Taoiseach meets the Mighty Madrid Harps
Part published in the Madrid Metropolitan February 2017
JUST like Spain, football is a very important part of Irish life. The Irish President, for example, was president of a football club, Galway United F.C. before becoming the Irish head of state and the Irish Prime Minister, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, also takes a hand in running both club and country.
It is not only soccer that is played in Ireland but Gaelic Football too where a round ball gets kicked and thrown around like a rugby ball. Kicked over the bar and also into the net, imagine how much more interesting soccer would be if every near goal that went over the goalpost, earned your team a point. Each goal is worth three points so a little maths is involved in determining the winner.
For example: a team with 2 goals would lose to a team with 1 goal and 4 points.
No point explaining the sport in too much detail unless you care to put on some football gloves and pick up the ball yourself but G.A.A. as it is known is an enjoyable amateur sport that is played in every town in Ireland and thanks to emigrants, all over the world too.
Here in Madrid, the mighty Madrid Harps G.A.A. team attracts over a 100 members and fields two women's teams, two men's teams and a kids team. Speaking a mixture of Spanish, English and Irish, the Harps occasionally make acceptance speeches in both Catalan and Galician when they bring home trophies from Valencia, Seville, Galicia and Barcelona.
Just like Madrid, the Catalonian capital has two men's teams but that is nothing compared to GAELicia which has six men´s and women's teams in different Gaelician cities.
Visiting the Spanish capital in January, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny took time to look at t-shirts in the Primark store on Gran Via and presented President Mariano Rajoy with a personalised Galician G.A.A. jersey. The two leaders also discussed the serious consequences that could affect both Ireland and Spain, as well as the rest of Europe when Brexit is enacted.
Team players despite their different jerseys, I´m sure The Spanish President and An Taoiseach had much to discuss about the involvement of Gibraltar´s G.A.A. team and Northern Ireland´s sidelines.
Here in Madrid, Spanish and Irish footballers play alongside one another where Spanish players sometimes make up the backbone of the team, organising tournaments and fundraising.
Spanish players such as Javier Vicente take the ball with both hands and run with it. Javi Vicente originally from Granada but with time spend in Ireland, is a former Madrid Harps Chairperson, Club Secretary and Treasurer. Javier Vicente currently represents Madrid Harps as Football Officer for the Gaelic Games Europe.
Also playing at European level, Enda Kenny is the current club president for Islandeady G.A.A. and the Irish Prime Minister. Known in the Irish language as An Taoiseach which loosely translates as, The Leader.
Working as a politician since the early days of King Juan Carlos reign, Enda Kenny T.D. is known as the father of the Dáil (Irish Parliament) because he is the longest-serving politician with over 40 years experience.
Hard working and even harder tackling, Javier Vicente is not the longest-serving member of the Madrid Harps, that honour belongs to the founding members Martina Rooney, Lorcan Kennedy, Evan Lester, Iván Garcia San Juan, Barry Hughes and Michael Jordan.
Kicking off in 2004 with a few members playing in Retiro. The mighty Harps regularly board flights to travel between European cities and Javier Vicente along with J.J. Keaney have represented the many Spanish teams who play tournaments around the peninsula, at European level.
If you are interested in picking up Gaelic Football, buy a pair of gloves and follow the Madrid Harps website and Facebook posts. Training currently takes place in Vaicalvaro on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings.
Morgan Fagg is a photojournalist with lengthy experience working in Irish politics.
More importantly, he is also the mascot for the Madrid Harps G.A.A.