[Photos by the talented Abel Rodríguez]
Lisburn wouldn’t normally be known as a Gaelic Football stronghold but like many things in the world, the only constant is change. Not even a car crash en route could stop them romping to an historic victory in what was their first Andalusian GAA League tournament.
Perhaps there have been negotiations between the eminent Pedro Sánchez and his Portuguese counterpart Senhor António Costa, perhaps grassroots GAA was discussed, perhaps not. Either way it seems the result is Lisbon’s inclusion as a Spanish territory much like “Ceuta y Melilla.” It’s as bizarre as seeing hurlers from Galway lifting a Leinster trophy. But I digress.
With an ex-county player in the middle of the park and a ravenous hunger, the like not seen since Tyrone ambushed Kerry in 2003, the men from Lisbon took things to a new level and reminded stalwarts like Gibraltar, Costa Gaels and Sevilla that nothing can be taken for granted.
Since the bar is now higher, we expect to see military precision employed by the stoic Johnny in Marbella, infectious enthusiasm utilised by veteran Kevin in Seville and downright mischievous cunning employed by those in Gibraltar. Meanwhile Celta Málaga will be on the pints.
A total of ten men’s matches took place, each having a duration of 15 minutes. Each squad was limited to 12 players per game, of which 7 were on the field at any one time.
A lot of personnel and gear had to be transported from the beautiful surroundings of Málaga, through the Costa del Sol to the imperial, disputed territory of Gib. A bus loaded with 4 teams, bibs, cones, balls, ball bags… “Have we not enough ball bags here already?” said one fella as he observed a rival squad entering the bus, chins raised and focused on “bursting fellas out of it”.
Málaga’s woes, dropping like flies
Of the seven players to start for Málaga in their first game against Sevilla, only four lasted the 15 minutes. James, trainer extraordinaire and a good forward on his day was the first fly to drop. When chasing a high ball near the square he came down on his ankle and had to be taken off immediately. Colm in goal was next with a nasty recurring thigh injury ending his day prematurely. Third to fall was John after catching a breadbasket ball in the forwards, he turned and shot only for the Sevilla keeper to get down low and save while the forward came down on his ankle.
In the next game versus Lisbon, Seán picked up a debilitating knee injury, leaving it easier to count the non-injured players on the remnants of that team. Enormous credit has to go to the wonderful Gibraltar medic who wrapped up three of these fallen men, enabling them to feature later.
James returned for the remainder of the matches as goalkeeper despite not being able to stand or kick a ball properly. His goalkeeping moment of the day was dealing with a looping ball bending backwards to tip over. He will be sure to let you know that even in these dire conditions he subsequently managed to make a stride out the field, taking a one-two with John near the middle, he struck a nice point off the left.
Seán, best known for his drinking, took the role of match ref in the bruising encounter between Costa Gaels and Sevilla. He was soon showing cards, a red to a Sevilla man for rough tackling, yellows to others including long time Costa Gaels’ man, Justin, who had stepped forward with authority only to be put in his place by the no-nonsense Dub. The Gaels easily came out on top with an emphatic victory.
After a hockeying at the hands of a strong Lisbon outfit, Málaga took on neighbours Costa Gaels hoping to put their bad luck and woe behind them. In what was a mercilessly physical match, tempers first rose after a “Crossmaglen Slap” tackle sent poor Chris careering forward only to land on his head.
The offender, Michael the publican, was brandished a yellow and then a filthy shoulder as repayment. The two men looked ready for a traditional post-disco rural punch up when Chris was also carded and Michael substituted to calm the wild beast. Chris may now be barred or have barred himself from a certain notorious bar on the Costa.
The game was close throughout, resembling Ulster football at times, with no quarter given, and scores hard earned. From the intense hits Cathal gave and received in the middle, to the marking battle of ex-MMA legend Flash and John near the square, to Seán’s wars upfront when challenging for possession. One man that impacted most of all however, was the tough figure of Enda who led Marbella to victory with the move of the game, a smart one-two which brought him into striking distance before goaling low on the right. The Gaels held out to record a 4 point win.
In an open game, Malaga and Gibraltar both traded points, goals and inspired tackles, none better than Cathal’s masterful rob of the ball, when a Gib man came careering through the middle with goal on his mind, only to have the ball ripped from his clutches spectacularly by the enigmatic Kerryman. Asked for comment later he merely responded: “Yerra…”
Lisbon, after disposing of Gibraltar impressively, then had a surprising dip in performance where they came out the wrong side of a goal fest against Sevilla. Recovering their composure, they put Marbella to the sword to come out on top for the day winning three and losing one. Their addition to the league no doubt raises the profile and is encouraging for the future of the game in Iberia. Now all can enjoy Christmas and look forward to the tournament in Seville February next.
Top players and moments of the tournament
Seán of Málaga, injured badly in the second game, made a strapped up return, limping around heroically in the forward line against Marbella netting 2 goals. One a poacher’s tap in from Fergus’ shot which was well saved by Tom for the Costa men. His second was a moment of opportunism, true to his character, netting from a 14 yard free, surprising all. Fergus also had his moment with a fine blasted bottom corner screamer against Gibraltar. Top praise goes to James however, playing on through the pain, he had no idea that his ankle was fractured. We wish him well in his recovery.
For Costa Gaels, Enda was awarded the honour of their player of the tournament. A constant steady presence in the centre of the field, from one-two’s to holding up the ball when necessary, to line breaking dashes for scores. Big Bird wanted everyone to know that he got a goal, bless his kind soul, he also provided the assist for Tiernan to bury a goal against Gibraltar. Any day your keeper saves a penalty he deserves a mention post match and that man was horse enthusiast, Tom.
Special praise was never more richly deserved than for Ethan whose last gasp point in his last game for his club clinched a draw for Gibraltar against Sevilla. Best wishes are extended to him as he embarks on a period of travel and alcohol abuse which will surely put hairs on his chest.
One man had to have the thankless job of coordinator and that fell to the ruthlessly efficient JP of Gib. Speaking to clubs before the games, he ensured referees were respected, teams were on time and facilitated the general smooth running of events.
We reached out to Lisburn and the Orangemen of Seville for comment but they were both busy painting kerbs and will no doubt be back soon ready for another march into battle.
Celta Málaga 0-4 2-2 Éire Óg Sevilla
Gibraltar Gaels 1-6 1-3 Costa Gaels
Celtibros Lisbon 5-9 0-4 Celta Málaga
Costa Gaels 1-8 0-0 Éire Óg Sevilla
Celtibros Lisbon 5-8 2-2 Gibraltar Gaels
Costa Gaels 2-9 2-5 Celta Málaga
Celtibros Lisbon 4-4 9-6 Éire Óg Sevilla
Gibraltar Gaels 3-9 2-5 Celta Málaga
Costa Gaels 2-5 4-4 Celtibros Lisbon
Gibraltar Gaels 2-5 1-8 Éire Óg Sevilla
John P Brady writes short and long fiction, articles and formally a blog about life in Italy, where he lived for 6 years. His first book, a collection, entitled Back to the Gaff has been published by Roadside Fiction.
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Back to the Gaff
Scandalous Narratives of Contemporary Ireland
Back to the Gaff is a collection by author John P Brady, which describes the excessive and outrageous nature of Irish night life.
Meet an array of eccentric individuals who populate the bars of Dublin, living lives of decadence and abandon. Their frolics inevitably lead to a trip ‘back to the gaff,’ which in Dublin-speak means gravitating towards someone’s place of residence where the depravity continues.