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Keeping it Lit – Luxembourg GAA

Cathal Davey – GSCL and Kilcock

Luxembourg has always laid claim to being at the heart of Europe, now it can confidently lay claim to being at the heart of European GAA. Long renowned for being one of the founders of the EU, and seat of many of its institutions, the club itself – Gaelic Sports Club Luxembourg – can point to itself as a Gaelic games institution on the continent. Recent years have seen on field success in both football and hurling, with the arrival on the scene of a vibrant ladies section proving one of the highlights. However, the club is also proud of its roots, way back in the mists of the Seventies, in 1978 to be precise.

Imagine how lacking in Gaelic Games life must have been for the Irish that hit the eurotrail following Ireland ’s entry to the EU in 1973. Back then Setanta was a legendary hurler, not a TV station, “High Ball” meant just that, Radio na hEireann was not accessible via satellite TV and the internet was the space within the small parallelogram. Emigrants out here never suffered the privations of earlier brethren in the US or England , but the games were missed and a solution needed to be found. The legendary clashes of the Seventies were unquestionably the Dubs and the Kingdom, with Croke Park reverberating to the Bomber and the Blue Panther, but in a European context the 1978 clash of the Eurocrats of Brussels against those of Luxembourg rang just as loudly – European GAA and the Luxembourg Club were born.

The story since has mirrored so many other clubs around the world, with as many ups and downs as a Loughnane training session in the Cratloe hills. The likes of Eoghan o Hannrachain, Liam Egan and Sean Mc Keon kept the bodhran beating in the Eighties with regular hurling and football games against Brussels and visiting teams. The cultural aspect of a GAA club was never forgotten, with Eoghan staging exhibition hurling and football games at every spot within 500 kms of Luxembourg where St Killian lit a candle or Patrick Sarsfield stopped for a snack box, a process that continues to this day, forging cultural bonds and providing a social side to the club for our older members.

Mention Luxembourg nowadays in Continental GAA and thoughts turn to the annual Black Stuff tournament, the biggest development of the Ninties for us, the oldest tournament on the Continent and now a venerable institution of ten years of flowing football, crisp hand passing and a constant, burning, thirst inducing temperature of 35 degrees – it has never once rained on a tournament day. This tournament – once sevens, then nines, now elevens – owes its existence to Phil and Kathy Mc Kenna, formerly of Belfast and New York , but for long our club sponsors and renowned refreshment specialists. Their magnificent tournament trophy remains behind the bar for another year, but more about that later!

The nineties saw the real emergence of organised European GAA, with brave souls in the likes of Munich , Barcelona , Rennes , Wurzburg , Paris and our old friends in Den Haag hitting the autobahns and autoroutes to field teams all over Europe and affiliate to the County Board . The likes of Emma Ni Dhonaill have served the County Board with distinction and our club have travelled to the majority of tournaments since the inception of the Kerrygold, now Gaelic Gear, European League. There’ve been times, like at 1.30 on a Monday morning in a motorway service station, 4 hours from Munich and three hours from home that we’ve enviously dreamed of intercounty mileage expenses, but generally a trophy suffices, and they have been carted back from Brussels and the Hague by both male and female teams. The Ladies, illuminated by the sheer effort and skills of players like Eimear Crowley and Ailbhe Ni Mhurichu have been perennial European Champions, while the Garret Kelleher, Ciaran Kelly led Lads, now driven on by Tadhg Dunne and (The Other) Paul Colfer (From Wexford), have won their own tournament three times in five years, including 2005, and been runners up in the European League. The likes of Denis Harty – the second hurling legend in this article after Setanta – have ensured annual hurling friendlies against the likes of Paris and Zurich . Nor can we let pass unmentioned the cool, calm efficiency Michael Tutty brought to committee matters in the past few years.

So, the next time you hear of a ministerial summit or CAP reform meeting in Luxembourg, remember that the games are thriving here. Continued and appreciated support from Croke Park and our own County Board will allow us attract a few more locals to the operation. Indeed our twinning with the

Leinster Council might one day see the Hill in a haze of Luxembourgish red, blue and white. Among the Irish here the support remains solid, indeed with Maire Geoghan Quinn, Barry Desmond and Ritchie Ryan all as former members, we can certainly claim “cross party support”!