Viet Celts win the South Asian Plate 2012

Dave Cunningham, Viet Celt existentialist philosopher and writer sent in this ‘stream of unconsciousness’ laden report of the VC at the South Asian Gaelic Games 2012. This combination of kaleidoscopic writing with an extreme formal schematic structure renders the piece a major contribution to the development of 21st-century modernist Gaelic Football literature. His main point is that we are, as players, “condemned to be free only in as much as our own illusions and our own markers allow”.  More on these precepts at a later date.

The Viet Celts

The Viet Celts with some of the Duracelts

A motley crew on different flights from Hanoi, we flew to Bangkok and then journeyed on by bus south to Pattaya to represent the Viet Celts Mens Team in the South Asian Gaelic Games 2012 . The games were organised by Thailand GAA and took place on May 19.

After different degrees of muted hedonism had been explored and most of our heads somewhat rested we congregated at the spectacular Polo Grounds outside Pattaya, down a long avenue rich with gum trees and the earthy smells of a country club.  It had been raining enough to make the surface damp but after early squelchiness, it was perfect for the rest of the day.

As per usual we were down to play the first game of the day, although happily it was a 9am rather than 8am game.  There were 7 teams present – Malaysia A, Malaysia B, Thailand, Viet Celts, Saigon Gaels, Singapore and guest participants, an amalgamation team, Shanghai-Taiwan.  The format was that we’d all play 4 games and from the resulting league table there’d be a 1st/2nd play-off for the cup and a 3rd/4th play-off for the plate.

So we arrived bang-on 9am, ready to go after getting changed in the van on the way, only to find out that we were not the least organised team – Saigon were still on the bus from Bangkok and the Shanghai-Taiwan team was still assembling its component parts.  So after a fine warm-up we had to put our feet up a while before our first game.

Luke Kenny wins possession against Saigon Gaels

First up were the Saigon Gaels, backboned by members of the Saigon Swans AFL with a few Irish lads as the driving force behind it.  We made mighty hard work of this game, with woeful shooting putting the burden on the defense to keep us in the game.

Seamus Doran harries Billy Crang of Saigon Gaels

After a couple of scares – one highball causing us all sorts of problems – we started to score our points and finally won by a couple of scores.  Luke Kenny got a most honourable mention from the ref for his tenacious tackling and link-up play and the legendary Danny Coloe was our point-scoring hero, the only one with a straight foot in that game!

Luke Kenny comes away with the ball against Saigon Gaels

Next up were the Shanghai-Taiwan team – lads who had given Singapore a pretty good game of it and who we thought would cause us more problems, but again after a bit of a poor start we began to find our rhythm and put a few passes together.  Dan Dockery in goals got quick ball out to the defenders and they passed it to midfield and then we started to find passes and move the ball and the opposition around a lot more.  Again, we missed more than we scored but it was a pretty comfortable victory, the main bonus being the goal from Hugo Balandra– a Mexican representing Vietnam at an Irish sport in Thailand!

John Shoulders breaks out of defense against Thailand

After an almost two-hour break we were back on for the afternoon session with two much tougher opponents – Malaysia A and Thailand.  Malaysia A gave us a sound beating and put a serious check on our hopes of qualifying for the Cup Final.

Thailand managed to outsmart us and we were again too profligate up front, losing despite having a couple of generous decisions go our way – Dan D giving a bear-like embrace to some guy who had long since disassociated himself from the ball without conceding a penalty and a strange disallowed goal that somehow didn’t cross the line.

That left us sweating on a few results while the other teams finished out their games.  It all came down to a game between Thailand and Saigon, which the hosts managed to win, setting up a rematch of the Thailand v Viet Celts group game in the Plate Final.  We were well up for revenge and determined to have one game of consistently good football from beginning to end before the tournament was all over.  Our starting team was Dan D / Shane, Seamus, Mark B / Luke, Danny Cool, Tamie (capt) / Jim, Dave C.  Subs were Justin, Hugo, John Shoulders and Wild Bill, with Greg unfortunately still on the injured list.

Jim Kiernan involved in a tumble with a Thailand player

From the start we were competitive and tight in the tackles, conservative with possession and shots.  For once we scored more than we missed, we waited for the right moments and chose the right passes to set up easier shots.  We even passed backwards occasionally.  In defence we were so tight and sharp that the Thais were reduced to optimistic, off-balance shots from too far out.

Shane Culberton, immaculate in defense all tournament

We pilfered a goal when an up and under from Danny C bounced over the keeper and bounced off the post, Dave just managing to keep it ‘in’ (the umpire said it was in, I swear!) and tucked away an easy chance while keeper and defender berated the ref and umpire.  As we extended our lead the Thais had to chase it more, leaving a lot more space for our marauding midfield (for swashbuckling marauders one and all they were) to maraud.  Captain of his crew, the bauld Tamie led by example, breaking up play all across the midfield line and then providing excellent supporting runs from deep which left the Thais wide open.  His three points were superbly taken at the end of nice passing moves and gave a comfortable feeling to the last few minutes of the game.

South Asian Plate Winners 2012

At the final whistle we were a happy mob, finally victorious as a stand alone entity after the only previous success came as part of a Viet-Thai amalgamation side which won the South East Asian Plate back in 2009.

A quiet moment of reflection after the final

Singapore won the South Asian Cup, beating a gallant Malaysia A in the final. The reception was in the Hard Rock Hotel and for once we went with good spirits, looking forward to collecting some rare silverware.  So up we marched when announced, led by our Pyping leader, the box presented, plate within, Tamie raises it assuming it’s attached to the box and gives it a good shake (pretending to be captain of Hearts in the Scottish Cup Final) only for it to fly out of the box and land with a marvelous clunk on the edge of the stage in front of him, his world undamaged apart from his pride in his elegance.

So with full bellies and medals clutched preciously we called it a night around half past nine, tired from our day’s exertions and toddled off our separate ways for a good night’s sleep, to dream of future glories in Malaysia in October.

Dave Cunningham

Jim Kiernan of the Viet Celts and John Redmond of Saigon Gaels

Special mention from a Vietnam Gaelic Football point of view must go to the Saigon Gaels for putting a team together for the competition.  This was especially due to the work of John Redmond and Brian Farrell in HCMC in the lead up to the games. The  presence of Saigon Gaels was one of the highlights of an extremely well run tournament by the Thailand GAA. Thanks to John Campbell and the rest of the Thailand GAA club for making us all feel very welcome. Thanks also to Paraic McGrath who took on the difficult task of reffing all the games in the Mens competition which must have been close to some sort of record.

Report to follow on the Duracelts at the South Asian 2o12 by Claire Coughlan

The Viet Celts


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