When Irish eyes are on the ball

Vast hordes are amassing at the borders. Across the plains of Europe they stand ready to descend upon the ancient city of København. Great warriors shall step forth to battle for the crown; the taste of glory, mud, honour and blood keeps them marching forwards. Banners will fly and heroes will fall. Just be at the park for an 8:30am registration.

The sporting combatants referred to are actually more modern than suggested. Riding airplanes, adorning lycra armour and taking part in the 2012 Pan-European Gaelic Football Tournament.

The event will draw 23 teams from countries like France, the Netherlands, Sweden and even the distant, some say mythical, isle of Jersey.

“We’re confident we’ll get a flying start in the first tournament,” said Sean Coogan, who plays for the Copenhagen GAA club and is one of the event organisers.

“But we are hoping for as much support as possible as we’ll be facing some of the best teams in Europe,” added Coogan.

It’s free to watch and the club are keen to welcome the expat community so they can show them what it’s all about.

Despite your prejudices and assumptions, the sport does have rules. On a rectangular grass pitch, teams of 15 run and pass a round ball, slightly heavier than a standard football. However, you can’t run more than three steps with the ball. Players instead bounce the ball on the ground or show-off by dropping it on their foot and kick it back into their hands. Legend has it the referees are only chosen for their ability to count up to four.

A goal scored under an H-shaped goal, similar to rugby posts, is worth three points or over the crossbar for one point.

The game gets physical as a healthy level of competitive shoulder-to-shoulder contact is permitted.

The teams are not swollen by the ranks of Irishmen as you may expect. The sport’s popularity has spread to other nationalities. The ladies Copenhagen team, for instance, primarily consists of Danish women – their only Irish belle joined just recently. Around 300 players are expected to participate, giving the event a continental atmosphere.

The tournament on Saturday is one of three. Next month they will all compete in Vienna and then travel to Maastricht in November. The team that does the best over the three legs will be crowned champions of Europe.

The games are split across three categories – Championship, Shield and Women’s – and last ten minutes a half. The semi-finals and finals are both 15 minutes each way.

When the light begins to fade and the injured are cared for, the brothers and sisters shall join for a feast, telling tales and reciting songs. Much merriment shall then flow as the Irish taverns that prop up the city open their mighty doors.

2012 Pan-European Gaelic Football Tournament
Kløvermarken Idrætsanlæg, Kløvermarksvej 50, Cph S; Saturday 09:00-18:00; free adm; www.cph-gaa.dk

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