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Sunday September 24th 2023
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Vancouver Harps double in Red Deer

Last weekend saw the culmination of this year’s Western Canada GAA Championships at Red Deer, Alberta.  Canada GAA Secretary, John O’Flynn was at the tournement and he gave us this report.

Western Canada GAA Chairman Ronan Deane (left) presents the winning cup to Vancouver Harp's, Mikey Hartnett. (Photo courtesy of Vancouver Harps).

The first complete Western Canada tournament to be staged in RED DEER, ALBERTA, can only be described as a resounding success.
Top-class field and facilities, responsive and welcoming hosts, and a very high standard of Gaelic Football played in lush green fields in Alberta (in August).    What more could you ask for?  OK, so the conspiracy theorists will say that the “release” of 8 billion mosquitoes in the area of the fields was a distraction that the visiting teams struggled with.  However, by all accounts, the teams from Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Vancouver are raving about their hosts, and their experiences in this latest Western Canada GAA hub.
The Vancouver Ladies repeated their heroics of 2008, taking both titles back over the Rockies and there were no complaints from the opposition.   The Ladies demonstrated great skills but also, keen tactical awareness, to take their 4th title in a row, and over take the Edmonton Wolfe Tones as the winning-most club in the Division.  In the mens competition, the Vancouver Harps played some great football and though the Albertan sides really put it up to them, they did enough to win the title by a commanding and deserved margin.
It was great to see the Lethbridge, AB, contingent in town, and their players provided great support to Red Deer Eire Og’s cause.   Red Deer were competitive in all their fixtures, and effectively ended the challenge of the spirited Vancouver Celts with their victory over the only club younger than theirs in the Western Canada Division.   Stephen Agnew produced a powerhouse display for Eire Og scoring a cracking hat-trick of goals to ensure a victory for the home side.
Calgary Chieftains and Edmonton Wolfe Tones renewed rivalries in the final game of the 2010 Championship with the Wolfe Tones victory providing a small consolation for the 2009 Champions.
Saturday night’s event at the Westerner was memorable with Sean Smith providing a brief and enlightening summary of the career of Edmonton and Co. Louth Great, Jack Bell.  Jack, a stalwart of the Wolfe Tones, died in March 2010, and the Gaelic community in Western Canada will miss his presence. The Bell family were on hand to accept from the Canadian County Board’s secretary, John O’Flynn, a Louth jersey in commemoration of his services to the County.
A special presentation was also made by John O’Flynn to the Lavery and Lynch families of Red Deer in recognition of their efforts in founding a GAA club in Red Deer. A recently published book called Lest We Forget that chronicles the lives of the seven founders of the GAA in Ireland and in particular, Joseph P. Ryan who is buried in Cranbrook BC, was presented to each family amid grateful applause.

Germaine Gibbons presents the Tom Gibbon’s Memorial trophy to the Vancouver Harps’ Ladies captain, Helen Keohane. (Photo courtesy of Vancouvers Harps).

Later in the evening, Germaine Gibbons was on hand to present the Tom Gibbon’s Memorial trophy to the Vancouver Harps’ Ladies captain, Helen Keohane.  Germaine’s husband and the late Tom Gibbon’s son, Liam Gibbons, sadly, passed away last winter. Liam’s vibrant personality will be fondly remembered by all who knew him in Vancouver.
Sunday’s fixtures were playedin brilliant sunshine and again the Battle of Alberta, between Calgary and Edmonton, produced a cracking tussle.   Even a score-board malfunction couldn’t deny a rejuvenated Chieftain team, and they produced the goals that mattered to take a 2-7 to 1-8 victory.   The Ladies played a friendly challenge to round out the game-play, but the first official Red Deer Ladies title went to the Vancouver Harps.   Back in the Men’s competition, it was the Harps, led by Mikey Harnett, who first dispatched Red Deer, and then the Chieftains, to complete a sweep of tournament titles in 2010.
On behalf of all the visiting teams, the Western Canada Division and the Canadian County Board offers special thanks to Red Deer’s Eire Og’s Tournament committee and the Titans RFC in Red Deer, for a job well done.
John O’Flynn