All Asian Gaelic Games 2017 – The Viet Celts and VC10 go to Bangkok

A weekend that started eleven years ago. A weekend to mark the end of the ten year anniversary of the Viet Celts. A weekend to remember both on and off the pitch. A weekend to bring three teams together and make them into more than just a sports club.

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Many of the original VC representatives once again representing, accompanied by most of the faces that have become so familiar over the years, as well as a cast of new characters more recently arrived to that city of beeping demons and screeching queens we all know and love so well.

Legends at nana sat morning

The summer of 2017 saw something of an exodus take place as the passage of time wreaked havoc with people’s ability to stay forever Hanoian. Jim Kiernan led the exodus, a piebald pied piper without whom our Gaelic football seemed less spectacular, taking Lana and Jack with him back to the lad of his initial emanation. Grant and Alison Keys and their imps also a massive loss, literally as well as in a sports administration and elevation to epicness kind of way. The charismatic Rebecca O Keefe and the spine of the ladies team, Mattie Conlan and another couple of the Wolfhound Brigade, the increasingly bedridden Mark Horkan, our Aussies especially Alex and Rose, all saying their farewells at Noi Bye.

training poster

Although we struggled to get more than a handful of people to training towards the end of summer, the start of the school year brought with it a fresh cohort of mavericks and troubadours looking to get some Gaelic football into their lives, whether as a new challenge, a return to youthful passion, a way to get fit, make friends, antagonise the antagonisers, earn one’s bia hois or simply by accidental association – ‘we thought it was soccer’!

bia hoi training

At the same time a Viber group had grown out of a Son Tinh or Standing Bar inspired conversation about reuniting the original Viet Celts team to make a Legends team for the Asian Games in Bangkok in November, Dan Dockery at the centre of the mischief-making as usual. The names of all previous participants were listed, people chased down and added to the group, one of them was excommunicated for professing a desire to actually win games, others only gradually convinced that this would be a good idea, some spent their time picking teams, others complaining about their backs knees ankles hearts lungs wallets, the excitement slowly building, plateauing with a strange sense of transient nervousness in the final days before the competition – ‘Dear god, what have we let ourselves in for?!’.

 

The list of names whittled down to those definitely interested in coming, one or two of them signing up before even landing in Hanoi, others dropping out due to work life travel or recuperation commitments, enough players to at least make full teams for the Men’s and Ladies’ competitions. Then, hold on, how much? Oi gioi oi! In €uro? Jaysus. Are we doing this or not? Yes of course we are. It’s on. Training harder, Shane Sean Luke all taking turns to take sessions, Quest the weekend before Bangkok so mass exodus for waterside woodland wandering wraiths while those left in Hanoi played a Jamboree mixed teams competition against Dragons both Blue and Rugby.

jamboree poster

Then finally, all tickets booked, pick which side of the fence your hotel is on, register for the competition but the registration link is not working so click on the link below the link above… Jerseys arrive, the gold is gorgeous, or mustard, if you must – the Vinataba-themed dream rendered real. Bags packed, scouts already departed confirming Bangkok is still there and awaiting us. Qatar, Vietjetstar, Thai Lion Air, airlines appear from nowhere to transport us out of our daily existences and into a different dimension for a few days.

jim arrives

Pockets of players collect magnetically to reflect, reconnect and protect the concept of a club that is as much a community as a sporting entity. The heroes of yesteryear quickly into the beer and celebratory cheers, the men for tomorrow more sombre as they acquaint themselves with themselves and sit on sidewalk shelves rather than delve into the depths of the delights that saunter through that humid night. The ladies linger but keep an eye on the clock, determined to dazzle the next day rather than exploit the night and be unable to play. No such issues for Colm’s VC10 Army who are happy to share a drink and discuss tactics late into the night with any of the many local residents who have gathered for just such a purpose. Then off to sleep, some of them with their own special little dreams about scoring goals that are so good the whole world will stop and applaud, others just happy to be back with a glorious group of friends, others not sure where they are or how they ended up there!

 

Then morning time and the scramble to get everyone together, fed fuelled hydrated, bags packed and out the door down the road onto the BTS get a team photo and then we’re there, unfortunately scattered around our different pitches so unable to witness each other’s exploits and exuberance but still happy getting on with the games in our own different ways.

