Around the World in 80 Clubs – Earls of Leuven GAA, Belgium (#49)
“It’s rare to find Leitrim people anywhere, let alone in Leuven.”
We doubt there are many GAA clubs outside of the county itself with 10% of their membership hailing from lovely Leitrim, but Earls of Leuven in Belgium is one of them.
Founded last year, Earls of Leuven have just enough members to make up a starting XV with a decent subs bench, but it hasn’t stopped them from making a big impression already.
The club made it to the pan-European championship final in their first year and one of their homegrown players represented Europe only six months after taking up Gaelic Football, not bad for a town with a Stella Artois brewery!
Jack Matthynssens, PRO of Earls of Leuven GAA, tells us that they’re always on the lookout for new players, particularly Erasmus students who are keen to continue kicking ball while sampling life on the continent.
If that sounds like it’s up your street, here, thanks to Jack, is an insight into the type of characters you could soon be sharing a dressing room with.
Focus on Earls of Leuven
Club Name: Earls of Leuven GAA
Year established: 2016
Number of members: Around 20 at the minute
Biggest rivals: Belgium GAA, because it's actually just Brussels.
There's also a bit of sibling rivalry when it comes to the Eindhoven Shamrocks as Jack, our goalkeeper, has a brother, Ciaran, playing for them and we reckon he was poached from under our noses.
Biggest representation from a club/county in Ireland: We have quite an even spread but we have three Dublin men if you include our manager, Karl and two Leitrim men.
It's rare to find Leitrim people anywhere, let alone in Leuven!
Most famous ever member(s): Rumour has it that one of our members, Daire Cott, once played in an All-Ireland minor hurling final for Cork about 20 years ago.
Conor Jansen apparently has a cousin who plays for Clare and played in an All-Ireland Hurling Club final in March.
Jarno Timmermans has also played Gaelic Football for Europe.
Most memorable moment in the club’s history: Rory Gibney scoring an outrageous goal from the halfway line in the European GAA junior final against Clermont.
Most eye-catching scoreline in the club’s history: Well, the scoreline escapes me, but getting to a final in our first year of existence was eye-catching enough.
Hopefully, we can go one better next year and win the thing.
Player who makes the longest commute to training: Evan Hastings makes the trip over from Galway every now and then.
Most dedicated club person: Our club chaplain, Fr. Juan Carlos Tinjuaca, gets the parish behind us and makes sure we've got a good stock of holy water for our travels.
Hopefully, we can persuade him to go in goals someday so we can call him the Holy Goalie.
Loudest in the dressing room: We were already drinking beer in the shower before it became a thing, so it's fair to say we're all pretty loud.
Number of romances that started in the GAA club (feel free to name names): None as of yet but we're hoping our new O'Neill’s tracksuits will go down a hit with the ladies across Europe.
Duck to water award – Best new player who had never played GAA before: Jarno Timmermans.
He's a Belgian who has fallen in love with the game and even decided to go play for Europe – and was good enough to do so – after only playing the game for six months.
Best story involving a club member that’s fit for print: There was an incident involving two upstanding members, Thomas Stapleton’s pub, a few pints, space hoppers, a trip to the hospital and a couple of stitches.
You can fill in the blanks as you wish, but I don't want to name any names as we have reputations to protect!
Before you go, mark this in your diary for Wednesday night.
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