Reigning champions Stockholm Gaels emerged victorious in a thrilling opening tournament in the Scandinavian Gaelic football championship on Saturday.
Some of the only beneficiaries of Ireland’s economic woes are its GAA clubs abroad, and the crowd was treated to a full day of high-octane, intense and physical football of an extremely high standard.
The Gaels may have swept all before them last year, but if they were expecting to coast to another title they were sorely mistaken.
2009 champions Malmö put up a strong challenge, as did Copenhagen and Gothenburg, but the sensation on the day was Oslo.
The Norwegians had suffered a few hidings last year but a long winter’s work and the addition of some new players gave them one of the strongest teams on the day.
With all the teams taking points off each other in the round-robin group stage, the last two 20-minute matches were essentially semi-finals, with Oslo beating Malmö and a misfiring Gaels side finally finding their form to defeat Copenhagen.
After playing 80 minutes just to qualify, a grueling rain-swept 30-minute final awaited to decide the tournament. Oslo started well with former Dublin minor Dave Noonan pulling the strings in midfield, but the wily Gaels brought their experience to bear and gradually took over.
The Gaels midfield pairing of Peter Conroy, a student from Clane in County Kildare, and Derryman Mark O’Kane fielded brilliantly, slotting over some crucial points in the final.
Gaels goalkeeper Ragnar Almqvist- born and bred in Dublin to a Swedish father and an Irish mother and now stationed at the Irish Embassy in Stockholm- pulled off some fine saves to keep Oslo at bay as the Stockholm side ran out winners by 11 points to 0-4.
Stockholm captain, former Clare hurling minor Liam Ginnane, accepted the trophy on behalf of his team at a reception at the Dubliner pub on Saturday evening.
Referee Mike Cryan had the unenviable task of choosing a player of the tournament, and after showering praise on the five teams and naming half-a-dozen candidates, the award went to Dave Noonan of Oslo.
The next round of the championship takes place in Copenhagen on June 11, with the decider being played in Stockholm an August 20.
Fore more information, please contact Philip O’Connor, chairman, Stockholm Gaels and PRO for the European County Board on +46 707217715.