In one of her many acceptance speeches last year, the former ladies captain Mide, talked of how we were building a community and implied that that was as important, if not more important, than winning trophies.
You may have seen Sean Kelly’s article in yesterday’s Examiner and for a first timer to the European G.A.A. scene (when attending our home tournament on Saturday) he managed to grasp a lot of the key points and challenges we face and was very complimentary about our club’s hosting of the event. For those of you on Facebook, you will have seen Steph’s photos and they really captured the whole day from the sporting side to the organisation side to the family aspect. People’s faces reflected well the current mood in the club.
The speeches in de Valera’s that night were again complimentary about how far our club have come but I couldn’t help wonder how other clubs feel when they hear this. We are fortunate in that Brussels is a relatively small city and a lot of us live in the same areas. Training is accessible and we socialise with each other with great regularity! We have husbands and wives in the club and with the recent flurry of babies we have an abundance of mascots. The group as a whole is tight and it’s reflected in the organisation of events like Saturday. Everyone plays but everyone helps.
Contrast that to the situation in other clubs. Den Haag pull guys from Amsterdam, Leiden, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Delft and beyond. They can’t generate that same sense of community as a result. Their Ladies play with Holland who pull players from even further a field. It’s noticeable on a night out that they don’t know each other as well as we know our lady counterparts. Then of course there is Amsterdam, again with a distance from their ladies and also combating the challenges that the distractions of a town like Amsterdam bring.
Being active in Hurling and Football also helps us as we travel everywhere together en masse. The bond strengthens with each journey. Teams like Paris Men must spend a lot of time in Brittany while their girls head for other venues to participate in their competitions. More often than not, Belgium Men and Ladies compete on the same stage because many of the big clubs are in Benelux and thus many of the tournaments hosted here.
I talked to a fella from a rival club on Saturday and he told me how much money his club raised last year. It was phenomenal and they did it from a much smaller player base than ours. So whilst having 5 teams and a well organised tournament last weekend can make a grand public statement about our progress it would not be right to say we are doing anything more than any other club. We work hard but a lot of circumstances fall into our favour.
There is an unreal amount of work in building and sustaining a G.A.A. club in Europe. Whilst clubs at home face broader structural issues, our clubs often face down day to day issues which threaten the survival of their clubs. We’re lucky in Belgium at the moment because as my father observed from our website and articles like Sean Kelly’s, we have good people in our club, willing to chip in.
The club is living in the good times. It’s never been so good in fact. Every new player who crosses our path is grabbed by the furore and throws themselves right in. We have lived through the dark days (more than once!) when players were scarce and trophy cabinets were bare. Maybe we should just kick back and enjoy these moments but if we were to do that, we would stop driving on. If we stop driving on, we’ll slow down and lose ground. Building from our position of strength it key.