A CHAMPIONSHIP JOURNAL
ROUND 5 – BARCELONA – 11.06.2011 (Andrew Pilkington)
Valencia men march in to history, record first ever title
After what seemed to many an eternal wait, and on the back of a 13-game, 3-tournament unbeaten run, the Valencia Sant Vicent men’s GAA team has reached the pinnacle of the Iberian game, claiming their first-ever title.
Heading into the fifth and final round of action in the 2011 Iberian championship, hosted by Barcelona, Valencia knew that an appearance in the final alone would suffice in seeing them cement themselves as champions. However, the mind-set forthe team this year has been one of accepting nothing less than victory, so the goal was to seal the championship with a third straight tournament trophy.
The day got off to a phenomenal start with a commanding victory over the host Gaels. Typically a slow-starting team, Valencia came out of the gates all guns blazing, and were it not for a number of near misses on the offensive end, the final margin could have been far wider than the 0-4 to 0-10 score-line.
Before their second game against A Coruña, the Valencia boys got a wake-up call about the dangers of complacency from the Pamplona-Barcelona game, which saw the team from Iruña lose out by a single point in a valiant 2-2 to 1-6 loss. Sure enough, in the opening half of the A Coruña encounter, Valencia found themselves in a slight hole as Sebas lobbed an out-of-position goalkeeper from a free to notch a huge goal for the Galicians. The 2011 edition of the Sant Vicent team is one of a calm, methodical approach though, and one that does not scare easily. The never-say-die attitude demonstrated in the double extra-time win against Madrid in Pamplona has been carried forward and with some great interplay, the black and orange quickly put pay to the A Coruña lead and found their stride. In the end, Valencia won by a wide margin of 3-13 to 1-1 but were given a sharp reminder of the need for focus from there on in.
Game three had Valencia up against a light but always dangerous Madrid Harps team for what could, in-effect, be a pivotal game in the championship race; a victory all but sealing the crown for Valencia. The possibility of stage fright never affected Sant Vicent as they continued to control all facets of the game. Thanks to some pin-point accuracy from Andrew Pilkington’s kickouts, Paul M (in the absence of an injured Paul R) and Adam controlled the aerial game in the midfield while Liam and Andy W got the hand-passing game moving quickly through the half lines. Up-front Jeff and Colm continued the outstanding play they had produced in Alaquas, while being joined by the returning prodigal son, Freddy. As ever the backlines had opposition forwards on full lockdown with Brendan and Tom combining superbly in the absence of Mick and Cormac. Both players made some incisive forays into Madrid territory and were always ably supported by the experienced play of Fergus. All-told, Valencia continued their high-scoring habits as they netted two goals and banged over 8 points, including 5 from play for the excellent Liam Groarke, for a decisive 2-8 to 0-4 victory. With the win, came the Iberian crown (confirmed as Iruña conceded defeat in the final group game) but not, as some might have expected, wild celebrations for the Valencia team. The focus remained on tournament success first and foremost.
Prior to the final, and in lieu of the cancelled game against Pamplona, Valencia took the field against a mixed team to give playing time in the black and orange to as many players as possible. Travelling with 16 players gave Sant Vicent a great deal of strength-in-depth and was a decisive factor in the men’s success this season, so it was fitting that all that travelled had the opportunity to wear the club jersey. Huge credit must be given to Simon, Andy L, and Paul H who all pulled on the colours of other teams and probably logged more minutes than any other players over the day’s play. Simon, reports say, has been given the freedom of Galicia following an outstanding point in A Coruña’s pivotal win over Pamplona which saw them claim fourth place in the overall standings. His kissing of the crest on his A Coruña jersey following the score led his Gallego friends to hail him as the unofficial MVP.
So on to the final, and familiar opposition in the form of the host Gaels, this time bolstered by the addition of some late arrivals. Dogged play from both teams in the first period saw things close at the break, with Barcelona managing to score the only goal after a strong run from midfield. Again though, Valencia stood together as a team and picked holes with solid passing that saw them edge ahead. Following a goal from Freddy, Barcelona quickly levelled with a goal of their own thanks to a gift from the Valencia keeper. But as they had shown countless times before, this is a team that has coped with adversity as a collective, with a focus on putting things right rather than harping on errors. Quickly gaining control of the possession stakes again, Valencia worked the ball to Jeff who burst through and crashed the ball into (and through) the Barcelona net. Valencia rode that momentum, knocking over another point to run out 2-9 to 2-5 winners.
