On 14 March, the 6th edition of the All Vietnam Schools Cup in Gaelic Football was hosted by Vietnam Australia School (VAS Hanoi) and the Viet Celts in My Dinh. This year, the organisers were pleased to welcome two new schools/organisations. Singapore International School (SIS) from Ciputra entered two teams in the U11s Boys (primary) competition and Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation entered three teams spread over U11 Boys, U13 Boys and U15 Boys.
An amalgamation team from SIS and Blue Dragon called Hanoi Guerrieri also played in the U13 Boys competition. Other teams competing came from Hanoi International School (HIS) and the hosts, VAS Hanoi. It was the biggest All Vietnam Schools Cup to date with 8 games and 12 teams spread over 5 competitions. The games were 7-a-side and 15 minutes a half.
The Blue Dragon Project
The Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation is an Australian charity rescuing kids in crisis in Vietnam. Blue Dragon does a lot of magnificent work. Thanks to the coordinating skills of Dave Cunningham, an enthusiastic and talented coaching panel of Viet Celts has been organising Gaelic Football training sessions for Blue Dragon kids for the past few months to help out with the Blue Dragon sports program. This coaching panel consists of Dave Cunningham, Mark Horkan, Le Thi Thu, Nguyen Ngoc Quynh, Nguyen Dong Viet, Tho Nguyen, John Shoulders, Brian McNulty, Will Langslet and Claire Sauvage.
The Morning of the Tournament
Arriving at the meet-up point where the bus was waiting to transport the Blue Dragon Junior squads, the coaches still had no idea who from this new Gaelic Football entity would turn up . Sitting at a tea stall were the loyal Blue Dragon coaches and a couple of small kids. Oh dear. More coaches than kids, a start though.
Another couple of players arrived, and then all of a sudden, they all disappeared. What is going on? Turns out they had gone around to rustle up a few more players from the local neighbourhood, rousing a few kids from their daydreams and rest. A couple of players arrived in sandals with not more than a lollipop straw and a bent toothpick between themselves to see them through the day. Choco pies and buideals of uisce (Lavie) duly distributed, the bus set sail into the sea of traffic and over to the other side of the pond that is Hanoi.
Meanwhile, over at VAS, the school’s pitch was being set up for its biggest ever day of Youth Gaelic Football, with a morning and an afternoon schedule repencilled in the backs of minds as the organisers prepare for any eventuality. Banners are unfurled; bamboo poles are attached to goal posts with bungee cords. The day’s official scorecards are prepared and the yellow and red cards are given a peremptory shine with the cuff of a sleeve. Players slowly trickle in, some of them no bigger than three balls stacked on top of one another, others bristling with new found height and intensity.
SIS Ciputra get there early and John Shoulders has his troops out getting a feel for the surface of the pitch and the weight of an O’Neills. A veritable army, he’s able to put out two teams which is a huge boon, allowing a triangular competition to be played in the U11s.
U11s Boys (Primary) Competition
The day started with the first primary school (U11’s) event in the All Vietnam Schools Cup history, as two newcomers to the game in Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation andl Singapore International School at Ciputra squared off for the cup. The All Vietnam Primary Schools Cup was the brainchild of John Shoulders from Santa Rosa, California.
SIS Ciputra Red 2.3 (9pts)
SIS Ciputra Black 2.1 (7pts)
The first game was between SIS Red and SIS Black, two evenly matched sides who came out playing tight defense with neither side wanting to be the first to concede. As the clock wound down, however, the game picked up in excitement as back and forth late scores saw SIS Reds, led by scorers Kim Ji Woo and Bui Thanh Tung, escape with a narrow victory over the SIS Black. Impressive for SIS Black were midfielder Nguyen Cuong My and also goalkeeper Le Khac Gia Quan who made a few great saves.
SIS Ciputra Red 5.2 (17pts)
Blue Dragon 2.0 (6pts)
Next up, the SIS Reds took on Blue Dragon, in a game that was once again marked early on by defense. In their first ever game, the players of Blue Dragon swarmed to the ball and put in a number of tough tackles to the frustration of the larger SIS side. Yet again, the scoring picked up as the game went along, with the Reds, behind Cuong My and big forward Tran Cong Tien, edging the Dragon side led by the creative and gutsy play of their standout forwards.
SIS Ciputra Black 3.0 (9pts)
Blue Dragon 1.2 (5pts)
In the final game of the U11’s, SIS Black came out of the gates fast, again led by Thanh Tung and Ji Woo along with fellow midfielder Cody Bui Aldous. Despite being down early, Blue Dragon, inspired again by their standout forwards, came back strong, managing to pull back two fantastic goals. As the final whistle blew, the Reds had managed to hold on, and were proud recipients of the first ever Under 11 Cup with Ji Woo claiming MVP honors. That said, it was truly an event where all participants could come away with their heads held high and feeling like winners. Congratulations to all the Blue Dragon and SIS players involved for putting on such a great show of effort, sportsmanship and growing skill!
