GAA goes global with Asian Gaelic Games

The 2013 senior GAA championships are still fresh in the minds of Gaelic fanatics across the country. With Dublin winning 2-12 to Mayo’s 1-14.

However, for both Irish and international GAA players, the plight was only about to begin. But this time, playing fields surrounded by hay bales and bombarded with drizzle were exchanged for a sporting plain with a backdrop of skyscrapers in the humid Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

The weekend of October 12th-13th saw the Asian Gaelic Games take place for the 18th year running. While many people may be shocked to hear that there are GAA teams in Asia, it is not a low-key activity.

More than 700 players travelled to Malaysia for the weekend, making up 60 teams to play a whopping 200 games in the space of just two days.

Former DCU student Bernard Brogan was full of praise for the sense of community that he experienced at the games: “There’s 800 or 900 people playing GAA here today from all over the world, not just Irish. It just shows the power that GAA and community and family values have even this far away from home. It is really powerful.”

A variety of the titles went to the Middle East including the Derek Brady Cup for the senior men. However it was the Shanghai Ladies who won the female title, toppling the Singapore Lions after a four-year winning streak.

Of course, a variety of sporting personas also took part in the event, including Donegal All-Ireland winner Ryan Bradley and Armagh’s Michael Stevenson. Olympic gold medallist Mark Rohan was also in attendance to show his support for the players.

Viral attention was also brought to the games recently when Jerome Quinn posted an image of what has been dubbed the best GAA jersey of all time. The jersey consisted of a silverback gorilla carrying an O’Neills football. Not the type of image you’d see on a jersey every day.

But unlike other sporting events, the Asian Gaelic Games are less about the competition and more about the gathering of both Irish and non-Irish for a weekend of fun and appreciation of the sport.

Back home in Ireland, it is no secret that many students know of friends abroad or are personally planning to emigrate after graduation.

One of the more popular destinations abroad is Australia. ABC has reported that “40,000 Irish people made Australia their home in 2011 and 2012 with 5,000 people settling [there] permanently”.

However, travelling abroad to a different culture can be daunting. The network reported than many migrants were “happy to find work” but in fact found it difficult to build lives.

This was the first year for the Australian GAA team, The Darwin Shamrocks, to partake in the championships.

GAA teams abroad are one great way for Irish emigrants to get out and socialise but also to develop a network of expats and friends in their region. With players of different nationalities, it can even be a way to get closer to the different cultures.

Other emigration hotspots, such as the Middle East (namely Dubai and Kuwait) and China, were all in attendance at last weekend’s games.

Katie Coyle

Image Credit: Sportsfile

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