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Middle East players celebrate their side's victory in the GAA World Games Hurling Cup (Irish) Final during Day 4 of the GAA World Games 2016 at Croke Park in Dublin. 
Middle East players celebrate their side's victory in the GAA World Games Hurling Cup (Irish) Final during Day 4 of the GAA World Games 2016 at Croke Park in Dublin. 

Renault GAA World Games Squad Profile - Middle East Hurling 


By Eoghan Tuohey

Wonderful displays of camaraderie exist and thrive during the GAA World Games. The cultural interchange, the opportunities for networking, socialising and learning from like-minded, yet diverse communities from around the world provide a unique platform to form friendships and celebrate our united passion for Gaelic Games. But there also exists an undeniably intense, competitive ambiance throughout the week. Put a hurler, footballer or camogie player onto the field of play representing their club, state, region or country and you release an entirely different animal.

Few International units come to the World Games with a greater desire for silverware than the Middle East. A region that has been richly blessed with natural resources has also been, in recent times, equally blessed with talented Gaelic Games players, across all four codes. During the 2016 GAA World Games, the Middle East won a Camogie plate title, a Ladies Football Plate title, were runners up in the Native Born Ladies Football plate final, and were the overall victors in the Irish men's football and hurling competitions.

Without a doubt, the Emiratian behemoth is one that will intimidate their competitors, regardless of the competition they're in. With each year comes an influx of Irish immigrants, often into the teaching profession, which bolsters the ranks of ever-growing clubs such as the Dubai Celts, Abu Dhabi na Fianna, Sharjah Gaels, Jumeirah Gaels, and others. Here, we take a closer look at some of the Irish players living in the UAE that will make up the hurling squad travelling to the WIT Arena this summer.

James Kehoe, originally from Ballinabranna in Co. Carlow, and now representing Abu Dhabi Na Fianna, will be the man between the sticks this year, having participated with the Middle East football squad during the 2016 Games. As such, he'll have the rare opportunity to claim a World Games title in both codes.

"I was delighted when I got the text that I had made the panel after the trials. I actually played football at the last World Games and it was a great honour to get a chance to play in Croke Park, when we got to the final. With this year being my last year in the Middle East, it would be great to finish off my time here by getting to Croke Park again with this team and some very good friends, and of course, hopefully winning the competition.

Knowing what’s involved from playing in the World Games the last time, it is a great week to be involved in. It’s also fantastic to see some of the native born players from other parts of the world taking part. I remember watching Argentina and South Africa play the last time and they were brilliant to watch. Preparations have been going well and we have been meeting to train every week for the past two months. We are really looking forward to it and hoping to retain the cup won by the Middle East the last time the GAA World Games were played.

Captain Jody Harkin of Middle East lifts the trophy alongside Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Aogán Ó Fearghail following his side's victory in the GAA World Games Huring Cup (Irish) Final during Day 4 of the GAA World Games 2016 at Croke Park in Dublin.
Captain Jody Harkin of Middle East lifts the trophy alongside Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Aogán Ó Fearghail following his side's victory in the GAA World Games Huring Cup (Irish) Final during Day 4 of the GAA World Games 2016 at Croke Park in Dublin.

Representing a slightly smaller club in the UAE, Sharjah Gaels, will be Kilkenny man, Tom Corcoran. The versatile midfield player echoes similar sentiments to those of other Irish expats who have gone to the middle-east for work, in terms of finding his feet and getting comfortable with his new surroundings, thanks to the GAA club.

"When I moved to the UAE in 2015, some friends told me of a small GAA club called Sharjah Gaels. Getting to be a part of the founding of our hurling club and the sense of community created through the club has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of life in the Middle-East.

It’s great to get to represent the region that’s been my home for the past four years. It is also an opportunity to showcase the talent and high standards of hurling in the Middle East."

Moycarkey-Borris fullback, Peter Kinane, is modest when it comes to discussing his inclusion in the squad -

"It’s great to play alongside the lads that have been showing me up for the last 3 or 4 years! Can’t see myself getting the call up for Tipperary any time soon so any opportunity to get to play in Croke Park couldn’t be turned down. Hopefully things will go well in Waterford and we’ll get there."

Kilkenny will have another representative on the diverse squad in the form of Bennettsbridge's Hugh O'Neill. The Sharjah attacker admits that he hadn't aspired to playing for the middle east in his youth, but is honoured to be given the opportunity now.

"I won’t say it was my dream growing up was to play for the Middle East but it’s great to be picked to represent the region with the standard so high over here. It’s nice to play with lads you usually are trying to beat and have serious competition with all year round. The GAA season over here finished up in early March, usually that would be it for hurling until next year but now we have Middle East training which is great.

I'm just looking forward to the whole event. It seems a lot of preparation and organisation have gone into it and I’m sure it will be fantastic. It will be nice to play against other regions/countries and see the standards elsewhere."

Liam Kelly of Middle East, right, in action against Emmett Whelan of Australasia during Day 4 of the  GAA World Games 2016 at Croke Park in Dublin. 
Liam Kelly of Middle East, right, in action against Emmett Whelan of Australasia during Day 4 of the  GAA World Games 2016 at Croke Park in Dublin. 

The famous hotbed of hurling, Thurles Sarsfields, will be proud to welcome back Michael Gleeson as a member of the Middle East panel this July. Another Abu Dhabi club-man, Gleeson has been based in the UAE for four years.

"The main reasons for leaving would have been to save for a house deposit back home, and also it was a great opportunity to travel, see a completely different part of the world and experience new cultures.

It's brilliant to play the sport we love with friends from different counties. The Middle East setup has provided us with an opportunity to play at a high level.

I’m looking forward to going home for a couple of weeks, meeting up with friends and family and representing the Middle East at the World Games. There is a potentially great reward in getting to play in Croke Park."

Acclimatisation to the extreme weather in the region is something that all GAA players have had to get used to in a swift manner, and it plays a significant role in determining their training regime.

"Training is going well, although with the extreme heat it’s been hard to get out on the field as much as we would have liked. The opposite of the usual pre-season weather experienced playing at home!"

Joe Clohosey will be tasked with keeping the concession of scores to a minimum for the side, as an experienced defender from the Emeralds club in Kilkenny originally.

Now committed to the Sharjah cause, he is quick to pay tribute to the local GAA scene for aiding his assimilation into his new lifestyle.

"I moved over to the UAE to teach and to travel and have enjoyed every minute of it. I had heard that the GAA was very strong over here before I had made the move, from friends who were living there. It is a great way to meet new people, as many people involved will attest to that moving to a new country can be very daunting and the sense of community is fantastic.

I feel lucky to be able to represent the Middle East as the standard of hurling over there is extremely competitive and is only getting better as more people make the move, but also to be a representative to the many other hurlers who play for the several clubs formed over here."

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