t was an amazing weekend of sports, music, craic and wicked thunder storms in Bangkok last weekend. The Taiwan Celts made their 15th consecutive appearance at the tournament with a full Mens squad and Nu’s players Holly and Felicia joining the Shanghai Ladies team for the 2009 competition.
Saturday: First Round Games
The Taiwan Celts Mens team made a nervous start to the competition against Hong Kong B. It took us a while to realize we were the stronger team, and we gave HK too much time and space on the ball. A goal from Sean McNally put us back in the game, but we left it too late and Hong Kong got the win.
Our second game was against Dubai. We were expecting a very physical match against this team…however it turned out to be the least physical game possible, as Dubai could not field a team against us, and Taiwan were awarded the points.
Next up were Singapore C. They were widely regarded as group favorites, and they had run riot on Hong Kong B earlier in the day.
The Taiwan Celts were having none of it though, and we got stuck into them from the throw in. 2 goals from “Striker McNally” quickly had Singapore realizing Taiwan Celts were not to be underestimated.
A fantastic performance by the backs and midfield saw the Celts dominating all over the field, and our forwards causing havoc for the Singapore full backs.
Singapore made a big effort in the second half, but it was all too little too late, and Taiwan held out for the win.
Meanwhile the girls were getting stuck in to the competition; and after a lack of ladies players in Taiwan this year it was a great chance to get in some competitive experience. A member of the 2006 Bowl Winners team, Holly looked very comfortable in the Kuala Lumpur match and will be a leading player for the Taiwan Nu’s in 2010. Newcomer and participating in her first Gaelic Games tournament, Felicia showed again the Canadian natural flair for ladies Gaelic Football.
The ladies competition has come on in leaps and bounds, and everyone was talking about the jump in skills and competitive levels this year. Despite strong displays from Hong Kong and Dubai ladies, it was the Singapore-A team who dominated and eventually won the ladies cup.
Sunday: Last of the first round games
Our last group game was against Kopan; a combination of players from Korea & Japan. Singapore had beaten this team on Saturday, so we were feeling confident that we could dispatch these guys and possibly top our group. However some very strong play from their midfielders and pressure from the forwards saw us concede a penalty early on, which the Kopan’s converted, though only just as Bear came close to saving it. We gave it our all, but Kopan were the stronger team for the game and won the points. They played Hong Kong B directly after and also beat them.
Singapore C topped our group; the Taiwan Celts being the only team to defeat them.
Sunday: Competition Play-Offs
So the play-offs were decided and Taiwan Celts made it to the Plate competition. This was a step up from our Bowl tournament position of the previous two years, and exactly where we wanted to be. Great credit due to our trainer and team captain, Barry Cahill, for putting together a plan all season and achieving the goal. Now it was knock-out stages and it was all or nothing!!
We were drawn to play Suzhou. This game was played in torrential rain, but as against Singapore we got off to a flying start. Peter Grogan put a point over the bar within the first 20 seconds of the game, and that started a torrent of scores for Taiwan. We quickly established a 6-point lead over Suzhou, and it looked all over. But then the weather conditions worsened, and we started to sit back a bit. This gave Suzhou the space and opportunity they needed, and they quickly strung a series of points together which went unanswered. It went down to the wire in the remaining minutes, but when the final whistle blew, it was Suzhou that had stolen the game.
We were very disappointed to have lost a game that was clearly ours for the taking. Suzhou went on to win the semi-final and finals, and become Plate Champions. This showed us just how close we were to our goal this year.
The club had an absolute blast at the Sunday night party, and hosts ‘Thailand GAA’ finished off a very successful and memorable 2009 Asian Gaelic Games in great style. Most Celts took a well deserved break on the Island beach resorts of Thailand for a few days; recuperating for the next Gaelic Football season in Asia in 2010!!!
Tour report by Tony Lonergan: Self-appointed evangelist of the Taiwan Celts GFC