Abu Dhabi to host inaugural GAA World Games to celebrate Irish sport
The globalisation of the Gaelic games will continue this week when Abu Dhabi hosts the inaugural Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) World Games at Zayed Sports City.
The event, sponsored by Etihad Airways and supported by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, opens with the World Business Forum on Thursday, with the competition then to take place across Friday and Saturday.
Comprising 25 teams from around the world — men’s and women’s — nine different regional bodies will be represented in the capital: North America, South America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Mainland Europe, South Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Middle East. Four representative teams — two men’s and two women’s — have been chosen from the 10 clubs across the Middle East, which includes four UAE-based sides.
Abu Dhabi Na Fianna, the hosts, were responsible for the introduction of the World Games, which has received significant support from the Middle East Country Board — the newest county board to operate as part of the overall GAA community — and the GAA Headquarters in Dubai, Ireland.
“It’s a historic event and we’re very proud at Abu Dhabi Na Fianna to have been chosen to host the Games,” said Trevor Buckley, the Abu Dhabi Na Fianna chairman. “It reflects the globalisation of the games and is representative of the amount of Irish people worldwide who’ve had to emigrate for various reasons. The fact we’re trying to promote the games and keep everyone involved is very special to us and a great honour.”
The World Games, which falls under the patronage of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, features the traditional Irish sports of Gaelic football, hurling, camogie and rounders. Round 2 of the Middle East Hurling League will also run alongside the event.
The internationalisation of the Gaelic games has already proved successful, with fixtures such as the International Rules Series, run annually between Ireland and Australia, and the annual All Stars game, played in Boston, helping develop the sports outside of their homeland. Since 2008, Etihad Airways has sponsored the All-Ireland Hurling Senior Championship, hurling’s premier competition.
Buckley said the interest in the World Games provides yet another example of that popularity, and that he hopes it can eventually become a biennial event.
“The response has been very positive, especially since it’s the first Games and a lot of teams have travelled huge distances to take part,” he said. “That shows its appeal. And even though the numbers are quite large already, we hope they will continue to grow in the future.”
The GAA World Games is a first-of-its-kind event celebrating the traditional Irish sports of Gaelic football, hurling, camogie and rounders. Running in conjunction with the World Business Forum, its aim is to promote the growth of the GAA around the world. Twenty-five teams from across the globe will take part, including those from North and South America, Europe, Australasia, Asia and the Middle East.
Zayed Sports City, the Abu Dhabi stadium that has in the past staged the Fifa Club World Cup.
March 6-7. The World Business Forum, which features keynote speakers including the president of the GAA, takes place on Thursday 5.
What’s going on here:
The GAA has for a long time attempted to take its sports outside of Ireland, and the UAE has a particular link through Etihad Airways’ sponsorship of the All-Ireland Hurling Senior Championship, Hurling’s premier competition. Hurling is a stick-and-ball team sport, with 15 players on either team, considered to be the fastest field sport in the world. Camogie is almost identical to hurling, although it is played by women and consists of 12 players on each side. Gaelic football, a form of football that also features 15 players on either team, is just as popular as hurling. It is played using both the hands and feet. Rounders, meanwhile, is a bat-and-ball game, similar to softball.
Admission is free on Friday and Saturday. Evening entertainment includes live music and traditional Irish dance.
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Updated: March 1, 2015 04:00 AM