a couple of points.
Kristin, travelling all the way from Berlin, really shows that it’s never too late to learn camogie. She was a trojan in every position – back, forward and mid-field. She was definitely a very welcome player for the day, and we would only love to play with her again! We have played with her before and always appreciate having her on our team.
And then Patricia and Vanessa, our other two new additions from Setanta Berlin, played absolutely fantastically too. They were so relaxed when going into tackles and running with the ball; it was as if they’d been playing it for years as well.
Overall, a fantastic performance by all on the day. I think the heat really did get to everyone, but overall a great day out and was so great to see so many show up for the day.
Although our players didn’t come back with the trophies, we couldn’t be more proud of the performances of each and every one of them. The general consensus was that it was a really enjoyable day with a lovely atmosphere, and everybody was happy to soak up the sun and get some hurling in.
After a couple of barren Corona years, we are now getting plenty of tournament action, and there is a lot of hurling, camogie and Gaelic football action for those available to play. The hurling team we sent out in the German Cup was much different to the team we sent to Maastricht a couple of weeks before that for Round 1 of the European Hurling Championship, and much different again from previous German Cups. Our mix of experienced players and inexperienced ones shows the depth of talent available in the Rheinland, and we are looking forward to further adventures as the year develops.
With new players joining us almost every week and a wonderful new training facility at Bezirkssportanlage Bocklemünd, we are looking forward to new challenges and further tournaments and matches. If you would like to join us for training in hurling/camogie and/or Gaelic football, please do not hesitate to contact us here on the club website or via our Social Media.