This May you’ll be hosting the Southeast Asian Gaelic Games in Bangkok. What can we expect to see?
The ancient games of Gaelic football and hurling are the national sports of Ireland and have travelled the world with the Irish diaspora, so much so that teams can be found from Paris to Beijing to Buenos Aires to Johannesburg – it has become a global sport.
Gaelic football is often described as a cross between soccer, rugby, basketball and Aussie rules, although it pre-dates all these sports. It is a fast moving game using a round ball and with some basic hand-eye coordination is a simple game to pick up.
Hurling, the fastest field ball game in the world is a “bat and ball” game, using a hurley (bat) and sliotar (ball) to move the ball from one end of the pitch to the other in search of points and goals, with the sliotar travelling at up to 150 km/h.
Many Irish sportsmen grew up on the games including golfers Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley, rugby players Rob Kearney and Tommy Bowe, footballers Niall Quinn, Shane Long, Martin O’Neill (Rep of Ireland Manager) and Michael O’Neill (Northern Ireland Manager). Kevin Moran won an All-Ireland football championship with Dublin in the 1970s while playing for Man Utd!
In addition to Gaelic football there will also be a hurling competition with teams from Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul and the Middle-East. Hurling really is a great game to watch and this is the first time that competitive hurling is being played in Thailand.
We will also be holding a kids Gaelic football tournament so we have something for everyone on the day.
When was Thailand GAA formed, and by whom?
John Campbell, a longtime resident of Thailand, spent 2006 in Taipei where he played with the Taiwan Celts Gaelic football team. On his return to Thailand in 2007 he established ThaiGAA with the help of Derek Martin, Padraic Ellicott and Ultan Peters. The club made its competitive debut at the 2007 Asian Gaelic Games in Singapore and next year we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary with a record number of club members.
Where and when are games/training sessions played?
We train at NIST International School, Sukhumvit Soi 15, every Tuesday at 7.30pm. We also hold training Thursday nights at the National Stadium and, as we get closer to the games, will also hold Saturday morning sessions. Our training sessions have players of all levels of abilities and fitness and really provide a great work-out and a great way of getting fit.
The club has experienced a real upsurge in interest over the past few years, and a lot of this has been on the back of the success of our ladies’ team. We regularly get up to 40 players at our weekly training sessions – our record number was 45 in January of this year – and with an equal split of men and women. We have new people attending every week and we welcome all nationalities from complete beginners to seasoned players.
Is the club open to players of all nationalities?
Our members come from many different backgrounds and nationalities. We have teachers, engineers, business owners, finance professionals etc., many of whom have had no previous experience of Gaelic football. Currently we have players from Ireland, UK, Thailand, America, Canada, the Philippines, Australia, Belgium, China and we have as many girls as men playing.
Our next aim is to grow participation among the younger age groups. We have had various international schools play Gaelic football over the past seven years and we are looking to take the sport into some of the local schools.
While historically we have relied on word of mouth we are active on social media – Facebook and Twitter – and are about to re-launch our website.
As we continue to grow we are fortunate to have the support of some local businesses including AsiaBiogas, LawtonAsia Insurance Brokers, The Drunken Leprechaun and the Irish Thai Chamber of Commerce.
The Irish Ambassador to Thailand, H.E. Brendan Rogers, has been a great supporter of the club since his arrival.
How would you describe Thailand GAA in a nutshell?
The local Gaelic clubs in Ireland are the focal points of the local communities. Similarly in Bangkok, our Gaelic football club is offering a home away from home for our members. We play for the love of the sport and to keep fit, but we also provide a social community for expats and locals living here in Bangkok. The social scene is as important as our sports activities and we have various events throughout the year. We organize quiz nights, nights out, participate in fun runs, and support local charities. We are a very welcoming and open club and believe we provide a unique environment to the residents of Bangkok with a healthy mix of sports and social activities. We bring people together who will be friends for life.
How can people get involved or sign up?
People can come along to training and see if they like the sport. Training for first timers is free so that they can get a feel for the sport and see if they like it. Tuesdays at NIST from 7.30pm.