U13 Boys (Junior) Competition
VAS Hanoi 8.9 (33pts)
Hanoi Guerrieri 2.2 (8pts)
Hanoi Guerrieri (Warriors) put up a brave fight in the semi-final against a more experienced VAS Hanoi side and never gave up even as South Asian champions, VAS Hanoi, started to control the game. Vu Cong Tuyen Thang, Nguyen Quang Nghia, Tran Nguyen Nhu Toan and Vu Duc Dat all got on the score sheet for VAS Hanoi. The Guerrieri continued to play with a certain swagger and received great support from the non-aligned in the crowd. Even though they bowed out of the competition, this prototype of a possible Viet Celts youth side was a proud moment for the founders of the All Vietnam Schools Cup and Hanoi Guerrieri walked away to the applause of the spectators.
Blue Dragon 5.7 (22pts)
VAS Hanoi 1.9 (12pts)
VAS Hanoi were level with Blue Dragon at halftime, 6 points each in a tensely contested first half. However, Blue Dragon came out fired up in a high scoring second half and more than deserved their victory. Tran Nguyen Nhu Toan won the VAS MVP award for his displays for VAS Hanoi U13s over the two games.
Blue Dragon had heroes all across the field and their spirit was a credit to both themselves and the hard work that their coaches had put in over the previous few months. Their passing was intelligent coupled with robust yet clean tackling.
This was one of the most popular wins of the day. VAS Hanoi coach, Jim Kiernan was straight over after the game to offer hearty congratulations to the Blue Dragon coaches on duty, Dave Cunningham, Nguyen Dong Viet and Mark Horkan. Kim Miller of Blue Dragon was delighted to see a first trophy for her Gaelic Football club and beating the South Asian champions added to the occasion.
U15 Boys (Intermediate) Competition
HIS U15s 7.6 (27pts)
Blue Dragon 2.2 (8pts)
The Blue Dragon Gaelic Football club was hoping to add to their first scalp and somehow topple the mighty Jamie Martin and his HIS U15 teammates. What Blue Dragon lacked in size, they certainly made up for in grit and determination.
One of the highlights of the game being the dispossession of the standout player, Jamie Martin, by a young player from Blue Dragon who had never played a competitive game of Gaelic football in his life until that morning. He had only been to six training sessions prior to the competition. The gasp from the crowd as he emerged from a scuffle with the ball was a telling attribute to the little man’s determination and enthusiasm for the game.
There was no stopping HIS, however, and Jamie Martin deservedly added to his Gaelic Football MVP awards. James Kaunhoven won his first Vietnamese Gaelic Football trophy as a coach.
U18 Girls Competition
VAS Hanoi 7.2 (23pts)
HIS Girls 2.4 (10pts)
HIS Girls put up strong resistance for much of the game but in the end, had no answer to the attacking talents of Truong Thi Ngoc Anh and Nguyen Nga.
Defender, Le Nguyen Hong Nhung showed a lot of fortitude in returning to the field to anchor the defence when HIS started a fight back.
The HIS fight back was led by Karen Takahashi, Monica Tran, Aisyah Yaqazah Mislan, Diyanah Nur, Thu Lam and the uncompromising triumvirate of Reina, Miku and Roosa.
Pham Luu Vi had her best game for VAS Hanoi. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Oanh once again showed impressive high-fielding skills in midfield.
Quite a few of these VAS Hanoi girls go abroad to study next year and so VAS coach Jim Kiernan wishes them all the best wherever they end up. Some of the new VAS girls will undoubtedly step up and take their places next year but HIS Girls and HIS coach Mike Clifford will be favourites if they can continue to build on this display.
U18 Boys (Senior) Competition
VAS Hanoi 4.8 (20pts)
HIS Seniors 2.5 (11pts)
HIS Seniors were the team to beat in this age group and VAS Hanoi did it in some style with every player on the team putting in an excellent performance. Captain, Nguyen Duc Manh accepted the senior cup after 4 long years for VAS Hanoi and Nguyen Tung Anh won the VAS MVP award. Nguyen Quang Anh was tidy in defence. Nguyen Thanh Dat was versatile playing in a few different positions. Nguyen Van Manh contributed some crucial scores. Much to the relief of VAS coach, Jim Kiernan, it brought to end the run of the HIS Invincibles who went all of 2014 unbeaten in various competitions. However, HIS coach, Leo ‘Wily Fox’ Dyar can be proud of what his team achieved in that period. VAS Hanoi hadn’t won the senior cup since 2011.
A full list of winners in the senior cup below:
2010 VAS Hanoi
2011 VAS Hanoi
2012 Hanoi Academy
2013 Hanoi International School
2014 Hanoi International School
2015 VAS Hanoi
Well done to all the coaches. Special mentions go to the following; Rohan Savage, Uyen Nguyen, Cao Thi Huyen Huong, Ann Brown, Bui Thi Yen, Kristian Bodlay, Dong Vinh Khanh, Mike Keane and Le Thi Phuong Lan for help with logistics, Lana Le for organising trophies and medals and Luke Kenny for refereeing the morning session at short notice.
Thanks to Education in Ireland, the Irish Embassy, the Asian County Board, the DFA and the GAA for their vital support of the Viet Celts Schools Gaelic Football program.
The Viet Celts