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The Ladies’ team wreaking havoc and carnage amongst defences throughout the Junior Competition, scoring something like 512 goals and 14 points on the first day. The Men had a more civilised go of it, winning two and losing just the one to get second place in their competition and the right to continue competing at the sharp end of the Intermediate Cup, heady heights for a club that has rarely reached such a level and particularly for a team that had been so recently assembled and introduced to each other. The Legends lost all 4 games and thoroughly enjoyed doing so, their final two games in particular producing heart-palpitating performances against Taiwan and Suzhou / Phuket, the players’ hearts being at stake rather than those of any assembled audience.

connla strikes

OFFICIAL SATURDAY COMMUNIQUES

Shane Moran: Lads team lost first game to Singapore by about 2 goals and hammered Hong Kong 1-7 to 0-0. Next up is Thailand B at 3.10. Well done to the Girls who are on fire! Any word from the VC10?

Dan Dockery: Yes, VC10 were the fans’ favourites at St Andrews 107

Shane Moran: 3rd game we beat Thailand by 2 points or so… through to the Intermediate Cup semi-final at 10.55am tomorrow!

ladies satruday score sheet

Saturday night all teams assembled in a Sports Bar with the requisite big screens to watch an inconsistent Arsenal maul a malingering Spurs team, accompanied by Guinness, bar food, pool, table football and some American table shuffle-shules. Confusion regarding the next day’s opponents coupled with whatever was in the water had some of the men’s team pacing the place sniffing the air wanting to learn more about the delights of the night.

ladies team saturday

Well rested the Sunday morning all teams assembled at Patana School for the knockout stages of the competition. First up were the VC10 contingent, resplendent in their gold and red, although stiff in their bones and slower now than yesterday. Early to exit but chuffed to have huffed and puffed themselves back into some sense of self-belief, supported by  the ever chirpy Jonny Symonds, photo wizard Aidan Dockery, a stoic Justin Stevenson, who were later joined by the Irish Ambassador to Vietnam, Cait Moran, and the wandering Minsktrel Mike Clifford. Witnesses to moments of magic from the boots of Richie Rastall and Colin Campbell and the years being rolled back by Colm Ross, while Brain Lalor and Dan Dockery manned the sticks most manfully, defended by the behemoths of before – Gareth O Hara, Shane Culbertson and Frank Quinn – regaining retaining recycling possession for midfield maestros such as the timeless Dan Burns and Mark formerly Beard now Moustache to do their damndest, the charismatic DJ Polo too, this battalion of bikers and ballers spearheaded by the effervescent Mr Vietnam, Connla Stokes, he of the slapped goals, awkwardly angled points and incessant charm, ably assisted by the recently reinvigorated forever roaming VC Ambassador Senor Wild Bill Langslet and that talismanic throwback to times of titans who walked among humans in order to test the mettle of the best among them, a man who would have cheerfully bulldozed his way through a herd of water buffalo for a shot at goal and the right to sit and reflect on the nature of existence and the vicissitudes of being a bureaucrat for a minority sport in Asia, the one and only Jim Kiernan.

jim solo

Next up was the men’s team, against Japan’s B-side. The first day’s play had somewhat decimated the men’s squad, with Adam Skippy Hayton, Daniel the Dub Burke and Stephen Aaahhh! McGrath all ruled out. Set out in front of Paddy the Armagh Wall Quinn was a rotating defence of John Shoulders, David Staunton, James Griffin and Barry McCullagh, with a midfield variously composed of Daniel Coloe, Luke Kenny, Sean O Connell, Brewster Craven, while Neil Hiney and Shane Moran were tasked with creating and taking the chances up top. A tight semi-final ended up 5 points apiece, meaning 4 minutes of extra time would be required to separate the teams. It turns out running around Nana at night is not adequate training for an Asian Games Intermediate Cup semi-final though, with the Japanese team managing to find just enough space to slot over a couple of decisive points, with our would be champions out on their feet at the final whistle. It was an eye-opening experience for many, pity the football didn’t quite work out!

