The following is a tournament report from the first Pan-European Football Championship of 2009, held on 25 July in Munich, Germany. As usual, the organisation of the tournament was a triumph from start to finish - many thanks and well done, Munich GAA!
Editor's note: this post concerns only the matches played by the Belgium GAA men's 'A' team. Reports from the Killer 'B's and the Ladies to follow soon. This post by Belgium A Captain and goalkeeper Stephen 'Cluxton' Kearney.
26 Belgium lads headed by various means to Munich last Friday (24 July) to play in the first round of the Pan-European Football Championship and Shield. In total, some 50 Belgium GAA footballers and supporters travelled - by far the biggest contingent of any European club.
The A's were drawn in a small group of 4 teams who would contest the Championship.
First up were Den Haag who had performed well in the regionals. As usual we started off slow conceding a goal in the first few minutes which put us on the back foot for the rest of the game. This was the first and only goal we were to concede that day. Despite the set back we never gave up and with good work out of the backs from John Quinn especially and typically tenacious tackling from Phil Roche we were well in the game until the end. We had a golden chance to get back into the game when we won a penalty, however it was well saved by the Den Haag keeper and unfortunately we lost out by a solitary point.
Final score 1-05 to 0-7.
Next up was Paris who we have had a number of great close games with over the past year. They had also lost their first game which meant it was a must win game for both sides. Unlike our first game it was Belgium GAA that started the fastest out of the blocks and quick goals from Davy Barrett and a typical screamer from Emmet Devine sent us on our way to a convincing 3.06 to 0.4 victory. However we did have a lot of wides in the game and there were other times when we could have taken a simple point but unnecessarily went for goal.
Final score 3-06 to 0-4.
Newly crowned Benelux champions Luxembourg were next in what was effectively a semi-final after they had also lost to Den Haag. As usual this was a tight affair, however we were the better team throughout and won a competitive match 0.7 to 0.5. Special mention goes to Enda Rice for putting his body on the line to ensure victory.
Final score 0-7 to 0-5.
Belgium GAA were back and into their first final since Maastricht in Oct. 2008 after a poor regional tournament. Due to Paris beating Den Haag in the final round we ended up topping the group and were to play Den Haag in the final. After our earlier game with them we knew there was nothing between the teams and went into the game confident of a win. However after a promising start we let Den Haag back in as their free taker and eventual player of the tournament punished every free conceded inside our half. At half time we were 3 points down and still in the game and had a chance to go one point ahead when we won another penalty. However it was saved again. We got back to within a point but after conceding some late frees Den Haag ended up deserving winners by 3 points 0.9 to 0.6.
Final score 0-9 to 0-6.
Special mention of thanks has to go to Phil Cushen who was great on the sideline, calling everything from the start.
According to Belgium A Captain and goalkeeper Stephen 'Cluxton' Kearney, "there were a lot of positives to be taken from the tournament". Kearney went on to list these using the "banker's best friend," bullet points:
* Topped the group
* Scored the most in the group
* Conceded the least in the group
* Best points difference
* Only conceded one goal all day
* First final
* Only lost final by one score
* Defence worked the ball out well
* Best movement in the forwards we've seen to date
However the negatives were a poor return from our free taking, and giving away too many frees in kickable areas when playing against teams that will punish you. We still seem to hold onto the ball too long when a quicker ball into the forwards would be more effective.
These areas can be worked on in training between now and the next tournament.
All in all it was a huge improvement since the Regionals and when are backs were to the wall against Paris and Luxembourg we came out fighting.
Roll on Copenhagen.