Category Archives: The Gaels

All club-related posts.

Why Micheal might be the man for Ireland

Micheál ó Muircheartaigh - foreword (sic) to the Aras?

When I was looking for someone to write the foreword for this book, there weren’t too many suitable candidates.

It’s not that I’m choosy, it’s just that both the publisher and I didn’t want a foreword for the sake of it. We wanted someone who could add something to the story.

Broadcaster- and now possible Irish presidential candidate – Micheál ó Muircheartaigh was one of few who fit the bill.

It’s not just his lifelong love of Gaelic games, or the Irish language, or Irish culture that made him a perfect choice.

It was obvious from the moment that he got on the phone to me to discuss it that, not only did he understand what our club and our games and this book meant to us, he understood our situation as Irish people abroad trying to make a go of it.

I’m never star-struck, but I’ll admit to being nervous as I waited for him to come on the line. All that melted away as the voice of a thousand Sunday afternoons greeted me and started to ask about the Stockholm Gaels and the state of football and fishing and dog racing in Scandinavia.

Micheál has travelled all over the world to act as a guest commentator for Gaelic games played from San Francisco to Shanghai. He has handed out medals and trophies and comhgairdeagaises to players on every continent.

He has listened to our stories, our troubles and our triumphs and treated us no differently to any other club at home.

Because at the heart of it, after a long, illustrious broadcasting career based on a powerful grá for the games, Micheál understood why we have to do this. Even at the age of 80, the love burns as brightly as it ever has.

I know nothing of Micheál’s politics so I cannot recommend that anyone vote for him. But what I do know is that you will travel far and wide to find a more intelligent, sensitive soul with such an instinctive understanding of the Irish people.

Loved by many and respected by most, he is the kind of non-political figure, a father of the nation, that we could all rally behind.

And just as he has described so many marches to glory in the past, he might finally feature in one of his own – up the North Circular Road, and all the way to the Phoenix Park.


It’s about… 2:46 long.

There’s a lot of things different here…

My football boots, soaking wet and stuffed full of paper after tonight's training, grace our hallway.

… but the weather ain’t one of them.

This summer has been a bit of a washout in Sweden, but with the tournament coming up we trained tonight despite the fact that the afternoon was filled with thunder and lightning.

I enjoyed it though- in fairness, it’s not like we grew up playing on the dusty backstreets. I can’t ever remember playing a game – or watching one- where it didn’t rain at some point.

For those in any doubt about how seriously we take the Scandinavian championship, I’ve been told in no uncertain terms not to mention anything here that could be of use to the opposition.

Suffice to say the competition for places is as hard as ever, and it surprised me that I still want a place in the team badly enough to be marked by someone half my age for most of the night.

Gaels co-founder Colin Courtney, back from a trip around the world.

And just as the weather improved as the night wore on, there was another ray of sunshine on the horizon as Colin Courtney returned from his round-the-world trip.

In the book you can read all about how the Kerryman with the crooked smile and the lethal feet started the club with a few others- being without him for six or seven months has been a pain.

Not that others didn’t do a brilliant job in his absence; it’s just that, as a Dub, I feel an obligation to try to hold on to the Kerry people I can actually get along with.

Another campaign starts here

The author working hard on his travels, this time in Oslo at the Diamond League Bislett games.

Ten days to go to the final round of the championship.

A month until the official launch of the book.

A day agfter that, the first round of the European Championship season in Brussels.

Busy times ahead, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, and the hardest thing to deal with will be the calendar.

Not only do I have to keep myself as fit as possible whilst travelling over and back between Ireland and Sweden – we started this club to play Gaelic football, not to talk about it or write about it –  I also need to make sure that I look after my existing contracts and customers.

At the same time, the opportunity to get out there and talk about the book and  Gaelic games in far-flung places, and to tell people in Ireland about the brilliant work being done by so many Irish people abroad is something that fills me with energy.

Because if there is one thing that stands out about the Irish and how we have developed Gaelic games abroad, it is what can be achieved with very very little.

It’s a cliché worth repeating – Ireland’s greatest natural resource is her people, and if we can manage to connect them all at home and abroad in the same way that the GAA has done, our recovery will come a lot quicker than you might imagine.

Much done, more to do

You’d think by now I’d be all gearing up for the launch of this, my first book, and getting all excited.

And I am.

But before that there is the minor matter of the final round of the Scandinavian Gaelic Football Championship 2011, to be held here in Stockholm in about two weeks. And as the host club, we have to organise the whole show, as well as try to win the tournament on the day.

This year there are three rounds, with everyone playing everyone else in a round-robin tournament before the two sides with the best record on the day meet in the final.

We took the first one in Gothenburg, beating Oslo in the final after a hard day’s football in conditions that got worse and worse as the day went on (Gothenburg is Sweden’s Galway- it’s either raining, is about rain or stopped raining a split second ago and will start again soon).

The tables were turned in round two in Copenhagen when Malmö beat the host city in the final, blowing the whole thing wide open and meaning that any one of four clubs could win the championship.

Unfortunately Copenhagen won’t be travelling up to Stockholm, leaving ourselves, Malmö and Oslo to go toe to toe in what is essentially a winner-takes-all tournament here.

So far we’ve had a bunch of meetings about the whole thing, sorted out pitches, referees, schedules, food, first aid and so on.

Even with Copenhagen missing out, as it stands at the moment we’ll have ten teams participating on the day, with the “big four” of Malmö, Gothenburg, Oslo and ourselves fighting it out in the men’s senior championship.

We’re delighted to have two teams from Tallinn (Estonia) and a men’s team from Helsinki coming over for the first time too, even if it does mean a whole lot of organising. We’ll have our own teams competing in the seven-a-side and ladies tournaments too, so it’s going to be a busy day.

We’re luckier than most clubs in that we have plenty of willing volunteers to help us both in the preparations and on the day itself.

Because at the end of the day, regardless of the fact that we set up this club and are responsible for running it properly, most of us want to play. To do that and prepare and concentrate properly, you have to be able to hand over responsibility on the day of the tournament (pr preferably a day or two before) to someone else, safe in the knowledge that the job will be done and done properly.

I have every faith in those that will be taking that responsibility. I hope I can do my job on the pitch as well as they’ll do theirs off it.