James Kennedy believes the Gaelic Athletic Association World Games will only go from strength to strength after the staging of the inaugural event in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
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The chairman of the Middle East GAA board hailed the tournament as “absolutely fantastic” as 28 teams from five continents descended on the UAE yesterday.
“It’s the first ever GAA World Games so we’re making history,” said Kennedy.
“We’ve got South Africans bringing a lot of colour to the event, as well as the Galicians and Argentina. It’s absolutely fantastic,” he added.
The Middle East are on course for silverware in both the men’s and women’s GAA World Games finals today after a fantastic opening day.
Middle East 2 take on Australasia in the first semi-final of the ladies’ GAA World Games competition while Middle East 1 face Asia 1 in the other.
In the last four of the main men’s competition, Middle East have again been kept apart with the 2nds facing Asia and the 1sts taking on New York.
Canada, meanwhile, could have two teams in the men’s GAA World Games Plate final as their 1sts and 2nds have been kept apart as well.
Canada 1sts face North America in a very tasty semi-final encounter while the 2nds face Europe.
In the ladies’ Plate semi-finals, New York face Asia 2 and North America take on Europe.
In the men’s International World Cup, made up of largely native players, Argentina will play Middle East in the GAA World Shield semi-final while Galicia play South Africa.
Canada will take on South Africa in the women’s GAA World Shield semi-finals and Middle East will take on Galicia.
In the Middle Eastern GAA Championship for Gulf teams that ran alongside the main tournament, there was double joy for Sharjah and Dubai yesterday.
Dubai Celts won the Men’s Middle East League Cup by defeating Abu Dhabi Na Fianna 14-5 in the final while the women’s side won the Ladies’ camogie title.
Sharjah Gaels won the Men’s Social Plate and Sharjah were winners of the Ladies’ Social Cup.
Abu Dhabi Na Fianna claimed the Men’s Cup while the Ladies’ Social Cup was won by Asia.
Dubai travel to this weekend’s Inter-Gulf Netball Championships brimming with confidence after both teams reached the final of last year’s showpiece event in Bahrain.
Over 300 players participated in the 2014 tournament, with Dubai A claiming victory against Dubai B by the narrowest of margins.
One of the stars that day was Dubai B captain Louisa Stormont, and according to the skipper, the Dubai teams’ will return to Bahrain bidding for more success on Saturday morning.
“The aim will be to make the final. The tournament has opened itself up to so many players and teams and it’s great to see plenty of new faces on the court,” said Stormont.
“A competition like this brings different skills and different aspects of the game.
“I don’t’ know if the Dubai teams’ have ever been this prepared before going into the tournament.
With the Inter-Gulf Championships it brings the sport to the next level and the experience of having Maggie (Jackson) and Mary (Beardwood) as coaches is invaluable to our ambitions,” she added.
Maggie Jackson is a hugely influential figure in the Dubai camp having lined-up for England over many years, including appearances at the World Championships and the 1986 World Cup in Glasgow.
Her side-kick Mary Beardwood, also a talented players in the 80’s, guided the England team to a bronze medal in the first year of netball at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.
With her wealth of experience assisting teams down through the years, Jackson says the players have responded well and are looking forward to the two-day competition.
“We’ve been focusing on the specifics and putting plans together. It’s fantastic to see the sport improve so well and this only helps a team like this with the experience in the local league (Dubai Netball League).”
Like most top coaches in the game, Jackson never looks beyond the current task at hand. “I treat every opposition as strong until I play them,” she said.
“I’m anticipating the (Dubai) A’s and B’s have strong players and it’s all about how they gel together and cope in pressure situations.
— Dubai Netball League (@DubaiNetball) February 8, 2015
“A lot of the teams here will be strong, including Abu Dhabi.”
Abu Dhabi go into this weekend’s competition relishing the prospect of re-claiming the title they won in 2013. At the business end of the weekend, Dubai A and Dubai B should also be in the hunt for a final place depending on how opening round matches go.
Jackson hails the tournament as it allows the girls to play against experienced opposition with the end product always resulting in player improvement. “It’s great for women sport. It’s hard when you want stronger competition and it’s expensive to find it. It allows the girls to play against different,” she said.
