Gaelic Games Abroad
All-Ireland Under-21 Hurling Program, Thurles, Sept. 10, 1998
In his recent publication, The Clash of the Ash in Foreign Fields: Hurling Abroad, Seamus J. King traced the history and development of the game among the Irish diaspora and the state of the game abroad today.
One such place where the game is organised is Paris, where the Paris Gaels G.A.A. operate. The club has very laudable aims which include promoting interest in Gaelic sports, generating interest in Celtic culture through music, dance and other cultural activities, encouraging Irish expatriates to take advantage of the facilities and social network and linking up with the other Gaelic Associations established throughout Europe.
In 1994 a number of expatriates living in Paris were in the habit of getting together to play hurling and gaelic football on a regular basis and organising matches with the Irish communities in Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Germany and France, as well as other social events around Paris. The success of their efforts generated in the Gaelic Athletic Association, Paris (France) being formally established as a non-profit making association in April 1995. The club is in fact the first affiliated G.A.A. club in mainland Europe.
The club has already made an impact. To date it has over fifty active members paying an annual membership of 100 FRF. The recruitment of members continues and it is hoped to encourage more French people to participate in G.A.A. activities. The club has already had numerous requests from French sporting clubs and individuals for promotional material and also coaching sessions. The members hope to utilise these means to promote the sport in France in the future.
Fr. Desmond Knowles with an address at College des Irlandais, 5 Rue des Islandais, 75005 Paris is the club's Homorary President. John Stack is the chairman and Sinead Morgan and Maureen Moran are the joint secretaries. Maureen is from County Leitrim and has an address at 3 rue S10 Guillaume, 92400 Courbevoie. Her telephone number is 00 33 1 47 88 13 11 and her Email: firstname.lastname@example.org The club also has an internet site: http://www.geocities.com/paris/bistro/2308/
A summary of club events for 1998 makes interesting reading. In February there was a visit from the Glynnbarn Town, Wexford, hurling and football teams. At the same time Mark Lennon, who played on the Clare All-Ireland minor hurling team in 1997, arrived with the Liam McCarthy Cup.
During the visit a soiree was organised in conjunction with the Irish College celebrations for St. Brigid's Day. There were exhibition matches between the visitors and their hosts which got national TV coverage. In May there were demonstration matches of hurling and football in Eu (France) followed by a get-together for the French and the Irish. Later in the same month Paris Gaels won the Black Stuff 7-Aside European Gaelic Football championship in Luxembourg. This event attracted teams from Germany, Holland, Luxembourg, France and Guernsey. In June there was a hurling tournament in Amiens attended by players from Luxembourg, Paris and Aer Lingus, Dublin. In July there was the first-ever training session for a European Panel in Paris. Debbie Massey and Bamey Winston of the International Dimension Committee in Croke Park, travelled to Paris to discuss the organisation of the future European County Board and to advise the various clubs. Other activities are planned for later in the year.
In an otherwise successful picture of progress, the club has two major problems. There is a large turnover of members, which means that the club loses a number of valuable members on a regular basis. Increasing membership is very important so the club is trying to improve its publicity so that people travelling over are aware of the existence of a G.A.A. club in Paris, or elsewhere in Europe.
The second problem is finding a suitable venue to hold competitions. To date the club trains on a rugby pitch in Vincennes in the south of Paris, but this involves a lot of travelling and there are no dressing rooms available. At the beginning of this year, after long negotiations, the club succeeded in obtaining good quality facilities in the 16th arrondissement of Paris which, it is hoped, will solve the problem.
It can be concluded that the increase in the number of club members and events on the Paris Gaels G.A.A. calendar, in addition to the increase in interest from people and the press at home and in France, prove that the club has been going from strength to strength since its foundation.