Jakarta – Indonesia. The hectic Indonesian capital and its vibrant Dragonflies Celts played host to the Gaelic Football South East Asian Games on May 29th. In this, their third appearance in an international tournament, the DuraCelts were determined not to play second fiddle to the other teams, and even to challenge Singapore’s supremacy.
The DuraCelts’ coaching Triumvirate had made sure that the squad would be physically and mentally prepared to defend Uncle Ho’s honour against the assault of neighboring South East Asian teams.
For the first time in their history, the DuraCelts proudly made it to the tournament’s official hotel, an excellent decision which ensured a full night of sleep, in contrast to the restless nights spent in poorer accommodation in Kuala Lumpur. Christey, Judi and Jenny even made history, with a ..errr…”strategic” (and in no way intentional…) attempt at confusing our Singapore opponents by telling them the tournament started one day earlier. Unfortunately, this subversive tactic was foiled by a certain Gareth O.
The DuraCelts’ International Squad: Catherine Ganley, Elisa Lelard, Nguyen Minh Phuong, Tran Hanh Nhung, Mags Gaynor, Jenny Von Rosen, Christey West, Judith Brun, Thuy Vu, Katy Lankester, Marion Labatut
Saturday morning, the day of the tournament, dawned bright and sunny – no rain in the forecast, for once. The first game was against Singapore White. The first half the play had to find its rhythm, as the DuraCelts are not accostumed to big fields. Adjustments were made at half time, and the ladies started the second half strong. Led by Catherine as a central defender, the back line did an amazing job. Mags and Christey, who have only been playing for three months, demonstrated excellent defensive skills and blocked the experienced Singaporean forwards on most occasions. Nhung, the unbeatable goal keeper, showed indestructible determination and didn’t hesitate to move forward to save powerful kicks. The DuraCelts presented strong opposition to Singapore White, as the score shows 3-3 to 2-2.
Second game – Malaysia. Taking the field against Malaysia, the DuraCelts knew they’d bring a challenge Malaysia might not expect. Having grown significantly as a team since the last face-off with Malaysia, the Ha Noi ladies were out to surprise them. A number of points by leading scorer Marion put the DuraCelts in the lead at half-time, but the ladies were careful not to relax, and went back into the second half with a 0-0 mentality. This turned out to be critical, as Malaysia lucked out with a free kick just minutes into the second half and raised their score by 3. The DuraCelts were quick to respond and regained momentum, pulling through with a final score of (to be confirmed)
With one victory under their belts, the DuraCelts turned to face Singapore Red. The Reds demonstrated excellent strategic play and solid skills, but the DuraCelts adapted quickly to challenge their tactics. A quick goal scored at the start of the second half, however, gave the Singapore Reds a lead that the DuraCelts couldn’t overcome. The game ended with a close win by Singapore 2-1 to 1-2.
In the final match of the day, the DuraCelts faced Malaysia again to determine who would capture ‘bronze’. The DuraCelts were hungry to place for the first time in an international tournament. …. With seconds to go, Malaysia made a break for the DuraCelts goal, but in a blitz of defensive prowess, Catherine took possession and expertly passed to Katy, who cleared it out as the buzzer rang. A DuraCelts victory!
The DuraCelts’ finest hour, however, may have been off the pitch at the banquet on Saturday night. True to their (adopted) Vietnamese heritage, the team arrived en masse wearing the traditional Vietnamese ao dai and regaled participants with a Vietnamese song (which some may have heard as they practiced on the bus earlier that morning). As both the youngest squad and the one with the most local players in the region, the DuraCelts have entered the world of Asian Gaelic Football in true Vina-style.