Gaels throughout Europe are all set for an exciting weekend in Maastricht, Netherlands as Europe’s main GAA venue will host the 2012 O’Neill’s European Gaelic Football Championship finals.
In excess of 500 players from more than 30 teams representing 10 countries will take part, along with travelling friends and club members coming along to support the players. Over 80 games will take place across six pitches at European GAA’s designated home ground.
The European Board is overseeing final preparations for this major GAA event which will see more than 30 teams from all parts of Europe gather for the culmination of their season. The Board was founded in 2000 with just 4 teams and has grown to include almost 70 clubs registered and playing Gaelic Games throughout mainland Europe across 20 countries.
Willie Cashin, Tipperary native and Chairperson of the European GAA Board, says “This year’s finals are not only the largest ever event in our young history, but they will also be one of the most representative.
“The growing mix and diversity of nationalities and languages within our GAA family in Europe is something we are really proud of and is only possible with the commitment and passion of the European players who are here to play the Championship Finals this weekend.”
He also paid tribute “to players, the host club Maastricht Gaels and all the Board officials for their hard work to bring such a huge project to fulfilment as well as to our many sponsors, partners, families, referees and volunteers who are involved in supporting and organising the O’Neill’s European finals.”
Looking forward to the event Liam Ó Néill, Uachtarán, Chumann Lúthchleas Gael said: “It has been an exciting period for the GAA across Europe. This year’s event will mark the largest ever attendance at an ECB finals tournament, all of them converging on Maastricht to compete in Cup, Shield and Ladies Football competitions. This follows successful previous rounds held in Copenhagen and Vienna”.
O’Neill went on to say, “great strides have been made this year with record growth in new clubs and coaching projects in development across France, Spain, Italy, Finland and Germany. The on-going work of the ECB and its many dedicated officials, players and clubs should be commended and shows the continued commitment to the promotion, development and enjoyment of our games in Europe”
Pat Quill, Uachtarán, Cumann Peil Gael na mBan echoed the same sentiments “I thank all the clubs throughout Europe for providing social interaction and integration not only amongst the Irish community but also with the various nationalities amongst whom they reside. I would like to compliment the European County Board for their dedication, commitment and enthusiasm in the promotion of Irish games, culture and heritage. Gaelic games continue to go from strength to strength in Europe and Ladies Gaelic Football plays a key role in this growth”.
Men’s Senior Championship: Guernsey Gaels are going for 2-in-a-row in Europe and are slightly ahead of Belgium in the men’s championship ; plenty of exciting action is also guaranteed with Benelux regional champs Amsterdam; whilst traditionally strong Benelux teams, The Hague and Luxembourg are also threatening to upset the front-runners plans.
Men’s Shield (Junior) Championship: Malmo in command but Copenhagen, Paris/Lyon and Zurich/ Saint Gallen in with a chance. The biggest ever competition with 18 teams from 8 countries and almost 50% non-Irish player participation level.
Ladies Championship goes down to the last tournament between Belgium and Holland Ladies with Munich and Paris Gaels fighting for third place. New teams Zurich and Rennes make their debut in the Ladies competition whilst Maastricht return.
So a great weekend in prospect for all the family if you can get to Maastricht this weekend. Plenty to see and do in this lovely Dutch city as the local Tourist board will confirm. Lots to do and see before or after the GAA festivities too.
Maastricht is one of the oldest cities in Holland, as you will quickly discover when strolling through the historic inner city. Churches, city walls, monumental merchant houses and big squares merge seamlessly with a comprehensive and varied range of shops. Maastricht is also a city of indulgence and culinary highlights. There are pleasant lunchrooms, Michelin-starred restaurants, vineyard farms and an extensive range of excellent regional products and dishes. In short, ‘bons vivants’ should not miss out on Maastricht!