Hurling & Camogie in the Middle East
Although Hurling was considered by some to be pretty much dormant in the Middle East until a full tournament was played at the Gulf Gaelic Games 2012, it is interesting to note that the first recorded GAA match ever played in the Middle East was in Fact a game of Hurling, played in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1985.
The embers were kept alight by a select few throughout the region, and they were aided in their efforts by the arrival of a handful of hurlers every year since the mass exodus from Ireland commenced in 2008/9. This increase in player resources was first seen with a Dubai Celts team that has dominated the desert landscape for 2012 & 13. However this dominance is not guaranteed to continue, as Arabian Celts, Clann na Oman, Al Ain and Qatar are getting stronger by the year.
Hurling marked another great first for the Middle East in September 2013 at the Aer Lingus International Hurling Festival in Galway, when 20 hurlers, drawn from Dubai Celts, Arabian Celts, Clann Na h-Oman, Al Ain GAA and Oryx Na h-Eireann Qatar, became the first players ever to represent the Middle East County Board, which had been set up a mere three months previously.
This group also became the first ever players to win silverware for the region’s county team, overcoming Canada, Europe and Milwaukee hurlers on the way to winning Division 2 of the tournament. The strength of Middle East Hurling came as a pleasant surprise to many observers in Galway, and showed that there is a bright future for the game in the region.
We now find ourselves having established a competitive, viable Middle East League for Hurling, with standalone Hurling tournaments taking place throughout the Middle East throughout the season, ensuring that Hurlers & spectators all over the region have an opportunity to see and play the ancient game. As of 2013, Hurling in the Gulf is played as an 11-a-side game, with 7 minute halves and rolling substitutions from a panel of 14, prior to this it was played as 9-a-side.
Camogie is also at the cusp of a boom period, with the first Camogie tournament being played opposite the men’s football at the Middle East League fixtures in 2013. Al Ain will host the first of these tournaments. Once again Dubai boast a strong side, however knowing the robust, honest and sporting rivalry that exists among clubs in the Gulf, we can be sure that the other teams will step up to their mark and add another competitive league to the Middle East’s already impressive repertoire.
The Middle East County Board’s short term aim is to develop the games to a situation where every club provides at least one full competitive senior Hurling & Camogie team to each relevant tournament. While in the long–term developing underage Hurling & Camogie to aid the GAA’s international development aims and spread the games to a new audience. If you have just moved to the Middle East and want to join a club or have been here a while and feel like getting back at some Hurling or Camogie, please contact the Middle East Hurling Development Officer firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be you in contact with your nearest club.
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