In doing so they capped a run of 14 straight wins (dating back to the semi-final in Madrid) with their third successive tournament win and first Iberian title.
The celebrations began soon after and continued for many hours into the night, punctuated by the tournament dinner and awards ceremony. Andy W proudly lifted the two trophies on behalf of the Sant Vicent boys, while Cormac made an appearance in time to be named Iberian defensive player of the year as well as overall season MVP.
With the championship win comes the opportunity to recognise and thank everyone involved with the club since its inception four years ago. The title is the result of a huge amount of work put in by a large number of people on the field, in practice and behind the scenes. It represents the culmination of four years of determination and commitment to the club and sport from the likes of Gavin and Deidre, Mick, June and Liam, Paul Murphy, Emma P and many others. From the current squad come thanks to the committee; the ladies for all their support and efforts; the non-playing members and sponsors; Mick for his tireless and often unseen work; Liam and Andy for their organisation and running of practices and circuits; Adam and Paul M for their leadership on and off the field and all the players for making it such a great experience all-round.
The 2011 Iberian Champions are:
- Adam Whyte
- Andrew Pilkington
- Andy Lofthouse
- Andy White
- Brendan McCarthy
- Cianán Ó’Dubhghaill
- Colm Donovan
- Cormac O’Broin
- Dave Hopper
- Denis O’Connor
- Fergus Garrett
- Freddy Nadal
- Janahan Selvanathan
- Jeff O’Flynn
- Liam Groarke
- Mick Collins
- Neil O’Leary
- Paul Hickey
- Paul Murphy
- Paul Robinson
- Rodrigo Atienzar
- Simon Thacker
- Tom Salomonson
ROUND 4 – VALENCIA – 28.05.2011 (Andrew Pilkington)
Orange and Black, golden in Alaquas, while Harpettes secure title
The weekend of May 28th saw the Iberian GAA roadshow enter Alaquas on the outskirts of Valencia to celebrate the 4th round of the 2011 championship. At the end of an exciting day’s play, things became cut-and-dried on the women’s side, while onthe men’s side, three teams remained in the hunt ahead of the fifth and final round in Barcelona.
The first game of the morning saw the welcome return of the Barcelona Gaels to the scene following their absence in Pamplona as they took on the host Valencia Sant Vicent boys in a much-anticipated opener. The majority of first-half possession was controlled by Valencia, while Barcelona attacks were limited to break-aways, although the Gaels still managed to forge ahead on the scoreboard thanks to a pair of goals. The first came from a rare Valencia defensive error deep in their own zone which left the keeper out of position, while the second was a well-despatched penalty after the referee adjudged there to have been significant contact on the Gael full forward. For their part, Valencia worked the ball well through midfield and were rewarded with a first-half 3-pointer of their own from Colm. Into the second half, and Barcelona managed to pull into a 3-point lead before Valencia hit their stride and banged over six straight points to turn the 3-point deficit on its head. The quick hand passing and continual movement of the whole Valencia team eventually had the Gaels chasing shadows while the strong aerial ball-winning of the two Pauls and Jeff saw the possession stats heavily in Valencia’s favour. At the defensive end, strong work by the backline duo of Mick and Brendan, when called upon, stifled the majority of Barcelona forays into home territory. Ultimately the Valencia boys shook off the Barcelona hoo-doo as they ran out with a 1-11 to 2-5 opening win.
Well and truly on a high following their second-half performance against Barcelona, Valencia next fronted up against the Madrid Harps. Sant Vicent continued where they had left off, dominating most facets of the first-half action. In particular, Cormac staked a claim to MVP honours, as from the half-back line, he controlled an opposing kick-out, powered past three lines of Madrid defence before slamming the ball into the back of the net… not once, but twice, to give Valencia a commanding half-time lead. The second-half saw concentration levels dip slightly and with it some of the crisp execution, that had been the trademark of the opening stanza, also faltered. However, the deep bench available to Valencia along with hard graft of the first half meant that the result was secured with an impressive 2-8 to 1-4 scoreline.