“Netball is a sport you have to enjoy. You have to relish every minute of it. You have to clear your mind and focus on what you’ve learnt. It should become automatic after all the practice.”
The fourth World Championships of Beach Ultimate roll into to Dubai on Sunday, with the promise of sea, sand and quality sport at JBR.
Never heard of beach ultimate? Let Pedro Miguel Vargas, director of the Beach Ultimate Lovers Association (BULA), illuminate you….
Q: First things first, what exactly is beach ultimate?
PMV: It is probably best described as a combination of football (soccer), American football, and basketball – played with a flying disc (Frisbee™). It’s a fast-paced game that sees teams of five players trying to catch the disc in the opponent’s endzone (like in American Football). Doing so scores you a point. Whenever the disc is intercepted, touches the ground, or goes out of bounds, the teams switch from defence to offence and vice versa.
Q: How popular is the sport worldwide?
PMV: I believe the sport has reached a critical mass and modern communication makes spreading the advantages of the sport easier. New tournaments quickly learn how to attract players and use that as an ignition point for local set up of games and leagues. The fact that the game is played on the beach also helps with the appeal, and as it is a non-contact sport that relies on self-officiating, it attracts a new type of player that enjoys healthy competition. It is a sport in which fair play is a key element, yet fundamentally it is still has really good physical merits.
Q: The World Championships are coming to Dubai, why was the UAE chosen as host nation?
PMV: In the Middle East, the sport’s popularity is in its early stages and the World Championships is really seen as a catalyst to get it into the public's eye. There are four teams participating from the UAE as well as one national team from Qatar. Considering the abundance of sand and beaches in the region, this is a potential major growth area for beach ultimate. The event will attract 1,100 athletes from 25 countries – it will be a fantastic advert for the sport.
Q: Which countries tend to dominate the beach ultimate scene?
PMV: This is the fourth world championship after Portugal (2004), Brazil (2007) and Italy (2011). Each tournament has various divisions and in Dubai there are seven divisions: open, women, mixed, open masters (age 32+), mixed masters (32+), women masters (30+), and grand masters (40+). USA has ruled in most divisions throughout the years with nine gold medals and other countries such as Austria, Great Britain, Australia, and Germany have each taken five gold medals in total. [For more complete standings, click HERE]
There have been eight ever-present nations at the BULA Beach Ultimate World Championships: Canada, Switzerland, USA, Portugal, Currier Island, Ireland, Great Britain, Germany.
Q: Hold on, Currier Island? That’s not a real place is it?
PMV: You’re right! Currier Island was the brainchild of a couple of guys who wanted to play at the 2004 world championships but didn’t make the U.S team. They wrote to WCBU president Patrick van der Valk claiming they were from this country, Currier Island, and requested an invitation to attend – stating that WCBU could not possibly qualify as a legitimate ‘world’ championships without them. In the spirit of the sport, they were allowed to play and since it has been a team that serves the purpose of hosting players whose countries are not being represented at the event in a particular division. Tt allows everyone an opportunity to take part in the WCBU. There are some caveats surrounding Currier Island’s participation, namely the fact that because is not an official country it is not allowed to access semi-finals (or quarter-finals, depending on the division).
Q: Thanks for clearing that up! Who are the favourites going into this year’s tournament.
PMV: The US teams are seeded first in every division. The Philippines are going to bring some strong squads and they have been practicing a lot under the watchful eye of Tim Morrill, a beach ultimate fitness specialist. Outsiders can be Sweden (mixed), Portugal (mixed), Ireland (mixed), Australia (open, mixed and mixed masters), Canada (all divisions), Germany (all divisions) and Great Britain (all divisions).
Q: Does beach ultimate have ambitions of being an Olympic sport?
PMV: Beach ultimate is potentially going to be included in the first World Beach Games to be held in 2017. For the Olympics it is more likely that our sister sport of grass/field ultimate will be included. It won't happen in the next five years but it is definitely a potential in the 2020s. In 2013, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) provisional IOC recognition and with recent changes to make the Olympic games more attractive we feel that ultimate can play a role.