hiney rolls

And so to the Ladies. Having played at separate venues the previous day many of us had not seen this team composed of both legends and Hanoi newcomers in action. In their semi-final we started to understand why there had been such a buzz about them the previous morning. Early Sunday morning nerves were soon dispelled with a couple of well-taken points, some clinical shooting extended the lead and it was on to the final.

ceilidh and ladies (2)

The final was a tightly contested game, with the Hong Kong Ladies Legends team – celebrating 13 years of playing together – putting up a fight that belied their age. Tournament debutante Phuong O Hara was a constant presence in defence, working alongside Sinead Ni Cathasaigh in front of Mel Doyle in nets, allowing Le Thu and Thanh Nguyen the space for an occasional foray forward, bursting through tackles to shift the ball into midfield, where Georgia Davis, Amy McCowan and Julianne Goyena, worked to free up space for the free scoring Ceilidh Dalton, up front Aoife Downes was constantly on the move looking for the best angles, working in tandem with Niamh Marshall and Elaine Coleman.

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Through teamwork, perseverance and that extra bit of skill the Viet Celts were able to stretch the game as it progressed, allowing their star players to exploit the spaces left behind between midfield and defence. The clinching goal was a moment of pure joy for the Viet Celts supporters as Ceilidh shrugged off her marker, strode from midfield to attack, sidestepped a couple of defenders  and launched a bullet of a shout into the top corner, thudding off the stanchion and into the back of the net. The Celts maintained their control of the game from thereon as their fans grew more vocal in their renditions of the classic tunes ‘We’re the Viet Celts (nanananana)’ and ‘We all live in a Communist regime’. The final whistle saw the ladies team forming a big circle and continuing the chants, soon joined by the whole Hong Kong squad in a fitting final moment of union between the two teams.

victorious ladies

phuong champion

 

full squad photo

Elsewhere Seoul won the Senior competition and Hong Kong took the Ladies competition. With the games done and the trophies awarded it was time to head back to town and get down to the final function. The theme was ‘the beach’ so the banquet hall hosting our festivities was a riot of colour, our own fruity femmes putting most of us to shame. It was a massive bonus to see Ceilidh Dalton nominated to the All Stars Team for the Junior / Intermediate competitions, her father Davey no doubt a chuffed man when he heard the news. In the midst of the celebrations there was also time for one more very special award.

ceilidh hall of fame

While I could, and have, written many words about this fine fecker of a fellow I think everyone is now aware of what an absolute legend of a man he is. Seeing him out there running through treacle and treating us to one of his trademark catch-drop-pass-smash your knees thuddingly into the ground for the team was an absolute pleasure for everyone who knows him. Chatting to him after games and seeing his bashful smile as he reinterpreted the tiniest of details to give each moment a newly discovered charm was itself one of those little details that made the weekend so special. The work the man has put into maintaining both the numbers and the integrity of the club are unparalleled, his inspiration to both reluctant and non-Irish club members is unique, his unshaken insistence that ‘tournaments are the lifeblood of any club’ and willingness to chase lost causes despite the crazy bureaucracy and administration often involved are only some of the reasons we all love this man so much. No worthier entrant into the Asian County Board Hall of Fame, congrats Jim and best of luck back home.

jim hall of fame vc

And finally…

A note from the irrepressible Ceilidh Dalton:

Ladies & Gents! Thank you so much for an unforgettable weekend! You’s are all one in a million and I’m so proud to be a ‘Viet Celt’!! After missing two flights I now sit here in BKK airport in hope that I will somehow manage to get myself on this airplane! When I arrive back to Hanoi I promise to get my head examined or find myself a full time babysitter! Thanks again, Love you all

 

And one from the incorrigible Shane Moran:

Massive shout out to the girls for bringing home the cup! My God did ye do us proud.  😁

But we also had another huge victory at the AGG this year. Congratulations to Jim Kiernan on being this year’s inductee into the Asia GAA Hall of Fame! We’ve never had a club man like him, a trojan promoter of the game, a serious man under a breaking ball and the sole reason there is an Asian Youth championships and a thriving Hanoi schools cup. Never more deserved: Jim Kiernan, “Never Bitter, Rarely Wrong”

 

Photos by Aidan Dockery (especially the best action shots – check out his website) and other Viet Celts members

