You may not be familiar with Gaelic football, but those who love the game worship it as much as fans of any other sport. That love is obvious in Ireland, but it has also made its way to the UAE, where Gaelic Games have steadily grown. Jumeirah Gaels are one of the clubs in the Middle East GAA that embodies the passion for the sport.
“Back home, it’s an amateur sport. People give their lives for this sport, but don’t get paid for it. So they have to get up in the morning and go to their day jobs,” said Killian Coleman, co-founder of Jumeirah Gaels.
“It’s a sacrifice to do that and I guess that’s where the passion comes from. Out here, it’s no different. It’s phenomenal. I think the structure, the professionalism of Gaelic in the UAE, along with the quality of players, it’s gone through the roof particularly in the last three of four years.”
Jumeirah Gaels are a relatively new club, having formed in August last year when Coleman and four friends came up with the idea.
Coleman was born and raised in Ireland, but was living in Qatar for eight years with a couple of those friends before moving to the UAE 15 months ago.
The club has now expanded to include around 50 men and 30 women. The members make up three men’s teams – two competitive and one social side – and two ladies squads.
In just their first season as part of the Middle East GAA – which contains teams from Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain as well as the UAE – the A side won the junior league to earn promotion to the intermediate league, while the ladies teams competed in the final tournament and will formally join the league next season, which begins again in September.
“For both men’s and ladies, it was fantastic,” Coleman said. “We started our training in August with seven or eight guys and you need 12 on a squad. It was slow, but we started to pick up a couple guys and started to build to 16 or 17 in September and 20 in October.
“We won the league in juniors and it was what we aimed to do at the start of the year, so it was very successful all around.”
The social side, of course, is also a big aspect for Jumeirah Gaels, who enjoy themselves at the get-togethers with other Middle East GAA clubs following end-of-month tournaments, which Coleman calls a “mini Irish festival”.
“It’s usually a fantastic night and there’s good camaraderie between the teams,” he said. “It’s the Irish saying, ‘having the craic’. There’s plenty of it on those nights.”
Though the season is now over, Jumeirah Gaels will resume training in August and encourage all interested players to attend on Wednesdays from 19:00 to 21:00 at Dubai Sports City and Fridays from 08:00 to 09:00 at Jumeirah Lake Towers, behind Armada Towers.
Learn the basics of Gaelic football:
►Similar to Australian Rules
►Each team consists of 15 players but in the Middle East, teams usually have 12 players with nine-a-side matches.
►Played on a pitch up to 145 metres long and 90 metres wide. The goal-posts are lower than in rugby but higher than in football.
►The Gaelic football is smaller than a normal football and can be carried in hands for a distance of four steps before kicking the ball back into the hands, allowed only once in succession. Men can only kick the ball up to their hands using their feet, while women can pick up the ball off the ground. The ball can also be kicked or passed to team-mates.
►A goal is scored when the ball is put over the crossbar by the foot or hand for one point or under the crossbar into the net by the foot or hand, resulting in three points.
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