Welcoming Scandinavians Back To The Gaelic World – 1000 Years Laterr
by Brian O’Sullivan – Experience Gaelic Games
Good Friday 2014 marked the 1000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf; a battle that would define the history of Ireland. In short, the Irish forced the Vikings out and re-established their own stamp on society.
One wonders what Irish culture would symbolise today had the battle swayed the other way. Would we have the same passion for our native sports? Or would our native sports have gone global all those moons ago. It may well have happened.
We are told that Ice Hockey found its way to Scandinavia via the Scottish game of Shinty; which in turn was a stick and ball game derived from the influence of Irish missionaries trying to teach Hurling; two thousand Thanksgivings ago.
Now, fast forward to 2014 and you’ll be bemused to find out that the Irish are welcoming the Viking descents back again. Not for any gruesome fighting but to spread the wings of Gaelic Games. It’s a process that’s already deep rooted.
A notable feature of Experience Gaelic Games is the volume of Scandinavian school groups that come through the doors. Norwegian, Danish, Swedish and Finish students immerse themselves in Gaelic Sports and leave a lasting impression with their spirit for Gaelic sports and culture.
The enthusiasm our Scandinavian student visitors showcase, not only on the sporting field, but on the historical element of Gaelic Games; is full proof that the GAA is gaining a base in far flung places. Gaelic Games are no longer seen as exclusively Irish. The teaching of our culture to educational systems off our shores will broaden Irish ideology worldwide.
We, Irish, pride ourselves on our past; the island is dotted with historical references. Stand on a slope outside any Irish village and you will be standing on a piece of Irish mythology, no doubt. Its part of what we are.
Experience Gaelic Games base, at Na Fianna CLG, on St. Mobhi Road stands on Viking antiquity. For it was there on that fateful Friday that Brian Boru and his force sent the Viking troops darting down the slopes. It is ironic that it is on that same soil the Irish and Scandinavians join forces again; in the fight to put Gaelic Games on the global sporting scene.
‘The Northernmost Point’ documentary on Setanta Sport showcased Gaelic Football in Finland. Natives and Irish exiles filed into Raati Stadium, 1300 miles east of St. Mobhi Road to see Helsinki Harps defeated Oulu Irish Elks. Both teams had sprinkles of Finish blood in their ranks. The seed has been sown.
Things have come a long way. Eleven years have passed since Copenhagan GAA Club came into the Gaelic sphere; quickly followed by Gothenburg GAA in 2004. However the last five years have seen an influx of new partners to the European GAA Board. In time each country in the Scandinavian Peninsula will have a separate governing body.
Oslo GAA became the first Norway affiliation in 2009 within a year Malmo GAA and Stockholm Gaels sprung up in Sweden. Estonia came under the realm of the Scandinavian District in 2009 when Tallinna – Tulised Ivesed GAA became one of the stand out names in the Gaelic world. There in there now with Gneevgullia, Aghabullogue and Wild Geese.
It’s getting quite normal to have a GAA Club anywhere on the globe, it’s not fully out of the closet quite yet, but it’s getting there. Should the next step be a European Schools Championship to cater for our budding arrivals? If it blossoms one can only fantasise about the yield it will produce.
The GAA Club is at the heart of the community. The same passion stems through Gothenburg GAA Club as Gortnahoe/Glengoole CLG. G is the keyword, The GAA is going Global!
Scandinavian District Clubs
Denmark: Copenhagan GAA (2003)
Norway: Oslo GAA (2009).
Estonia: Tallinna – Tulised Ilvesed GAA (2009).
Sweden: Gothenburg GAA (2004), Malmo GAA (2009), Stockholm Gaels (2010).
Finland: Lahti – Northern Gaels Hurling Club (2001), Helsinki Harps (2011), Oulu Irish Elks (2013),
European County Board Website
Norwegian Students enjoying Gaelic Football, December 2014.