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Asian Youth Championship 2016

SIS Gamuda U12 with the Joe McDonagh trophy and their coach John Shoulders. Also in the photo are the Irish Ambassador, Cáit Moran and ACB Chairman Joe Trolan with Jim Kiernan of the Viet Celts

T’was a balmy Saturday, November 19 in the dusty suburb of My Dinh, a few kilometres south-west of Hanoi, Vietnam. Teams had arrived in from Seoul, Gimhae and Shanghai the previous evening. Coaches and officials had met to catch up on old debates and sow the seeds of future memories. A plethora, some might say an excess, of emails were circulating between the various volunteers who had stepped forward to make this dream a reality. The first ball was thrown up at 9am and the Asian Youth Championships (AYC) were under way!

Under-12s

Shanghai U12 v Gimhae U12

Teams were split into three age categories. The best represented was the youngest age group, the Under-12s. As well as the two regular Hanoi teams – Blue Dragon and SIS Gamuda – the tournament also saw the debut of the Vietnam Swans youth Gaelic football team. Joining these teams in the U12 competition were the four visiting teams: Korea International School, Seoul Gaels, Gimhae GFC and Shanghai GFC.

Vietnam Swans U12 v Blue Dragon U12

 

The Swans, Gimhae and Korea all had mixed teams, while overall there was an incredible mix of nationalities all taking part in a sport that was both new to them and new to the countries in which they reside. Amazingly, there were only two players with an Irish parent and no fully Irish children playing! Instead it was mainly Asians, with the speed and energy of the predominantly Vietnamese teams against the strength and determination of the Korean teams providing some particularly captivating encounters.

Vietnam Swans U12 v Seoul U12

The Under-12 competition was a marathon of Gaelic Football for all involved and a wonderful opportunity for the young stars and heroes of the future to get some serious competitive experience by playing against a whole range of teams. Despite their youthful age, the players showed a discipline and courteousness both on and off the field that would have done any Irish mother proud and shamed many a senior player! Notwithstanding the fact that none of them were even half Irish!

Korea International School U12 v Gimhae U12

From the first games – involving the four visiting teams as the local teams scrambled to get their players together, prepare the pitches and set up tents for spectators – through to the finals when SIS Gamuda proved the superiority they had displayed all day by beating a strong Seoul team after a close first half. SIS Gamuda won the Joe McDonagh trophy named for Galway legend Joe McDonagh who was a great supporter of Asian GAA.

Blue Dragon – U12 Plate winners with their coaches, Rebecca  O’Keeffe and Thanh Nguyen. Also in the photo is the Irish Ambassador, Cáit Moran.

In U12 Plate Final, Blue Dragon beat Shanghai and  showed their ability to improve throughout the day, recovering from losing their first two games to finish with a flourish. Among the highlights of the day were the debuts of the Aussie Cygnets who took to the game like shrimp to a barbie under the direction of Head Coach, Grant Keys and his talented coaching panel.

VAS Hanoi U15s with the Joe Maleady trophy and one of their coaches, Jim Kiernan

Under-15s

At Under-15 level there were three teams competing for the right to call themselves champions of Asia. All three teams – Blue Dragon, SIS Gamuda and VAS Hanoi – are based in Vietnam and have been competing against each other for a few years now. Although the players had dreamed of playing against teams from other countries, unfortunately the likes of Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong had been unable to send teams, despite their generalised commitment to the idea of the competition.

Coach Neil Hiney leads the VAS Hanoi warm-up

As can be seen from the results in the results section below, VAS Hanoi, led by elite coaches, Jim Kiernan and Neil Hiney, were almost unplayable on the day. John Shoulders was a busy man all day taking care of both SIS Gamuda teams, and indeed some of the younger cohort made a strong showing even though playing against players three years older than them. The Blue Dragon team was not able to replicate the exploits of their club-mates but became more competitive throughout the day, poor finishing and a tendency to go for goals rather than points eventually denying them victory.

