The day European Hurling came to Dresden
A wee bit historic! Saturday 27th June 2015 was just that for both the Gaa and Dresden Hurling club. For the first time in European Gaa history, two competing clubs in the European Hurling Championships took to the field without an Irish man on the field. Instead the Irish men stood on the side-lines for once and looked on in awe at 22 foreigners doing battle and playing their beloved sport, a sport that many said could only be played by Irish. What unfolded was a spectacle to behold.
The day began like any other summers day in Dresden, but not really, for one famous old sports field in Striesen, that celebrates its 90th year, had its lines painted a little differently, it’s goalposts defaced and a colourful Irish looking banner hung over its railings announcing “Play Hurling in Dresden”. And that we duly did. For the first time this finely manicured field, bore witness to an alien sport full of speed, passion and skill and Dresden got it’s first taste of European Hurling with over 90 players and officials arrived en masse on the Friday evening from 12 European cities, of which four were new to the European Hurling family, Darmstadt, Munich, Nuremberg and Berlin..
Five months earlier Dresden Hurling was given the privilege to host their very first European Hurling Tournament. So with a little German organisation and timekeeping and a little Irish entertainment thrown in, six full teams togged out on Saturday morning and play began shortly after 9.30 with European champions and kingpins Brussels first up against the new boys and 1 lady from Munich and Nuremberg. After a solid start from the Bavarians, the experienced Belgians pulled away and ran out convincing winners. 6-10 to 1-05.
Next up were the hosts against the combined team from Berlin and Cologne. Dresden came flying out of the blocks and with an emphasis on goals put away some well taken scores from play. Berlin/ Cologne battled gamely on their first outing together and turned in some determined performances however lacking the experience of playing with each other and playing to each player’s strengths, (which we in Dresden have experienced many times before) inhibited them. In the second half however, Berlin’s Cathy Flynn scored a beautiful goal, striking on a long high ball with an overhead flick which caught the Dresden goalkeeper unawares. A forgotten art which is seldom seen in the last years and which bagged her ‘the goal of the tournament’ later in the evening. Dresden ran out comfortable winners on a score line of 8-9 to 1-02.
The next match turned out to be a rehearsal for the final where a Luxembourg contingent supported the understrength table toppers of Viking Gaels from the Scandinavian cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Copenhagen, lined up against the warmed up Belgium hurlers. That is just how it panned out with Belgium starting in a higher gear from the outset, chalking up another win with a 4-10 to 2-08 win.
Darmstadt Gaa then stepped onto the Hurling field for its very first match against Berlin/ Cologne and took to it like a duck to water. The students were strong and fitter and were first to loose ball. Their ground hurling skills picked up in hockey practice proved decisive and as the saying goes, goals win games, ran out winners with a score line of 4-01 to the troopers of Berlin/ Cologne 2-2
The Vikings were up next against the Bavarians to decide who went through to the semi’s. With a larger target (converted football goals) to aim for, teams started to take advantage. Goals were being scored with ease now and despite the Bavarians best efforts, The Vikings and Luxembourg ran out 6-04 to 3-04 winners to guarantee a Semi-final spot as group A runners up.
In a match to decide 1st and 2nd place in Group B, the hosts were up against the men from Darmstadt. In a tight opening half, Dresden scored two quick goals to lead at halftime by 2-01 to 0-01. Dresden then pulled off its 3 Irish players in order to give a fair game and test our non-Irish players. And tested they were as the fitter Darmstadt started to take a grip of the game by scoring 2 goals in quick succession to level the game. With time running out, back came the Irish contingent to steady the boat as a goal and a point were scored late on to take the game and Group B winners spot. Dresden 3-02 Darmstadt 2-01.
5/6 place final: After a short lunch break, the groups 3rd placed teams took to the field where the Bavarians were too strong for the Berlin/Cologne team who had to deal with injuries to their key players. Bavaria ran out winners on a score line 9-12 to 0-3.
Semi-final 1 was up next where Group A winners and the all Irish Belgium team were up against the all German team from Darmstadt. Again this was a bit of a mismatch but a great experience for the Germans. They battled gamely to the last minute and to one of the biggest cheers of the day scored a great goal towards the end to the game to loose on a score line of Belgium 10-14 to Darmstadt 1-0.
Semi-final 2 followed with Dresden playing the Vikings/ Luxembourg team. Dresden battled hard in the early stages but experience proved key with Vikings tagging on some well taken points. Trailing by about 7 at half time, Dresden came tearing out of the blocks and scored 2 great goals early in the second half to frighten their foes. However fitness started to take its toll again and the Vikings added some fine scores late in the half to win… Viking Gaels 5-13, Dresden 4-3
3/4 place playoff: Dresden Hurling v Darmstadt Gaa.
A quick note: Darmstadt Hurling club was founded a little over 10 months ago by a German student by the name of Jakob who had spent a short time studying in Carlow, a small county in Ireland that’s hardly a Hurling stronghold. But the crucial underlining factor that lead to Darmstadt Gaa clubs foundation and this historic game was his time was spent with a hurl in hand in the company of a Kilkenny native.
And so with Dresden’s Irish contingent dropped to the bench, the sliotar was thrown in, in what was European GAA’s first competitive game with no Irish player on the field. A momentous occasion, this game was played out with every bit of bite and passion as would be seen on a Hurling field at home in Ireland. With blocking and hooking, solo-running and hand passes galore, this was a keenly contested encounter where only 2 frees were given away. Dresden scored some well taken points from all angles and that proved decisive in the end with Dresden claiming 3rd place with a score of 2-05 to Darmstadt’s 1-02.
Final: Belgium Gaa v Viking Gaels/ Luxembourg
Just before throw-in the heavens opened and down came torrential rain which had threatened for the previous hour. While Belgium were at full strength and needing to win to reignite their championship ambitions, the Vikings were 2 men down due to injury and needed reinforcements from the Bavarians. The Belgians started about their business, tagging on some fine points from play. With the sliotar heavy and greasy, the Vikings found it hard to get past a resolute Belgian defence and indeed find the target. The first yellow cards of the day were dished out as tempers flared a little but as time went by Belgium continued to press and in truth were the stronger team throughout, ending up with a 10 point win on a score line of 2-14 to 1-07.
And so the curtains came down on a momentous day for Hurling in Germany, let’s hope we can get the chance to do it all again in 2016. Special thanks to Ray Coleman (Frankfurt) and Liam Kennedy (Stockholm) for refereeing, the organising committee of Julia, Jaakko, Glen and Konrad the volunteers Bart, Tim, Keith, Veit, Linda, Fanny, Ronnie, Anna and Anna, Kati, Peter & Ina (I’m sure I forgot one, there’s always one) our club players for helping out on the day and helping set up the field in the days previous, the Sportsamt, the groundkeepers and finally to our affiliated bodies, the ECB, the RCD e.v and our sponsors The Red Rooster, Pfutze & Co Parkplatzbetreib and MLP for their continued support.
Chairperson, Dresden Hurling