North West men help Madrid Harps secure European title
NORTH West Gaelic footballers Jason Mallon and Eoghan Kelly are celebrating after helping Madrid Harps secure the European 11-a-side Senior Football Championship title in Vienna.
Derry City man Mallon and Carndonagh's Kelly each played pivotal roles as the 'Harps' upset the odds to defeat Warsaw in the final of a competition that is growing year on year.
Teacher, Mallon, who moved to the Spanish capital two years ago, was delighted to see Harps take the title at this year's competition after being knocked out in the semi-final stage 12 months ago.
This year Harps, who have a mixture of Irish and Spanish players in their squad, had to navigate a tough route to the final but it did include the opportunity to gain revenge on the Warsaw side that knocked them out of last year's competition, an opportunity they grasped with both hands.
"We lost to Warsaw in last year's semi-final stage and we were gutted, so it's great to come back this year and win it," explained Mallon, who hails from Northland Road.
"We won the regional title in Barcelona when beating Valencia in the final which was nice. We had a very tough group in Vienna but coming out of that group gave us real confidence.
"We beat last year's winners, Amsterdam, in our first match - that was a really tough game. We won by a point and we knew then we had a chance. We also beat Paris and Belgium. In the semi-final we easily saw off Luxembourg and then faced Warsaw in the final.
"They beat us in the semi-final last year, so there was a bit of revenge going into that one. It was a very tight game but thankfully we won by two points."
Mallon, who only recently was elected Chairman of the new Spanish club, admitted a number of recent additions from Dublin City University played a key role in Harps securing the title this year.
"This year we have had quite a few guys who have come over from DCU on a Spanish business exchange course and they have all played a big part," he added.
"Eoghan was one of those guys who had his first year in Madrid and he and a few other guys played for us this year."