VAS Hanoi U15 with coaches, Neil Hiney and Jim Kiernan, the Irish Ambassador, Cáit Moran and ACB Chairman Joe Trolan

In a fitting finale to the U15 competition it was a straight shoot-out between the age group’s two big guns, VAS Hanoi and SIS Gamuda. Both teams and managers gave their all in a tight, technical, tactical battle. The free-flowing football of the earlier games was replaced with more astute point-taking, man-marking and pressure on kickers. VAS Hanoi were worthy winners and as the only team to have competed in every youth Gaelic football competition in Vietnam since the dawn of time it was a fitting reward for their players and erstwhile leaders. VAS Hanoi won the Joe Maleady trophy named for St Lomans’ coaching legend Joe Maleady who has helped out the Viet Celts Schools Gaelic Football Program over the years.

 

Under-18s

Blue Dragon U18 with the AYC U18 trophy and their coaches, Sean O’Connell, David Cunningham and Thanh Nguyen. Also in the photo is the Irish Ambassador, Cáit Moran.

At Under-18 level it was to a straight shoot-out involving two teams with a solid rivalry in Vietnamese Gaelic football – Blue Dragon and Hanoi International School. Players who had stood toe-to-toe in a number of All-Vietnam Schools’ Cups were now ready to battle it out for the right to call themselves ‘Champions of Asia’.

Hanoi International School had put together a very formidable unit over the years under the watchful eyes of coaches Leo’ Wiley Fox’ Dyar and Mr Michael Clifford. One player for Blue Dragon missed the team bus but managed to take two buses across the city, ninety minutes of travelling, in order to make it to the game, such was his commitment to the team. This clash of the titans would be the day’s showpiece

Blue Dragon U18 v Hanoi International School U18

And a titanic clash it certainly was. Both teams gave full commitment to their teams and the game. The speed at which the game was played was breath-taking, the two teams showing how they have mastered this new game over the years of playing it here in Hanoi, adapting skills from other sports. Passers-by stopped their motorbikes to watch and small children watched in awe as these lightning quick young men ran full tilt at each other, taking and giving thumping shoulders and triumphant high fives.

Along the side-lines stood a group of proud coaches, beaming smiles from ear-to-ear that it had all come together into such a great game. Blue Dragon took the gold-coloured medals but the whole day was a victory for the Viet Celts and Gaelic football in Vietnam, as well as the culmination of a long journey which started on a dusty Xuan La stadium back in May 2010 for the first All Vietnam Schools Cup and September 2008 for the start of the Viet Celts Schools Gaelic Football Program. Blue Dragon, VAS Hanoi  and SIS Gamuda, champions of Asia!

David Cunningham

Awards ceremony with Irish Ambassador -Cáit Moran, ACB Chairman – Joe Trolan and Tournament MC-Eric Kerrison

Special mentions to the Irish Embassy, the Asian County Board, DFAT, the GAA, the Global Games Development Fund and O’Neills for their vital support of the Viet Celts Schools Gaelic Football Program. Thanks to the Irish Ambassador,  Cáit Moran who presented the medals and trophies and to the AYC Organising Committee who put nine hard months of logistics into the event.

The awards table

AYC Organising Committee

Le Ngoc Anh (Lana) , Thanh Nguyen, Jim Kiernan, David Cunningham, John Shoulders, Neil Hiney, Sean O’Connell, Rebecca O’Keefe, Ewan Anderson, Joe Trolan, Jonathan Cleary, Conor Melvin, John Hennigan, Adrian Donoghue.

Nearly all of these people double jobbed or triple jobbed as coaches and referees. Thanks also to Paddy A Quinn and Mark Horkan who made a big effort to get down and help out with the refereeing on the day and Eric’ Kerro’ Kerrison  who did a fine job as Tournament MC. Behind the scenes on tournament day and before, Pham Lan, Brenda Meiklejohn, Jarrod Reames, Rowena Barnett and Rod Barnett lent a hand.

Massive respect to the players, coaches and mentors of Korea International School, Seoul Gaels, Gimhae GFC and Shanghai GFC who all made such a tremendous effort to get to Hanoi for the AYC. Congratulations to Gimhae who won the Ambassador’s Fair Play Award.

Below is the full list of scores for those readers with an interest in the minutiae! 30 games were played in total across the three competitions with 23 of those games coming in the U12 competition.