In what can only be described as a goalfest, Valencia secured their place in the day’s final with a 6-6 to 3-1 victory over Sevilla. Both teams committed to an open, attacking mode of football, and with the extra large soccer goals in use, they combined for an incredible 9 goals. Leading the way again on the goal front for Sant Vicent was Colm, who bagged a couple of nicely fisted goals, while most, if not all of the bench saw significant playing time. With the A Coruña/Iruña team lacking reinforcements, Valencia´s final group game was cancelled giving them the opportunity to rest and watch the showdown between Barcelona and Madrid.
The Harps-Gaels game was a very hard-fought and feisty affair with both heavy challenges and yellow cards flying around. To his credit, referee Mel kept the players in check, as he had done all day, and in the final count it was the Gaels who would prevail 2-7 to 0-6 and move on to face the hosts.
In short, Valencia’s play in the final was simply irresistible – a true team effort from front to back which again saw Barcelona behind in the possession stats and on the scoreboard. The midfield and half lines controlled any aerial game and quickly translated the possession into the fast, open running game that had seen Valencia through the early stages. This left Barcelona feeding off scraps, and even then, the back line duo of Brendan and Mick limited the dangerous Gael forwards to just 5 points. Meanwhile at the other end, multiple Valencia players banged over points, leading the Sant Vicent boys to an impressive 3-6 to 0-5 triumph and with it a first victory on home soil and second successive trophy for the Orange and Black.
On the ladies side, 4 teams made up the mini-league for this tournament. Valencia had high hopes of putting in a strong performance at home with 2 new additions to the team – Maeve and Sandra.
The day kicked off with the home team against Barcelona, whom Valencia had beaten well in Madrid. However, Barcelona had travelled with a much stronger team than in previous rounds this year, including some formidable players from previous years. The teams were level-pegging at the break, but some rare missed scoring opportunities from the forward line meant Barcelona ran out winners by 5 points (2-10 to 2-5).
The second game for the home team was against this year’s clear favourites for the Iberian title, Madrid. Despite being without two of their best players, Madrid were frustratingly skilful throughout the team and, once again, the second half did for the Valencia ladies. A point down at half-time became 0-7 to 1-15 in the final score.
The scores against this season’s new team, Seville, meant that Barcelona and Madrid skipped their group game and went straight to the final, while Valencia and Seville played for 3rd place points. In this game Valencia were able to show their experience and won comfortably 4-6 to 0-2. Seville have some good players, however, and will surely improve in time for next year’s competition.
The final became a one-sided affair as it progressed, Madrid dominating with goals coming from the whole of the team. Barcelona battled well, but in the end we must concede Madrid deserved their Iberian crown once again, taking the final 7-5 to 2-2.
A huge amount of credit must be given not only to the players on the day, but also those involved in the organisation of an immensely successful event overall. In particular, Mick, Gavin, Emma and Maria did stellar work in organising facilities, schedules, referees and food. The post-tournament dinner and awards was well-attended and well-received with the two referees Paddy (women) and Mel (men) being recognized for their sterling work at the tournament and having the opportunity to say a few words and announce their players of the tournament. On the women’s side, honours went to Alison from Madrid while Mel emphasized the importance and growth of the Spanish contingent throughout the men’s competition by presenting the player of the tournament to Manuel from Barcelona. In truth, any one of 5 or 6 Valencia players could have walked away with the award following an extremely solid all-round effort, but to them it seemed the most important silverware was the team trophy.
The win sees the Valencia men head to Barcelona in less than two weeks needing only an appearance in the final to secure the club’s first-ever overall Iberian crown, but there is little doubt in the players’ minds that it is no foregone conclusion and another huge team effort will be necessary. Meanwhile, the Sant Vicent ladies must recover their form if they are to secure what would be a deserved runners-up spot, and indeed, their best finish in the Iberian championship.
