L'Orient's young leader Ewan Duval
By John Harrington
The first recipient of Gaelic Games Europe’s youth volunteer award, Ewan Duval, is certainly a worthy one.
At just 18 years of age, he’s President of the L’Orient GAA club in Brittany, France and already a pillar of his community.
"To me, this is the future of Gaelic Games Europe,” says Gaelic Games Europe Chairperson, John Murphy. “A young player partakes in Feile, progresses to senior level and gets involved in helping their club grow both on the field and in the community, congratulations to Ewan, his enthusiasm for Gaelic Games is infectious, and I am looking forward to seeing many more recipients of this award over the coming years."
Duval’s grandparents are Irish and his love for Gaelic games was first sparked by childhood holidays to Ireland. He joined L’Orient when he was 10 years of age and is passionate about growing the club in his new role as President.
“I knew the day would come but I didn't expect it to come so soon,” Duval told GAA.ie. “But when the previous President stepped down I thought I could do the job so I went for it.
“It's going well so far, I have good people who help me which is important, because as obviously as a 18-year-old I'm quite young to be club President, Most other club presidents would be in their forties or fifties.
“I'm still obviously playing as well but I think I have a good balance now between organising the club and playing.”
L’Orient are typical of Brittany GAA clubs in so far as all their players are home-grown. For Duval and his club-mates, playing Gaelic football is an expression of their celtic identity and culture.
“We have only two Irish people in the club, everyone else is French,” he says. “We've had a big boom in our membership, I think we have eighty members now and the numbers are growing all the time which is amazing.
“In Britttany it's not Irish people who created the clubs, they've been set up by French people who perhaps visited Ireland. Some lads have even set up two or three clubs in Brittany because they love the game so much.
“We're not born knowing these sports but we really love them. The celtic culture is strong in Brittany, we have the biggest celtic festival in the world. So we feel like the GAA is part of our culture too. People just love it.
“It's getting stronger her all the time too. I think we have 15 clubs in Brittany now and there are plans to set up more. More and more kids are playing Gaelic games now as well and more and more clubs have kids sections.
“We're getting great support from the GAA in Ireland. They do so much for us to help us develop the game by helping us buy footballs, goal-posts, jerseys, it's amazing to see.
“My ambition for the club is to just recruit as many people as we can and keep developing. Everyone in the club works hard to create a good environment and we want that to continue.”