The Viet Celts

 

Some media links on the event and youth Gaelic Football in Vietnam

 Journal.ieChildren in Vietnam are mad about GAA thanks to our inspiring expats

VN Express InternationalHanoi disadvantaged kids dream big with Gaelic football

Vietnam News / Saigon NewsHa Noi to host Asia’s first AYC Gaelic football tournament

Hogan Stand Inaugural Asian Youth Championships to take place next month

RTE NewsroundInterview with David Cunningham as part of report about President Michael D. Higgins’ visit to Vietnam in late 2016

Connaught TelegraphYoung GAA players shine in Hanoi

Connacht Telegraph

Jonathan and Callum Cleary

A message below from Asian County Board Treasurer, Jonathan Cleary who travelled from Malaysia with his son Callum for the AYC. Callum put in an excellent stint on the SIS Gamuda U15 team and Jonathan refereed a good number of the U12 games.

“Fantastic weekend at the inaugural GAA Asian Youth Championship in Hanoi. Many thanks to the Viet Celts for hosting a marvellous tournament. Enjoyed refereeing as I got a chance to see the all the action first hand. Over 150 participants in the U12, U15 and U18 competitions and by my reckoning not one of them born in Ireland”

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VAS Gaelic Cup 2016

Tran Nguyen Nhu Toan kicks a point

 

Rest of VAS 6.7 (25pts)

Year 9           4.5 (17pts)

In the 8th edition of the VAS Gaelic Cup, Year 9 narrowly went down to a Rest of VAS selection on 15 November, 2016. As has been tradition over the last eight years, an Australian has always participated in the VAS Gaelic Cup and this year was no exception. The elegant and enigmatic Warren Wells lined out for the Rest of VAS selection and showed off some of his aerial skills from his days playing Australian Rules in Queensland.

Jim Kiernan on the ball

Year 9 were in front for most of the game thanks to some great scores from Tran Nguyen Nhu Toan and Vu Duc Dat but the Rest of VAS selection launched a comeback in the dying minutes of the game inspired by Nguyen Manh Huy and Neil Hiney ably supported by Nguyen Phu Quang from Year 6.

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Hanoi Youth Cup 2016 (U12)

Presentation of medals to players with coaches, John Shoulders, Thanh Nguyen and Sean O'Connell

Presentation of medals to players with coaches, John Shoulders, Thanh Nguyen and Sean O’Connell

Blue Dragon 5.5 (20pts)

Vietnam Swans 2.3 (9pts)

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On 14 November, a titanic clash took place in the U12 Final of the Hanoi Youth Cup 2016 as Blue Dragon U12s played Vietnam Swans U12s. An end to end game was only decided by a late flurry from the talented Vietnamese Blue Dragon forward line.

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The Vietnam Swans U12s impressed in their very first tournament against more experienced opponents. Sheaghdha Lucardie of the Vietnam Swans U12s won the 5th Jack Kiernan Award for MVP but there were excellent performances from a myriad of players on both teams.

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AYC launched during the visit of President Higgins to Vietnam

Launch of the AYC Championship with President Higgins, Fergus Broderick, Jim Kiernan, Rosa Clifford and Le Ngoc Anh

Launch of the AYC Championship with President Higgins, Fergus Broderick, Jim Kiernan, Rosa Clifford and Le Ngoc Anh

The Asian Youth Championship 2016 (AYC) was officially launched in Hanoi on the 8 November in the presence of the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins.

On behalf of the Viet Celts and the Asian County Board, Jim Kiernan thanked the AYC supporters in Ireland; Minister Charles Flanagan, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the GAA, the Global Games Development Fund and O’Neills.

RTE Interview with Thanh Nguyen, Colm Ross and David Cunningham

RTE Interview with Thanh Nguyen, Colm Ross and David Cunningham

Viet Celts club members, David Cunningham, Colm Ross and Thanh Nguyen talked to the Irish media about the tournament, Gaelic Football in Asia and the history of the Viet Celts.

Thanks to the Irish Embassy in Vietnam who organised a wonderful night on the occasion of the presidential visit.

Viet Celts club members, Colm Ross, Gareth O’Hara, Fergus Broderick and Mike Clifford with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charles Flanagan. The Minister is also a keen GAA follower.

