They may have only just completed their debut season as a fully-fledged club, but Dubai Eagles are already dreaming of creating a legacy for future generations, having just returned from a charity trip to Sri Lanka.
As most teams and players were settling down to enjoy some much-needed rest and relaxation after a punishing campaign, a group of Eagles players were taking flight to donate kit and equipment to a school on the west coast of the island, off the south coast of India.
A group of 10 players went altogether for the three-day trip, where they visited pupils at Mahanama College in Panadura, 27km south of the capital Colombo.
Eagles’ Irish fly-half and director of rugby, Sean Carey, said it was a brilliant experience.
“We got in touch with the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union and we asked them to put us in touch with a team close to the UAE, in the south west, somewhere that was affected by the tsunami,” said Carey.
More than 30,000 Sri Lankans were killed on Boxing Day in 2004 when, as a result of an Indian Ocean earthquake, the island was hit by a devastating tsunami, with around 1.5 million more people displaced from their homes.
“They put us in touch with Mahanama College College in Panadura. We landed in the airport and they had a bus waiting for us. We went straight to the school and they were having an assembly. We planned a day of coaching and just talked to the kids.
“We had the first season for the Eagles and we had some kit that was left over. We bought more than we should have so there was quite a lot of stuff.
“We had a lot hanging around downstairs in the store rooms too, around 70 jerseys, 25 balls and other rugby equipment.
“We met with the principal, they even fed us. It was a pretty cool experience. We’d hope to go back there maybe once a year. It’s a big thing of what we want to do as a club.”
Although they mixed business with pleasure, spending their final two days at the beach, the 3,348km trip is something Eagles are determined to follow up on.
The club plans to head back to Mahanama College next season as well as visiting more schools in other Asian countries.
Carey – who formed part of the Ireland squad that played at the Under-19 World Championship when it was staged in Dubai and Sharjah in 2006 – represented the UAE at the Asia Rugby Championship in Malaysia last year.
Twelve years ago the 30-year-old was part of an Irish side containing future British & Irish Lions Cian Healy and Keith Earls that finished fifth in the UAE. And having enjoyed a fairly high-profile career, Carey said he was inspired to give something back after being part of the Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors side that toured Madagascar in 2016.
“I’d done the Mike Ballard thing before, the Conquistadors, so that was in the back of my head when we started Eagles last summer, that we’d do something along those lines, like a tour, and link up with some people in need of help, kit and rugby equipment,” said Carey of the organisation set up by former Abu Dhabi Harlequins player Ballard.
“I wanted to take what Mike has done and do a bit more of it. Me and Conor (Coakley, Eagles captain) had been in Madagascar and got the idea from Mike.
“There’s loads of rugby-mad areas in Asia that need equipment and we wanted to do more in other countries. It’s something we’d like to have as part of our legacy.
“We have other destinations and we’d like to do something like this twice a year. But we want to build something and go to those places again rather than just drop stuff and leave.
“It’s a big part of what we want to do at Eagles. Because we are so lucky here, and have so much in Dubai, so we want to give something back.”
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