Gracefield man, Stephen Slattery, was one of the veteran players to tog out for the Madrid Harps GAA team last Saturday as they claimed the Croke Park Hotel European Football Championships in Vienna.
All eyes were on the European Finals last weekend with Saturday seeing over 800 players playing across six different pitches in the Austrian capital to crown both mens and ladies champions at Senior, Intermediate and Junior level.
The team from the Spanish capital included representatives from almost 20 counties across Ireland as well as players from Spain itself with Stephen feeling comfortable in the team's red and black colours. This large representation can be both a blessing and a curse for teams based abroad and often sees a large change in the panel year on year.
This year the final was broadcast live on YouTube and among those watching was Westmeath man Enda Kincaid, who formerly captained the side but now resides in Mexico City after recently relocating for work. Also watching on a small screen back in Madrid was Martin Kirwan, a Graiguecullen native.
The circumstances were similar but the surroundings slightly different for those like Sean Murray (Louth) who had returned to study at DCU after studying in Spain the previous year. This ever-changing nature of European Club sides often mean that success on the wider continent can be hard to sustain.
Madrid, the 6-in-a-row Iberian Champions, had in the past struggled to compete with the more established central European clubs, however, Saturday proved to be a different story.
A narrow opening victory against the defending champions Amsterdam GAC, who just last year had represented Europe in the Leinster Junior Championship, helped the Harps on their way to topping a group that also contained Belgium and Paris Gaels.
A convincing win against Luxembourg in the semi-finals meant that the Harps had reached their first ever European final and put them up against a Cumann Warszawa side who had easily disposed of them at the semi-final stage the previous year in the Netherlands.
The final, played at the Rudolf-Tonn Stadion in the Austrian capital, was an extremely tight affair with Madrid edging their opponents on a score of 0-9 to 0-7.
The final whistle brought jubilant scenes as founding club members celebrated with members of the current squad in the centre of the field. Madrid had now elevated themselves alongside their more successful continental rivals and ensured that the trophy would be travelling to Spain for the first time.
Elsewhere on the day, Madrid Harps Ladies’ day ended at the semi-final, where they were defeated by Belgium GAA in a four point win. Frankfurt Sarsfields secured the Mens Intermediate title with Junior success belonging to Copenhagen GAA.
The predominantly Spanish side Fillas de Breogán, from A Coruna in the northwest of the country, enjoyed intermediate success for the first time, whilst the Junior final ensured Cumann Warszaw didn’t go home empty handed as their second team ran out convincing winners over Prague Hibernians.