There's a new GAA club in Oman, in the Middle East
It's a 8,026km to drive from Athlone to Oman. It is a country which is nestled to the south east of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – neither are hurling strongholds. But in Oman there is now a new GAA club that is growing at a staggering rate.
In July 2012 the Omani Irish Friendship Society sought to establish an Omani GAA club as an integral part of further promoting the Irish culture in Oman. Little did they know how successful the idea would turn out to be.
Training began a month ago on 4 September, and so far players from 15 countries have registered with the club; from Irish to Omani, from Jamaican to Filipino. The community of Irish in Oman, although not large, appears to have a great rapport with the locals. In fact many of the Omani members of the club have previously studied in Ireland, and it was here that they first been came fascinated with Gaelic football.
On a map, the make up of nationalities on the Oman team looks a little something like this:
Limerick native Andrea Linehan, who has been living in Oman for the past seven years has not been too surprised at the great reaction the GAA club has gotten since they set it up. As she explained when she spoke to WorldIrish:
It is one of the easiest games for other disciplines of sport to change over to. That makes the catchment area of potential players incredibly wide in any community. In Oman, it is footballers. In the Philipinnes, it could be basketball players. In Australia, it could be rugby, Aussie Rules or netball players, the list goes on.
The club will travel to their first tournament this Friday in Dubai, and the excitement on their Facebook page (which has 410 members) has been building:
In the long term, Oman GAA club hope to improve their facilities and develop their coaching; whilst also striving to encourage players of all nationalities to take up the sport, and bring members of the Irish and Omani community together in the club in other ways, off the field of play.
As Andrea points out, the club is not just a platform for sport and competition, but also brings people together like nothing else can:
The best part so far about setting up Oman GAA is the fun and craic that we have at training. Our Facebook page is a never ending platform for banter between all the players. We have nationalities who would not have been able to point Ireland out on the world map but who are now addicted to our national sport
Has it been hard work, starting something like this from scratch? 'Luckily there is a group of us all equally as passionate about developing Gaelic football in Oman, through Oman GAA and including as many nationalities as possible,' says Andrea.
They are strong words from someone who was never involved in GAA when she lived at home in Ireland. But after taking up the sport two years ago, and now having such a huge involvement in Oman GAA Club, would she encourage other Irish people abroad to get involved in GAA? 'Would I recommend it? Absolutely! No question about it!
For everyone involved in Oman GAA it seems they really are living life by the club's motto – 'Train Hard. Laugh Loud.'