ABU DHABI // If you haven't seen a game of hurling you should be heading towards the Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club - the venue for the M Donnelly Inter-Provincial final between Leinster and Connacht. The game is fast, furious and exciting, and the final will turn into a combat field in a sport that has its origin in the art of training Irish warriors.
The main competition starts at 4pm and is preceded by a match between the Irish expatriate teams Na Fianna Abu Dhabi and Dubai Celts. Rory Hanniffy, a member of the Leinster side and a barrister by profession, is excited to play the final here. "We defeated Connacht in Rome in 2003 before we beat them in last year's semi-final," Hanniffy says. "It is a winner-takes-all game and we expect a close one. We may have won the last two meetings but the teams can change a lot, and we won't know how strong they have become since our last meeting. So fingers crossed."
Hanniffy believes the sport has a good following in any part of the world where there is an expatriate Irish population. "There is a good presence of the community in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and I am sure they'll come in numbers." Andrew Coen, the Connacht captain, shares Hanniffy's sentiment but warns their opponents about a possible backlash. "There is more than a trophy to win here," Coen says. "We have a score to settle and this is a great opportunity. We have been preparing ever since we got through our semi-final two weeks ago.
"This is our national sport and anyone growing up in Ireland would pick up the game quickly. It is like American football or Australian Rules. "Hurling is played throughout the year at every level from schools to the provincial levels, and has grown in stature. That's why we see the final being played in places like Boston and now in Abu Dhabi," he added. firstname.lastname@example.org