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Press Release : GAA Asian Youth Championship 2016

Some high quality offerings from the smoldering one man hub of creativity that is David Cunningham. In a short space of time, he was able to put together an official AYC Press Release, an official AYC Publicity Banner and an official AYC Poster. Great to have Davey back from Cambodia for the run in for the Asian Youth Championship.

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Thanks to Mullingar, Seamus Mac Flionn and Connemara for their linguistic input on the AYC Poster.

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The inaugural Asian Youth Championship (AYC) will take place on Saturday 19th November 2016 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

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In the week following the visit of President Michael D. Higgins to Vietnam, the Asian County Board and the Viet Celts will host the first ever Asian Youth Championship (AYC) in Gaelic Football . Around 150 youth players are expected to be present on the day, spread across 14 teams and representing 5 Vietnamese schools/clubs and 4 international clubs/schools  from – Shanghai (China), Seoul Gaels, Korean International School  and Gimhae (All  Korea). Nationwide AFL club, the Vietnam Swans are a late entry with a team in the U12 competition.

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This championship represents a huge milestone for those involved and for the game itself. It will be the culmination of 8 years of hard work, training and commitment to the ideal that team sports can be extremely beneficial for an individual’s physical and social development. The staging of this tournament also bears testament to the collaborative attitude among Irish migrants living in Asia and their willingness to engage in non-profit, community development activities.

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Founded in 1996, the Asian County Board has been instrumental in spreading Gaelic games around Asia. The Viet Celts was formed in 2007 and has hosted three South Asian Gaelic Games. The club has long been at the forefront of developing youth Gaelic Football in Asia. The All-Vietnam Schools Cup has been a permanent fixture in the calendar since 2010, when VAS Hanoi beat Hanoi Academy in the final. The Hanoi Youth Cup is another annual competition. Past winners of both competitions include Hanoi Academy, VAS Hanoi, Hanoi International School (HIS), SIS Ciputra, Blue Dragon GFC and SIS Gamuda.

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Although some of the children playing at the AYC are actually Irish, what makes this event especially unique is the variety of nationalities which will be playing what is often considered a uniquely Irish sport. Some teams have a Vietnamese or Irish core while others are built around a mix of international and local children. Nationalities represented will include a variety of European, Asian and Anglophone nations, as well as many children from mixed marriages.

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This multicultural inclusivity epitomises the spirit of Gaelic games at an international level. This competition and the participating clubs provide the perfect pathways both to spread Irish culture and to help Irish migrants integrate into local communities.
One particular point of pride for local organisers is that Vietnam will be strongly represented by the players of Blue Dragon’s Children Foundation – the only club with players in every age category. Blue Dragon GFC was set up at the start of 2015 with support from the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’ Global Games Development Fund. O’Neills have also come in with support in the form of the Gaelic Footballs for the tournament.ayc-publicity-bannergaa_globalgames_-primarylogo

 

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AFL Asian Champs 2016, HCMC, Vietnam

Welcome signage

Welcome signage

How good were the AFL Asian Champs in Saigon on 15 October? One of the finest sporting events ever organized on Vietnamese soil. Well done all round to the Vietnam Swans for putting together a smashing competition.

The banners flying at fort Macau

The banners flying at Fort Macau

How good is the how goodin’ propensity of our Vietnam Swans brethren to how good their way through life without a care in the world? This factor created a great vib in Saigon. Coupled with top quality logistics, both led to a memorable two days

Jim Kiernan admires the terrible beauty of the ruck in a Macau game

Jim Kiernan on the edge of the ruck in a Macau game

A fairish number of VC went to Saigon to support the Swans as they hosted the AFL Asian Champs for the first time. We also travelled down to reciprocate the Swans entering an U12 team in our GAA Asian Youth  Championships in Hanoi on 19 November.

John Shoulders gets involved

John Shoulders gets involved

John Shoulders and Jim Kiernan located some grandmothers from Macau in their family trees to qualify under the granny rule to play for Macau Lightning. The elegant Lonan O’Briain lined out for Vietnam Swans B. The VC Ladies had five players taking part in an historic first AFL Asian Champs women’s game .

VC Ladies amongst the two teams in the historic AFL Women's game

VC Ladies amongst the two teams in the historic AFL Women’s game

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