Sport | 3 months ago

Switzerland’s biggest sporting success story after Roger Federer… honest.

15 years ago, a group of non-Irish friends in Zürich formed Zürich Inneoin to promote the GAA in the city and throughout Switzerland. And they’ve been doing a pretty good job of it ever since.

Originally, a hurling-only club, Zürich Inneoin are four-time Euroleague hurling winners (including three in a row from 2004-2006), but have since expanded to football and camogie with much success.

The Anvils have proved to be heavy hitters in football in particular since 2012, with their men’s and ladies’ teams making a big impact in the recently-created Swiss/Italian regional competitions.

As far as the small ball is concerned, last April, the club held a Cross Alpine camogie and hurling session, funded by the Global Games Development Fund and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Following the session, given by Brían Ryan of Kilkenny and Brendan Hayden of Carlow, a connection was made with a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne and an invite extended for Zürich Inneoin to lead an introductory hurling and camogie session in Lausanne with a group from the IOC sports club.

The event took place on October 8 2016 and proved to be a great success, even attracting coverage in the Greek media after a journalist from Huffington Post in Greece took part on the day.

The progress made by Zürich Inneoin in their brief history to date has been remarkable and we caught up with club secretary Sinéad Dowling to shed some light on the characters behind that progress.

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Including a man who is half-Viking and learned about the GAA while pillaging monasteries on a family holiday to Ireland. Apparently…

Focus on Zürich Inneoin

Year established: 2002

Number of members: We fall asleep counting sheep thus we will refrain from answering this question in favour of completing the remainder of this questionnaire.

Biggest rivals: Any Zürich B team we have ever played. Additionally, we have a healthy relationship with our colleagues from the Central and Eastern region.

Biggest representation from a club/county in Ireland: While the demographic make-up of the club has a healthy smattering from all parts of the globe, the club does suffer from a high proportion of farmers, including a John Deere salesman.

Most famous ever member: Gaelic Games Europe Chairman, Brian Sheehy.

Most memorable moment in the club’s history: European Hurling Champions three years in a row. Other "memorable moments" are not deemed fit for print.

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Most eye-catching scoreline in the club’s history: Zürich Inneoin 2-22 – 1-2 Corofin in the 2015 All Ireland Senior Club Championship final*.

*Citation needed

Player who makes the longest commute to training: Sinéad Dowling, our current secretary, treks over the border from the Principality of Liechtenstein - which is nestled in the foothills of the Alps - all the way up to Zurich… reportedly on the back of a yeti.

Most dedicated club person: Claudia Graf, the team's Swiss Mammy with a love of Ireland. Maker of tea, knitter of hats, number one fan and all-round champion of Zürich Inneoin.

Player who could have made it big if love/career/drink didn’t get in the way: John White, club Chairman, was destined to become the 1980s poster boy of Laois football until his love of the high seas and rum took him sailing around the Caribbean.

Believed to be the inspiration behind Walt Disney's 'Pirates of the Caribbean' star Jack Sparrow, he is a stalwart of the club (John, not Jack).

Likely the first person you will meet on arrival in Paddy Reilly's Irish pub in Zurich, John often recounts tales of his arrival in the city during his last seafaring expedition to discover the source of the Nile Delta, believed to this day by John to flow from melt waters of the Alps.

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Biggest character: Any man who stands on tables and belts out ‘The Rattlin’ Bog’ at the top of his lungs is worthy of the title. Not to mention his ever spirited presence on the pitch, more Power to him. Sure that's our Kevin.

Another notable mention is Philip Bell, who left us for the lustrous lights of London. Alas, his are big boots to fill, though hopefully if we see the likes of him again, the boots won’t be a vessel for booze.

Loudest in the dressing room: Camille Taylor. You can hear this Parisian lunatic's laugh a mile away. She came back training straight after giving birth to the next big GAA star. Her husband, funnily, is the quietest man in the men's dressing room.

Number of romances that started in the GAA club (feel free to name names): There are too many to name but for sure, two to three marriages’ worth. We won't mention the break-ups and the secret hook-ups.

Duck to water award – Best new player who had never played GAA before: Timo Powling. Half-Viking, he learned about the GAA while pillaging monasteries on a family holiday to Ireland. The best full-back turned goalkeeper in Europe. Club founder and current Treasurer. Man of few words but unstoppable on the hurling pitch.

Most annoying person in the club WhatsApp group: Our code officers – their constant pleas for attention often go unanswered.

"Training at 19:00 in Seebach, see you there :-)". How pitiful!

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Best story involving a club member that’s fit for print: The time half the team's flight to Budapest was cancelled so they hopped on a flight to Vienna and got a taxi from there, arriving at 2am the night before the tournament.

The time half the men's team missed their flight home from Amsterdam because they thought they were clever having a sneaky pint before the flight. Luckily, gift of the gab Madden convinced the airline it was their fault and they put them on a flight the next morning, free of charge.

We have many more tales to astound and fascinate. Drop in, pull up a stool and we can get started…

If you're a member of a GAA club abroad and would like to be featured on the site, feel free to send a mail to conor.heneghan@JOE.ie or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

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