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GAA Love Brings Amsterdam Players Home For Leinster Championship First

GAA Love Brings Amsterdam Players Home For Leinster Championship First
By PJ Browne
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Flick down through the list of fixtures in this weekend’s Leinster club championships and, if you reach junior level, you’ll find a curious game: St. Finians Newcastle - the Dublin champions - vs Amsterdam.

That a European GAA club is playing in the Leinster Junior Club Championship is not a novel occurrence - Amsterdam have done so three times previously.

What is different about his occasion: it’s their first time playing the provincial championship game in Ireland.

Amsterdam won the annual European 15-a-side competition in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and so progressed to play a Leinster side.

They won it again this year, defeating an amalgamated Eindhoven/Den Haag team in September. Teams from Paris, Brussels and Luxembourg also took part.

St. Finians were crowned Dublin JFC winners on Tuesday night after defeating Craobh Chiarain.

"Hopefully, they'll go to extra-time and wear each other out,” Amsterdam chairman, John Murray, told Balls prior to the game. That’s exactly what happened.

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In their previous Leinster games, Amsterdam have been competitive. Against opposition from Dublin, Longford and Kildare - games which were played in Maastricht - they were in the mix until the last 10 minutes or so. It was then that the fitness of the Irish-based teams told.

15-a-side football is the exception rather than the norm on the continent where competitions are usually 11-a-side and played in a blitz format. Just last week, Amsterdam won their first 11-a-side European title.

When they face Finians this weekend - the game throws-in at 2pm at the GAA’s National Games Development Centre in Abbotstown - fitness will be less of a worry than in previous years. Standards have risen and the team is now a balanced unit - they are not over reliant on one player.

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“The team has a great rapport,” said Murray.

“There are lads here on their own and this is their community.

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“You'd have a lot of lads who'd fall back in love with the game. They've moved away from Ireland to work and haven't played since underage.”

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Amsterdam GAC sees itself as much more than a sports team. They are also a cornerstone of the Irish community in the city, also embracing those without an interest in Gaelic games.

As usual with GAA teams abroad, they are at the mercy of who’s around.

A lot of lads would turn up as a one-off, because, obviously, people come to Amsterdam for reasons other than football - they find other uses for the grass here.

This year’s team is comprised of players from 20 counties whose time away from Ireland varies from 12 years to six months.

“We have a quite few from the North and they'd go through a brick wall to play. Lads do it because they love it,” says Murray.

That needs to be the case even more so than in Ireland - the players pay for nearly everything.

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When they go away for a weekend tournament, transport, accommodation and food are all paid for out of their pockets. The club’s budget is spent on facilities and equipment - no funding comes from the GAA.

It’s no different this weekend. The players have paid for the flights - it’s costing the bones of €3,000 just to travel over.

Savings are being made on accommodation by staying with friends. Some Dublin natives on the panel are putting up six or seven teammates for the weekend. If it was not for the budget accommodation, the cost would probably rise to around €10,000.

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On Saturday afternoon, they expect to have more than 200 supporters in attendance. That crowd will mostly be made up of family members but also former Amsterdam players now returned home.

"All we want to do is go home and play in front of our family and friends,” says Murray.

“That's what the lads were really crazy about, that opportunity to come back.

"For us to go home is the icing on the cake - winning would be the cherry on top."

See Also: Monaghan Teen Who Went Viral Attracting AFL Attention As Irish Ramp Up Continues

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