Amo flicks the switch on GAA’s foreign future

This flick and score, in the most northerly game of Gaelic football ever played, is a seminal moment in the history of Gaelic games. It says little of where we have come from, but a whole lot about where we are going.

The first time I played with Amarilio Vasconcelos Mendonca – or Amo for short – was in Estonia this summer, as I made a guest appearance for his Oulu Elks side.

Having only played the game for four months his tactical understanding was a bit limited, but what wasn’t in doubt was his passion, skill and athleticism. Amo – like all the Elks – wants to win, and he wants to do it NOW.

He doesn’t want to hang around learning about blanket defences and tactical fouling. He wants to get the ball in his hands by any means possible, and fire points like this one – one of the most-watched GAA clips of the year.

Nor does Amo care that his kit doesn’t come out of the O’Neills catalogue, or that his team-mates haven’t got ten years of junior B football behind them. He is not weighed down by the burden of history and tradition that sometimes – often – holds us back.

All Amo wants to do is get on with it.

I wrote a book about starting a club here in Stockholm, but I’d almost be willing to bet that Oulu is an even more remarkable story. Not just for where they came from, but where they may take us.

European GAA is about to make another major step as Guernsey GAA take on a team from Carlow in the Leinster Intermediate club championship, but compared to the Elks, it leaves me cold.

It’s not that I don’t want Guernsey to succeed – I do.

But for those of us abroad, the future of Gaelic football and hurling is not in Ireland – it is in Europe, America, Asia, Africa.

It is wherever the Amos of this world allow their curiosity to be awakened, and they bring their skills to the game that used to be ours, but now belongs to the world.

Frankly, I don’t care if I never see a 15-a-side game in Europe. We have difficutly enough getting facilities and sponsorship as it is, so 15-a-side pitches with goals and nets are a long way off.

I’d much rather see the GAA and the rest of us accept that the way forward is the 11-a-side game that we currently play.

Amo and the Elks have shown us that it can be just as beautiful and passionate and enthralling as the 15-man game, and with four less players on the team it gives the likes of Amo more time on the ball.

And having seen what he can do in the few seconds of the above clip, who wouldn’t want to see more of that?