ROUND 3 – PAMPLONA – 07.05.2011 (Adam Whyte)
On Friday 6 May 2011, the ladies and lads from San Vincent Valencia GAA club mounted a beastly bus and began their northward journey to Pamplona. Expectations were high as the Valencia mens team hoped to extend their run of tournament victories, having made the trip to such tournaments via autobus, and the women sought to continue improving and strengthening over the course of the season.
Raul said “all aboard” or something of that nature, to the 16 brave soldiers brandishing Zanzibar orange and rainforest black sets of armor (erhmm… club hoodies). Some slept, others chatted, the guitar was missed, but the focus was tangible. Pamplona had been a happy hunting ground for Valencia in years past, and the current crop sought to continue the rich tradition of victory that the Mediterranean outfit was accustomed too.
The day began punctually (congrats to the tournament organizers) and kicked off with a fixture which has become part of the routine for GAA tournaments this season, San Vincent against La Coruña Fillos de Breogán. The Galician team performed gallantly scoring two fantastic goals from outside the area against the statue-like veteran David Hopper. Despite their 6 point tally from said sensational strikes, the Gallegos fell to the more experienced Valencia GAA club, in a hard fought but fair affair.
Later Valencia were faced with familiar opposition in the form of the Madrid Harps who had come with similar spirit and numbers as their peers from the South-west. The game was a well-contested affair in which Valencia ultimately fought from 3 points down to finish one point ahead of the Madrileños and put them in pole position to top the lone group of the day.
Their final group game was played against the tournament hosts (who were accommodating, hilarious, competitive, and great craic all day) Pamplona GAA club. The two teams played end to end stuff and the games final scoreline did not give an accurate representation of the true nature of the match. Pichichi winner Eoin Tuckey came close to making a momentous breakthrough for the Navarran equipo but with tired legs and perhaps cold beverages in mind Pamplona, and its leading scorer, could not make the breakthrough.
With the closure of the group stages of the well-run tournament came lovely treats from Pans and Company and later the opening of the heavens, releasing torrential “Spain rain” (no tan torrencial). The teams sought shelter under canopies and dugouts. The mighty red army from Madrid found refuge in the pitch side building where rumors of last minute doping were spreading amongst the remaining teams.
The teams emerged from their umbrellas, caves, and toilets to take the pitch, withstood the hurricane (read slight gust of wind) and monsoon (read twenty minute shower), and awaited the throw-in from Referee Paul (who, it should be mentioned, had an outstanding tournament).
Red vs. Orange turned out to be the closest game of the day with the teams drawing and exchanging leads numerous times with Valencia storming back from 3 points down (after Madrid scored two well worked and taken goals) once during the game and once during the first extra time.
Ultimately the second partido between Valencia and Madrid was decided by a point for a second time on the day during the second set of extra time with a final score of 0-9 to 2-2. The warriors, wet and wind burned, shook hands on the battle field and were already thinking about their next move in this year’s Iberian Championship 2011.
The trophy presentation took place after a wonderful dinner in which the majority of the hungry troops feasted on succulent steaks, and quenched their thirst with fine wine. The Valencian barbs couldn´t wait to get their hands on the cup, and their war-cry was heard by all when the Silver Chalice of Navarra was presented to them.
On a more serious note, Barcelona´s absence from the tournament was sincerely acknowledged by all the speakers at the event. It goes without question that while the Pamplona GAA weekend was appreciated by all, they were missed sorely, and the Iberian Clubs are looking forward to their presence at the next round which is, if the previous tournaments are anything to go by, set to be close fought and played in the true spirit of the game. We look forward to seeing as many footballers at the next tournament which San Vincent is due to host on 28 May 2011, and we would like to send our best wishes to the Barcelona Gaels, Ger Kelly and his family. We hope for you the quickest recovery, and to see you all, healthy and well, as soon as possible.
Editors note: The author of this report Adam Whyte, being the modest soul that he is, couldn’t bring himself to write that he in fact won (and deservedly so) the MVP for the round. 2 bus trips, 2 MVPs. If I was him I would be checking what number bus gets him to the Alaquas pitch on the 28th.
