Partners in GAA travelling with Australasian Squads
By Eoghan Tuohey
Such is the community spirit, sense of collectivism and immense quantity of hours that volunteers around the world put into the running and development of their GAA clubs, it's not surprising that relationships form and grow within these communities, and, in some cases, they lead to lifelong partners.
This has been the case for two couple immersed within the GAA scene in Australasia, Matt and Anita Doecke and Adrian Murphy and Keira Kinahan Murphy.
This will be Matt's first GAA World Games, while his wife, Anita, competed at the original games in Abu Dhabi. It's an opportunity he's relishing.
'The opportunity to play for your country in any sport is a privilege and to get this opportunity to go to Ireland to play Gaelic Football with a team of native born players with the majority from South Australia is something that I no doubt will cherish. This is the greatest advertisement for the development of the great Irish game in our country.'
The 2018 Australasian Regional Games Player of the Tournament outlined how, as other members of his squad have already explained, the logistics involved in arranging collective training sessions for any of the Australasian teams has been extremely difficult, indeed, many will only have met once together prior to flying out to Ireland.
"The challenges of getting a team together in person when we are all a minimum of 800 km apart is understandably difficult. As part of the South Australian Gaelic Community we have players who travel across the city from a predominately Australian born background where most connections are through friends and sport. With this profile we find the community is one who come together to participate in the great Irish games and celebrate the culture. When we participate as a State at National level we are proud to represent South Australia and our families and pleasingly we come together really well under that common goal.
Over time I have had the opportunity to travel as a club to Regional Games and meet some of the fantastic people in both Geelong and Hobart and compete against players from these regions and also get an opportunity to socialise and get to know them on a more personal level. In addition, we have had challenge weekends where we continue to build the links with these regions like Geelong. When we see the squad that has been selected to represent the Native Born Australasia Men's side we have a fair understanding of the Geelong players and what they bring to the team as well as our own."
AFL has been Matt's primary focus, and he's a central figure in the local Angaston Football Club, where he is fondly known as "Mad Keen Matty". The influence of his wife, Anita, who was previously featured on GAA.ie, has been telling, and has led to him also becoming a pivotal figure in the local GAA setup.
"Despite Australian Rules Football being my chosen sport there will never be a chance to represent my country like in the upcoming World Games. When playing for any representative team I get a great sense of pride in wearing the jersey and to challenge myself against like minded athletes. Travelling with a team to Ireland is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am grateful for that chance to be involved. No doubt as teams and regions we will develop friendships and build networks that will last years after our attendance at these games."
Kilkenny-born Keira Kinahan Murphy led Australasia up the hallowed steps of the Hogan stand on Finals' Day at the 2016 GAA World Games, and possesses a star-studded array of honours from her Camogie career to date. The Ballyhale Shamrocks clubwoman, who also has an Asbhourne Cup title with UL to her credit, is a former Junior All-Ireland champion, and former Kilkenny Senior player of the year. This is all before her decision to emigrate to Australia, where her trophy cabinet has been far from bare. Trying her hand at both codes, she's bagged 4 Camogie titles and 5 Ladies Football medals with New South Wales, and has twice been Camogie player of the tournament.
Keira's husband, Adrian Murphy, who will manage the Camogie side again at this year's Renault GAA World Games, is keen to repeat their achievement.
"Returning home to Ireland with the Australasian team and showcasing our skills to all our family and friends in 2016 was a hugely enjoyable experience. It was a great opportunity to get to experience Croke Park as a player or manager and also to witness the native born teams playing and having the same passion for our national sports as we do.'"
This time round, there will be a third member of the Kinahan-Murphy clan in tow, with 1 year old Joshua set to fill the role of mascot for the squad. It's set to be a really special return home for the family, as Keira explained.
"I'm so proud to have the opportunity to take part in the World Games for the second time. It was an absolute honour to captain the first ever winning Camogie Team in the final in 2016 and I completely underestimated how much it meant to all our family and friends to be there supporting us throughout the week. A truly special occasion.'"
Adrian, who hails from the Enniscorthy Shamrocks club in Wexford, with whom he claimed an Intermediate County Title in 1996, laments the occasional slagging he receives as a result of having won more as a camogie manager than he did himself in his playing days. But it's safe to assume that the panel members of the Australasian Camogie side will care little about that if their head coach can lead them to an unprecedented second GAA World Games title in a row.
"This will be my second GAA World Games as manager of the Australasian Camogie Team with my wife Keira. I'm a very excited and proud Dad to have our son Joshua part of the occasion with us this time round.
If I had a dollar for every time I have been slagged for winning more Camogie medals than hurling medals id be a very rich man! "