The unique experience of GAA clubs on the European continent is explored in a new programme for TG4, “Cluiche As Baile”, or “The Away Game” in English.
While people in Ireland may not realise, there are dozens of GAA clubs in cities all across Europe – some without any Irish people at all! Brothers Jack and Cian Desmond from West Cork directed and produced the 50-minute documentary. They travelled to Hamburg, Cologne, Madrid and Galicia, getting to know some of the people behind the clubs – Irish expats, Germans, Spanish, French, Kazakh and even farther afield. The programme follows the players’ journey as they learn a new sport, forge a strong community, and ultimately battle for the pan-European trophy.
The show is narrated by well-known broadcaster and personality Síle Seoige. and covers hurling/camogie in Germany, and football in Spain.
One person who found GAA very important while being abroad was Jack McCarron, from Kilkenny. After moving to Dusseldorf, where he worked remotely in journalism, Jack took up arms with Dusseldorf GAA. “No matter where I go in the world, the first thing I do is go on social media and find the local GAA club,” says Jack, who has also lived and played in London. Jack calls the area of Cologne-Dusseldorf-Bonn “County Rhineland”, because the clubs in each of these neighbouring cities play together when they need numbers for larger events. He played with the Cologne side for the German Hurling Cup, shown in the programme.
The region of Galicia in north-west Spain is famous for the Camino pilgrimage. It also has a Celtic culture, and an entire Gaelic football league was created by Galician people. The city of A Coruna was this year’s hosts of the Pan-European Gaelic Football championships. Hundreds of players came from all over Europe, so the pressure was on. To add to the stakes, the finals was broadcast live on local Galician TV.
The capital of Spain has a strong team of young Irish expats, as well as non-Irish people who have picked up Gaelic football. Madrid Harps sent men’s and women’s teams to Galicia to compete in the football cups, hosted by A Coruna’s Fillos De Breogan football club.
“It was a privilege to travel around Europe and meet so many people passionate about Irish sport and culture,” says co-director Jack Desmond. “It was amazing to see how important hurling, camogie and football has become to people who may never have even been to Ireland before!”
The programme will premiere on TG4 on Thursday June 1st at 9:30pm and will be available to view on the TG4 Player website thereafter.