Harps Make It a Double Championship in Catalan Capital
By Lorcan Kennedy, JJ Keaney and Aisling Daly
We may be in the throes of the World Cup; Spain, England and France may all be struggling to progress and Ireland may not even be there but in the Iberian GAA world there was only one tournament of any importance this June – the final and deciding round of the 2010 Iberian Championship.
After Madrid’s victory in the men’s round in Pamplona two weeks previously the stage was set for a showdown in Barcelona on Saturday June 19th. With Sant Vicent of Valencia, Barcelona Gaels and Madrid Harps all within touching distance of each other there were no complicated permutations to work out. Put simply, it was a case of the winner takes all. Not so for the ladies; with three wins and a second place spot in the previous four tournaments, they had already put their hands on the Cup. Their presence alone in Barcelona would be sufficient to clinch the Championship and they duly obliged.
And so it was that on Friday the Harps and Harpettes boarded their chartered bus for the long haul to the shores of the Mediterranean and a date with some old rivals. Focus and concentration was the order of the day for the eight hour trek across Spain´s North East.
MEN GAA Iberia Final
As dawn broke on the verge of the summer solstice the Harps were still resting, but everyone was fed and watered by the time the bus arrived at 09:30. The atmosphere was eerily muted as individuals focused on the task ahead. In addition to the three Iberian teams, and in the absence of Pamplona, 23 hardy souls made the trip down from Toulouse and Lyon, although the results against the French teams were not to be taken into account for the business-end of the day.
A first round meeting with Valencia was sufficient to concentrate the energies with victory being absolutely crucial. With the sun soaring towards its zenith the Harps and Valencia took to the field. Madrid had reclaimed their bragging rights after victory in Pamplona but this was the
biggest game of the year to date with the loser likely to face elimination. After some early exchanges of parity the Madrid boys started to get the upper hand with a goal midway through the half. Valencia had plenty of pace up front and converted some fine points to keep themselves well in this tie.
As the second half progressed the Harps were able to call on their panel of players to provide fresh impetus up front when needed and a second goal duly arrived. Valencia legs began to tire, preventing a late comeback. Madrid won with a four point margin over their opponents. Final Score: Madrid Harps 2-7; Sant Vicent Valencia 0-9
Barcelona-Valencia was next on the cards, with Valencia needing a win to have any chance of reaching the final on aggregate score difference. Barcelona’s forwards ran riot however, and the game was practically over as a contest in the first half, although the men from Valencia kept plugging away to the end, to no avail.
Final Score: Barcelona Gaels 3-7; Sant Vicent Valencia 1-2
Given these results the group game between title-holders Barcelona & Madrid was a bit of a damp squib, both teams choosing to make sure all squad-members got a run-out, testing tactics and looking for a chink in their opponent’s armour, with a draw at four points as the final result.
Final Score: Barcelona Gaels 0-4; Madrid Harps 0-4
So it was back to the shade for both teams and an opportunity to relax and do some fine tuning for the final whilst our guests from France (Toulouse and Lyon) went head to head and got another opportunity to show their skills. As the main even approached, a light shower blew across cooling things down and making conditions ideal for the final.
The final was to be a different matter than their previous clash, with both teams almost at full strength, although Madrid had lost their main free-taker to a hamstring injury during an earlier match. Barcelona got off to a flying start, racking up a 3 point lead in the first minutes, as some erratic goal-kicks and loose defending had Madrid’s nerves on edge. At this point a lightning break down the pitch led to an excellently taken goal from the Madrid lads, and morale was quickly restored.
Towards the end of the half an excellent save from the Madrid goalkeeper, combined with several missed chances for the Gaels, meant that at halftime the teams were still level. The 2010 Championship would go right down to the wire – everything was to be decided in 15 minutes of football…
On the resumption it was Madrid who took the bull by the horns. In midfield every breaking ball was hotly contested whilst the forwards scurried into the spaces, garnering possession and tacking on the points. At the back, any Barcelona attacks were competently dealt with and the ball recycled back down the field. A goal midway through the half put five points between the teams and things were looking ominous for the Catalans.
But as expected they did rally and were denied a goal by the crossbar and some heroic defending. The Harps were to have more goal opportunities of their own but couldn’t convert. On the final whistle, the Harps held a six point difference and the 2010 Iberian Championship Title was on its way back to Madrid after a year in Catalan hands.
