Singapore Gaelic Lions are a roaring success
By John Harrington
The ‘Little Red Dot’ of Singapore left a very big impression on everyone who was fortunate enough to be part of the recent 2017 PwC All-Stars Hurling Tour.
It’s only when you witness it first-hand yourself that you realise just how remarkable a success story the GAA abroad really is.
The number of new clubs being established is mushrooming year on year, but the Singapore Gaelic Lions who hosted this year’s All-Stars exhibition are one of the longest established of all.
They were founded back in 1997, and the All-Stars tour was a fitting way to celebrate the 20th birthday of a vibrant GAA club that continues to grow and innovate with every passing year.
Gaelic Games are the very fabric of Irish society here at home, and in the very same way they act as the glue that bonds the ex-pat community abroad together.
“The spirit of ‘Meitheal’ nicely sums up what the Singapore Gaelic Lions are all about,” wrote the club’s Vice-Chairman Paraic McGrath in the excellent programme they produced for the event.
“A group of people working together supporting each other and providing a home away from home as well as making new friends and spreading the ‘GAA Gospel’ throughout the region.”
McGrath’s description of SGL’s ethos was very evident in everything the club did over the course of the weekend.
Not only was the match-day itself a roaring success with local teams setting the tone with some competitive clashes before the All-Stars strutted their stuff.
The good work the club is doing in the city in a very inclusive way was also showcased impressively when a number of the players visited local schools to demonstrate the skills of the game.
Wexford’s Lee Chin and Kilkenny duo Walter Walsh and Padraig Walsh visited St. Joseph’s International School where over 900 children turned out for the occasion.
No doubt they were well mobilised by the school’s vice-principal, Neil Corrigan, a native of Conahy in Kilkenny, who was hopeful the experience will encourage many new children to join SGL’s ‘Cubs’ underage programme.
Originally established by club members Peter and Teresa Ryan, the ‘Cubs’ programme has gone from strength to strength and now numbers around 90 children, many with no Irish background.
That dynamic should accelerate further in the coming years thanks to a recently launched project to teach the skills of Gaelic Football in local schools.
The Singapore Gaelic Lions have to date trained 300 players with backing from the GAA, the Singapore Ireland Fund, St. Patrick’s Secondary School, The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Singapore Ministry of Education.
Those numbers will continue to increase, because with the help of the Connacht Council the club will send 7-10 local sports teachers to Ireland next year to upskill them in the coaching of both Gaelic Football and Hurling.
For many years GAA clubs abroad were the preserve of expats who craved a link to home, but Singapore Gaelic Lions are a good example of the growing trend of GAA clubs welcoming the native population and being embraced in kind.
They now draw over 300 adult members from nine countries as well as from all 32 counties of Ireland, and are a beacon of inclusivity.
Considering how welcome they made everyone feel who travelled to Singapore as part of the All-Stars tour, it’s easy to see why Singapore Gaelic Lions have put the ‘Little Red Dot’ on the GAA map to the extent that they have.