VC Blues in Hong Kong

                                                            VC Blues in Hong Kong

Photos: Markus Steffen 

Viet Celts A in Hong Kong,  September 2010

The stars seemed to be aligning for Viet Celts’ A team for the Asian Gaelic Games 2010 held in Hong Kong on September 25-26. As fate would have it, the globetrotting Vietnam-based handbag manufacturer Bernard Hartigan was conveniently cleaning out a Shenzen chicken factory that very weekend. “Big” Jon Holden had also materialised at training a few months before and took to the sport like a giant one eyed duck to water.  

                                  ‘Big’ Jon Holden taking to water

Dave Cunningham had decided to delay plans to swap Asia for South America for one last hurrah in the former. A homeward bound, John O’Dowd of the Dingle O’Dowds was also prepared to sacrifice chasing young ladies around a Dublin campus during Fresher’s week for the cause. After a child-rearing and academic sabbatical in the old country, “Coach” Colm Ross would be heading back to Vietnam via Hong Kong with bags of gloves, boots and a decade or two of sage advice for young, wayward heads. Swayed by this auspicious gathering and visions of glory, our Australian hard-men Dan Coloe and Clint Lambert walked across snapping-turtle infested bodies of water to the south and east respectively of Saigon to join up with their comrades. Our squad had also been boosted by the recent return from self-imposed exile of the imposing wee Colin Campbell and some sterling recruits, namely Ruairi Darrell and Seamus Doran, a pair of closet troubadours and incorrigible charmers posing as pedagogues in Hanoi.

 

                                           Throw-in at the start of the Japan game

It was looking pretty damn good. Sadly, despite coming to town with our best squad ever, the tournament’s dubious new structure meant the weaker teams who qualified for the Men’s B competition in previous years opted to enter the Plate/ Bowl, while tired of the dominance of Dubai and Hong Kong, A teams from elsewhere also dropped down into the B division. We found out on arrival that we’d be up against some really top teams on the Thursday and only a night of drink brought back the colour to our cheeks and the twinkle in our eyes.

                                                           Half-time against Qatar

On the first day, we played Qatar B, Japan A and Seoul Gaels B – each one better than the last. We pipped Qatar at the death thanks to a magical solo goal by John  O’Dowd of the Dingle O’Dowds with seconds to go but were beaten by three points by both Japan A and Seoul Gaels, both well-organised and extremely fit teams, who took their points well. Certainly no disgrace, but our two losses meant we were bunged into a preliminary quarter final at 8.20am the next morning. We drew the Seoul Gaels once more and again we were bested despite leaving everything we had on the pitch.

                      John O’Dowd scores his second wondergoal inside a week

The tournament was over for us and at 8.40am it was too early to even drown our sorrows. But although we walked away in umpteen different directions from the pitch drenched in disappointment, we came back together as a team, first to support the barnstorming Viet Celts B, who were mightily unlucky to be knocked out of the Bowl semi-final, and, then, for the highlight of the tournament, to cheer on the Duracelts (Vietnam’s ladies team), who swashbuckled their way into the final of the women’s B competition with incredible energy, determination, skill, guts and brilliance. Cruelly denied the winner’s trophy by a single point, they won our hearts by accepting that bitter defeat with smiles, cheers, laughter and evident pride, helping the Viet Celts mens’ teams shirk off the fresh memory of defeat.

That night the closing party for the championships had a fancy dress theme: it was, “When I grow up, I want to be a…” I wanted to come as a Duracelt, the Viet Celts’ better half and an inspiration to our club, and many others; conical hats off to you girls, you did us proud.

Connla Stokes

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