Sixmilebridge

Founded 1904

Co. Clare

Andrew Hogan & Maradona - Spreading the GAA Gospel in the Emirates

Maradona

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Source: the42.ie

Sixmilebridge native Andrew Hogan who is now based out in the Emirates and a member of Eire Og Fujairah, a GAA club that was only started up in the north-eastern city last autumn had a helping hand in a major coup last week when helping to promote the newly formed club via none other than the hand of god himself Maradona.

According to Hogan - 

“We’re about an hour and a half from Dubai, basically a Limerick-to-Dublin type distance,” says the Sixmilebridge man.

But it was unrealistic to play up there, live up there and then travel for work. There was a big group of us – about 70 teachers – who set up here in Fujairah and decided to live here. Two of us spoke about setting up a club before we came out and then we suggested it to all the Irish lads and that’s how the team started. But now we have players from all over the world: we have English, Scottish, Welsh, a Canadian. Even guys from Egypt and Sudan.”

Fujairah is dwarfed in size and recognition by Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. All three locations host a remarkable amount of Irish immigrants and, as a result, a home-from-home atmosphere is created. But Hogan admits there wasn’t much of an ex-pat community in a city best known for its collection of mosques and forts.

“We’ve basically tried to establish a community here,” he says.

“The town has a population of about 60,000 but there’s not many ex-pats or English speakers. There’s a few pubs but nothing spectacular. But we’ve made it a home and the more we’ve done that the nicer it’s got and the easier it’s been for more and more people to come here. The GAA has been the focal point for us setting up here.”

“We’re about an hour and a half from Dubai, basically a Limerick-to-Dublin type distance,” says the Sixmilebridge man.

Hogan and his cohorts are keen to attract as many new members as possible. Anyone they meet and who shows an interest in the club usually gets an invitation to drop by a training session.

“There’s a place we go for a drink here, a sports bar,” Hogan says.

“The bouncer is from Uganda and we’ve got him down. We said it to him one night and he just said, ‘Yeah, I’ll come and play’. We have Indian lads, we have everyone. Just people you meet around here, really. Because they see the group of us and see the jerseys and just ask, ‘What is it? Who are ye? What do ye do?’ We really needed some non-Irish lads to play at the start of the year so we brought in some English and Welsh and Scottish guys to fill in. They enjoyed it, told everyone else that it wasn’t too scary and that it was a bit of craic and they should play.

The lad from Sudan has only just started to come down so he hasn’t really defined a position for himself yet. But the Ugandan lad is a very good defender, though, I’ll tell you that much.”

There are 85 competitive GAA teams across the Middle East. There’s a league, a championship and various other tournaments for Gaelic football, hurling, ladies football and camogie. Eire Og Fujairah are just concentrating on football for now and what is interesting is that Hogan never really had much of an interest in the game before moving to the Middle East.

“We got some new jerseys in because we have a tournament coming up and we thought it would be a bit of craic to head down to the soccer club and present one to them as a gesture. There’s a lad from Belfast – Eamon – who works for the paper here and does some media with the club. He passed the message to their business manager and we were straight in. There was a call at 5 o’clock to say we should head down because they were starting training.

Maradona led the session and seemed to have a lot of fun with the players. It seemed like he was having a great time. He spoke to us as much as he could, given there was a language barrier. But he was very friendly, very warm. He loved the jersey and the fact it had his number of the back. And he shook hands with all of us.

Read the full interview here courtesy of the42.ie

 

 

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