The Shamrockers woke to find themselves many miles from Sparrow Hills. Yet there was no confusion in where they were. Having started as a conversation between Mark Barton and Tom English, the Moscow Shamrocks took to the European stage in Leuven, Belgium on Nov. 19-20.
A journey bookended by transport mayhem was an important undertaking by the club in fully joining the GAA family. Led by Chairperson Kieran (with a K) Haren, the Moscow Shamrock delegation consisted of Ladies Football Officer, and Carlow woman, Aisling Kinsella, Coaching + Games Development Officer Alan Moore and non-Derryman P.R.O. Sean Kelly. Alan had been working with the European County Board on a re-branding project and so was familiar with some of the Officers. However it didn’t take long for Moscow Shamrock branded business cards to flow and firm friends made.
Arriving late on Friday night the brave foursome were immediately at home with fellow Gaels from all parts of Europe. Former Secretary and current Vice-President Tony Bass welcomed them into the fold, introducing the Shamrockers to former GAA President Liam O’Neill and representatives from France, Switzerland, Spain and Germany. One of the four was reluctant to leave the company, such was the enjoyment being had, though a hard weekend of work lay ahead.
On Saturday the European GAA AGM was opened by Secretary Marie-Therese Doherty and President Brian Sheehy. First item on the agenda was the brand change from “European County Board” to “Gaelic Games Europe” which involved name and logo alterations. The topic was debated and involved the Moscow Shamrocks, before being adopted unanimously.
Throughout the day, and weekend, Moscow Shamrocks members were active in discussions and deliberations. They saw that issues affecting clubs from Galicia to Bratislava, from the Cote D’Azur to Berlin are the same as those debated since September in the Russian Capital. Yet despite difficulties at getting funds and teams together, the GAA in Europe has grown massively to 84 clubs across the Continent. If anything was to be taken away and transmitted to the members in Moscow, is that talk is cheap, but action gets results.
At the end of a very long session, Gaelic Games Europe announced Liam O’Neill as their Honorary President. The Moscow delegation were name-checked by Liam O’Neill in his acceptance speech and this confirmed the feeling that the Shamrocks are part of the GAA family.
The Sunday morning session followed on closely from a strong night of networking and interaction. The Shamrockers had only arrived in the auditorium when a proposal was put forward from the German Gaelic Sports Federation. In Spring 2017 they wish to send a combined German team to Moscow for challenge matches (Mens and Ladies). By the time the AGM finished just after 1pm, further proposals were on the Moscow table from Spain, France, Slovakia and individual clubs.
Being hosted at the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe was very appropriate for the delegation from Moscow. It was here, almost 500 years ago, that St. Patrick was confirmed as the Patron Saint of Ireland. As we all know, the Englishman used the shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity to the Irish. So in a sense the Moscow Shamrocks were coming full circle to the origin of their name.
Our great thanks to the 4 Shamrockers who travelled at their own expense to the AGM and represent the club so well. The club have a very busy and important 12 months ahead of the 2017 Gaelic Games Europe AGM, though with the continued energy and commitment already evident, the future looks very bright for Gaelic Games in Russia.