Final Score: Madrid Harps 2-4; Barcelona Gaels 0-4
With this result, Madrid Harps proclaimed themselves worthy winners of the 2010 Men’s Championship, with 2 tournament wins, 2 runner-up spots – and 3rd place in their home tournament! One of the most curious aspects of this year’s competition is that no team managed to win their home event – perhaps the pressures of organising these increasingly complicated competitions distracts teams from the job in hand on the day on the pitch?
The competitive nature of the Regional Championship is clearly shown by the fact that no team has ever managed to retain the title – Madrid now move to the top of the honours list with 3 titles (2010, 2008, 2005), to Barcelona’s 2 (2009, 2007) and Marbella’s 1 (2006).
LADIES GAA Iberia Final
A fantastic day’s football was also had in the Ladies Tournament, with Barcelona, Valencia and Madrid chasing the silverware on offer to the winners of the tournament. Madrid’s Harpettes had already assured the overall Championship title with a victory in the previous round in Pamplona.
Madrid, despite losing key players to injuries & holidays, managed to field 6 players, while Valencia showed up with a good group of 11 or 12 ladies and Barcelona provided an impressive team of 18 or 19 girls. Also among the girls were two ladies from the Toulouse team, Jill and Sarah, who came along ready and excited to get at the ball.
And so the first match kicked off between the Madrid Harpettes and the Barcelona Gaelettes. Due to the new regulations requiring ladies to play 9 a side, the Harpettes were happy to add the Toulouse girls to their squad, as well as two other Barcelona girls. This match was a tough one for the Madrid ladies, who were feeling the effects of the never-ending battering force of the Barcelona girls, whose strength failed to dwindle due to a large number of substitutions.
However the Harpettes kept up the hard fight and in the end only lost the match by 2 points.
Final score Barcelona Gales 1-06; Madrid Harps 1-04
After a quick break it was the Barcelona ladies against the Valencia San Vincent ladies. TheValencia girls gave a good effort in this match and fought hard until the end, but the Gaelettes stamped out a strong leading victory of 8 points.
Final score Barcelona Gales 1-13; Valencia St. Vincents 1-05
Up next it was the Madrid Harpettes against the Valencia ladies. The game started out even enough, but in the second half the Harpettes’ forward line performed some heavy scoring and won the match.
Final score Madrid Harps 2-08; Valencia St. Vincents 0-04
Finally it was on to the tournament final between the Madrid ladies and the Barcelona Gaelettes. After gaining a few additions from the Valencia team, especially a rather impressive goalie, the Madrid ladies were suddenly alight with the renewed hope that they could win this tournament.
Boots dug into the ground, legs flexed, and teeth ground. This match was the hardest fought of the tournament for the ladies, who were neck and neck up until the last few minutes. Some impressive ball work was shown by Toulouse’s Jill and Sarah, as well as Isabel Laguna on the Madrid side, and Dee Curran on Barcelona’s side, who went on to win MVP of the tournament. A goal and some well-taken points in the last few minutes gave Barcelona a quick decisive victory by 4 points.
Final score Barcelona Gales 2-08; Madrid Harps 0-10
Festivities were heavy for both sides during the night, with the Gaelettes celebrating winning their home tournament and the Harpettes celebrating their reign as the Iberian League Champions for the second year in a row. You will notice that few names have been mentioned in this report. This is because the football played was truly a team effort right from the first tournament in Valencia to Marbella, Madrid, Pamplona and finally to Barcelona.
A special thanks to all those boys and girls who donned the Harp’s jersey and especially to those who donned a GAA jersey for the first time. Madrid Harps are always looking for new members and EVERYONE is welcome.
Finally, a special mention must be given to the other participating teams this year – Pamplona, newly-formed Seville, dark horses of the Madrid tournament the San Agustin ladies team, and the reborn Marbella Costa Gaels – for the effort invested in organising tournaments and
Roll on Europe, and the 2011 Championship!
Madrid Harps Teams that travelled to Barcelona:
Men: M.A. de la Barrera; S. Canive; A. Chambers; R. Cooney; M. Conroy; S. Donegan; D.
Hennessy; J.J. Keaney; D. Kearney; D. Kelly; L. Kennedy; E. Lester; M. Manners; C. McCloy; G.
Nuñez; P. O´Brien; C. Rodríguez; J. San Blas; J. Vicente.
Ladies: I. Alberdi, D. Alonso, M. Beltrán, A. Daly, I. Laguna, L. Lenaghan, P. Lenahan (injured)