x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dubai makes mark at Asian Gaelic games

A group of Irish men and women have made a return from the Asian Gaelic games in Malaysia celebrating their wins.

DUBAI // A group of Dubai-based Irish men and women have made a victorious return from the Asian Gaelic games in Malaysia, celebrating their wins and the sense of community they have created. The Dubai Celts sporting organisation has been celebrating wins by the men's B team and the women's elite team in the Gaelic football events in Penang.

But proud as they are of their achievements, the lasting legacy of the games could prove to be the fostering of personal and business relationships through sport. Although the Irish are relatively small in numbers in the Gulf they appear to have found the perfect vehicle for promoting their culture and capital and, with Dubai hosting the Gulf Gaelic Games in January, the prospects look good for the Celts to lead the way.

The Dubai Celts, formed in 1994, have grown in ambition and reputation, and now compete in a packed calendar of international events as well as playing an increasingly important role in promoting Irish culture in the city and providing a range of sporting and social activities for Dubai's Irish community. The Asian Gaelic games, which ended on Oct 12, have evolved into much more than a sporting event since their launch in 1994.

The Asian Irish Business Forum is now an integral part of the event, promoting the share of information, resources and developing business relationships between the region's Irish communities. Among the speakers at this year's event were the Irish ambassador to Malaysia, Eugene Hutchinson, and prominent Irish businessmen in the region. One major supporter of the event was Dick Spring, former minister for foreign affairs and tanaiste (deputy prime minister) of Ireland.

A former Rugby Union international, Mr Spring is now executive vice-chairman of Irish financial services firm Fexco. The Asian event, sponsored by Guinness, is also a way for Irish expatriates to celebrate their heritage and identity. Dubai businesses have also been keen to associate themselves with the games. The Celts are sponsored by Dubai Duty Free, a company with close links to the Irish through its chief executive, Colm McLoughlin.

The club, and its sponsors, are now looking to replicate the success of the Malaysian event and develop the relationships established there in the Gulf Gaelic Games Sevens, to be hosted in Dubai. Darragh McGreevy, chairman of the Dubai Celts, said the club is looking to make the games the most successful ever. "We are talking to a lot of teams from Ireland, England and Asia about coming out," Mr McGreevy said. "We hope to have an all-stars exhibition match featuring sporting stars and personalities from back home."

Gaelic football, mirroring the growth of minority sports in the region, is expanding in membership, participation and events calendar. Mr McGreevy said the club is expanding and becoming an influential part of the Irish communities social calendar. "We are working hard to increase the number of social members in the club. For example, we are introducing a veterans team in our tournament this year so we can keep ex-players involved.

"We are also putting a lot of time into our under-age set-up to ensure Gaelic games are played in Dubai for many years to come." For those interested in taking part, the club runs training sessions in Safa Park on Sundays from 6.15pm. The team is currently negotiating with Emirates Airlines for the use of their new stadium complex on Al Ain Road. tbrooks@thenational.ae