ROUND 1 – SEVILLE – 19.02.2011 (Adam Whyte)
On 22 February 2011 more than 200 people made the journey to Seville from various parts of Spain to participate in the First Round of the Iberian Gaelic Football Championship for the 2011 season. A crowd of approximately 400 people gathered to witness the spectacle and were not disappointed by the quality of football, quantity of refreshments, quaintness of Seville, quirkiness of some of the characters are the tournament, and quaking of dance floor at the night club following the great success of Seville´s first ever Gaelic Football tournament.
The Barcelona Gaels just scraped by Sant Vicent Valencia 0-5 to 0-3 in what was a final to be remembered… or forgotten depending on what shade of orange you were supporting. Madrid Harps overcame Eire Og Seville 2-2 to 1-4 in a thrilling 3rd/ 4th place play-off which went to extra-time and came away with bronze without actually bringing back any metallic mementos.
On the Ladies side of things the Madrid Gaels comfortably beat Barcelona Gaels 5-9 to 0-4 in the women’s decider, while Sant Vicent Valencia beat Madrid Harps B with a score of 1-11 to 1-6 to secure third place on the day.
The Valencia team arrived in Seville at varying times some arriving on the Thursday to enjoy the sites and nightlife of Seville, while others waiting until the day of the tournament to lace up their boots and cause havoc on the GAA grounds. However, the majority of the Sant Vicent folk arrived on Friday night into the Seville Backpackers Inn and were lucky to get any sleep either because of over-enthusiasm or over-indulgence.
Sant Vicent Valencia had their first match in their new tight-fitting uniforms at 9:00 a.m.-ISH on Saturday morning and faced enthusiastic if not a bit inexperienced opposition in the form of A Coruña Fillos de Breogan from Galicia. The game was decided 2-7 to 0-1 in favour of the more experienced side from Valencia, however, the Galicians should be commended for scoring their first and certainly not what will not be their last point in the most exciting Iberian Championship ever.
Next up for the Valencianos were the Marbella Costa Gaels who provided tough opposition despite the 3-9 to 0-0 scoreline. After one glorious appearance in last year’s Iberian Gaelic Football Men´s Championship, hosting the most picturesque of all the 2010 tournaments, the Mediterraneaners came out with as many numbers as possible and should be commended for their fantastic efforts both on the pitch and on the night out later that day.
In the final group match Sant Vicent Valencia met Barcelona Gaels in a tie that is surely to be repeated several times in the recently commenced 2011 season. Both teams have some new additions which have only strengthened the two squads from the 2010 season, and certainly raised the standard of Iberian Gaelic Football.
In the first of two encounters between the two Eastern Spanish sides Barcelona were victorious 0-6 to 1-2 in a well fought battle between the two titanic sides. The pathetic fallacy was tangible and the warning signs were there for the Valencianos. Alas, they did not heed said warnings, and fell short at the final hurdle after Barcelona beat Seville 3-10 to 0-3 and Valencia overcame Madrid in the semi-finals 0-10 to 0-5 reviving the relishing rivalry between the cosmopolitan capital and the sea-side city.
Congratulations must be extended to the debutant team, A Coruña Fillos de Breogan, and to Naomh Fermin Iruña’s all-basque team who seemed to enjoy their first tournaments, as indicated by the co-founder of the A Coruña jumping off his dinner table with joy and landing in the splits to demonstrate his dedication to GAA and its “big balls”.
In the Ladies competition Madrid were unassailable and rampaged to impressive victories over the dynamic Sant Vicent Valencia and the dedicated Barcelona Gaels.
“Enhorabuena” to the match officials Willie Cashin and Mike Cryan who officiated fantastically for the duration of the day and managed to keep up with the blistering pace of the Iberian game.
Barcelona take an early lead in the 2011 Iberian Champions and the teams will have until 9 April 2011 to prepare themselves for the next exciting round of matches to take place in Madrid, where Valencia will be seeking to take revenge on the Catalonian outfit and each of the other teams will be looking to improve on their results from Seville.
Thank you to all the tournament organizers whose efforts did not go unnoticed by the herd of people who made the trip however short or long to Seville to enjoy some fabulous football and a little bit of Irish culture on the Iberian peninsula.
Amunt Sant Vicent.