21 GAA Clubs Connecting Expats and Locals Around the WorldJanuary 6, 2017
The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) was founded in the 1880s as a way to make athletics more accessible to the masses and encourage the preservation of Irish heritage through sport. Not only has their organisation flourished through Ireland, where it has more than 2,200 clubs, but it has expanded across the world.
There are more than 400 GAA clubs around the world that practice and compete in Gaelic football and hurling. They’re formed either by Irish expats who want to bring something from home to their new countries or international citizens who simply appreciate the sport and enjoy the sense of community.
This has turned GAA organisations into social clubs for camaraderie, networking and personal support. Check out these 21 clubs from the across the world that are doing amazing things in the communities and elevating Irish sports.
Madrid Harps GAA
Founded in 2003, the Madrid Harps GAA is the only Gaelic football and hurling club in the Spanish capital. It has continued to grow and now boasts more than 150 members. The club believes that Gaelic football is more than a great way to exercise; it’s also a cultural meeting point to bring people of multiple nationalities to form personal bonds.
Munich Colmcilles GAA
Founded in 2001, the Munich Colmcilles welcome anyone who enjoys a good time and Irish culture — even if you’re not great at hurling. This year, Munich hosted the Pan European Championship in Gaelic Football, which brought together more than 500 players from 13 countries. This is just one of many GAA clubs in Germany, as the sport continues to grow across the nation.
Paris Gaels GAA
The Paris Gaels were actually the first club in Continental Europe to be associated with GAA. Formed in 1995, the club is actively involved in French expats as well as several other organisations, including the Irish Embassy, Enterprise Ireland and Network Irlande. The club also offers support to immigrants looking to establish themselves in France.
Founded on St. Patrick’s Day in 2003, the Amsterdam Gaelic Athletic Club has become a powerhouse in European Gaelic football. The organisation represented Europe in the Leinster Junior Football Championship in 2014 and 2015, and boasts players from 10 different countries. The club’s social events make it a great place where expats who are new to the Netherlands can make friends.
With more than 100 members, the Belgium GAA is one of the largest Gaelic football clubs in Europe. It was originally named the Brussels Hurling Club but changed its moniker to reflect the four codes that it participates in: hurling, camogie, men’s football and ladies’ football. Belgium GAA are also the 2016 European camogie, hurling and ladies’ football champions.
Middle Eastern Clubs
Dubai Celts GAA
Since 1995, the Dubai Celts have helped expats maintain a sense of home as they explore the foreign environment of Dubai. The club also strives to engage non-Irish community members in its games so the club can continue to raise its profile and encourage members of the UAE to give Gaelic football a try. The Celts currently boast seven senior teams in hurling, camogie, and both men’s and ladies football.
The Kuwait Harps participate in multiple competitions between the months of September and April when the Middle East is cool enough for outdoor sports. The club is represented by more than 60 players from 15 different countries. Founded in 1997, the club currently has six teams and attended the Asian Gaelic Games in Malaysia and the Bahrain Irish Festival this year.
Abu Dhabi Na Fianna
Abu Dhabi Na Fianna is one of the largest and oldest GAA clubs in the Gulf. Founded in 1995, the club initially consisted of four guys who felt homesick and wanted to bring Irish culture to the UAE. Today, there are more than 500 playing members and more than 1,000 social members of the organisation. The club currently has 17 adult teams and multiple kids’ teams.
Founded in 2008, the Arabian Celts are one of the newest additions to the Middle East GAA community. They’re based in Bahrain and the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia and are working on “uniting the Kingdoms” through Gaelic football. They are actually a combination of two previous teams, the Bahrain Irish and the Naomh Abdullah Dhahran of Saudi Arabia. The club continues to grow in the community and is known to be welcoming and enthusiastic to all who support it.
The Viet Celts
The Viet Celts have stood proudly as first ever Vietnam-based Gaelic football club since 2007. Based in Hanoi, the community has continued to grow over the past eight years and recently hosted the inaugural Asian Youth Championship (AYC) in Gaelic football. More than 150 youth players attended, representing five Vietnamese schools and three international clubs.
Singapore Gaelic Lions
Founded in 1997, the Singapore Gaelic Lions is one of the largest GAA clubs in Asia. There are more than 300 members who hail from across the world, including Europe, North America and Asia. While training on the equator can be exhausting, the SGL creates a positive environment that brings people back every year.
Though the Thailand GAA is relatively new — founded in 2011 — it’s growing quickly and competes in two tournaments per year: The South Asian Gaelic Games and the Asian Gaelic Games. Based in Bangkok, the Thai GAA hosts social events throughout the year to create a sense of community that welcomes members of all walks of life and interests.
The Gaelic Dragons
The Hong Kong GAA Club was first formed in 1997. Along with the traditional games of Gaelic football and hurling, it also hosts tournaments and social events for golf, dragon boat racing and other fitness events throughout the year. The club continuously tries to promote Gaelic football in the local community, including incorporating it in the physical education curriculum of local schools.
Based in Kuala Lumpur, the Orang Eire Gaelic Football club welcomes people of all ages and fitness levels. It recently hosted their annual “Youths Vs. Legends” competition, where younger players squared off against more experienced players. Established in 2007, this club takes its name from the Bahasa word for “people,” turning Gaelic football into the people’s sport.
North American Clubs
Shannon Blues Gaelic Football Club
Based in Boston, Shannon Blues Gaelic Football Club was founded in 1974 as a way to maintain friendships formed in previous clubs. The club believes its success stems from the camaraderie and the support system in Boston. The Blues are the 2012 Boston Senior Champions and 2004 Boston and North American Champions. Club members also enjoy bowling, basketball, darts and cards when they’re not competing on the pitch.
Founded in 1979, the Seattle Gaels is part of the Irish Heritage Club of Seattle. Both organisations strive to promote Irish culture and heritage through Gaelic football across the Pacific Northwest. While the actual club was only founded in the ‘70s, Gaelic football has been played in the area since the 1920s through local pickup games.
Sons of Boru GFC
Based in San Francisco, the Sons of Boru were formed in 1984 of mostly American-born players who have a love and appreciation for Gaelic football. They have continued to grow over the years and have won multiple Western Division and North American titles. Today, they’re one of the top GAA clubs in San Francisco and California.
The Irish Sporting and Social Club of Vancouver works to bring together the local Irish community through Gaelic football and other sports. It was founded in 1974 and consists of a mixture of Irish immigrants, second-generation descendents, Canadians and participants of other nationalities. The club also has a strong youth organisation to continue spreading the love of the games to the next generation.
Queensland Gaelic Football & Hurling Association
The Queensland Gaelic Football & Hurling Association was founded in the 1960s and was incorporated in the GAA in 1975. It has grown from two teams to more than 20 playing on multiple levels. It also offers children’s games and teams to teach young people about Gaelic football and hurling. The season Down Under kicks off right after St. Patrick’s Day and continues through September.
Garryowen Gaelic Football and Hurling Club
Founded in 1956, the Garryowen Gaelic Football and Hurling Club currently has three senior teams in men’s football, ladies football and hurling. Along with creating a social club and sporting group for networking, this association provides links on its website to useful organisations for Irish expats to ease their transitions into their new home country.
St. Finbarr’s Gaelic Football Club Perth
Founded in 1976, St. Finbarr’s is integral to the the development of Gaelic football in Perth. The club currently fields two men’s and one ladies team in the WA League, and acts as a social hub for expats in the area with golf outings, and annual dinner dance, and even held a Father Ted-themed fundraiser last year.