While teams at home in Donegal contend with the adverse weather conditions in preparation for the new season, things are heating up in the UAE both on and off the pitch as the Middle Eastern League enters its final round of fixtures this weekend.
The league, which consists of monthly tournaments and is run from September to March, has grown from strength-to-strength in recent years, as more young people leave our shores in search of more lucrative job opportunities.
One club that has benefited greatly from this yearning for pastures new, has been the Dubai-based Jumeirah Gaels who added another accolade to their short history last weekend.
In the Emirate of Al Ain, their Junior B team managed to claim the league title in their last tournament of the year.
Having won two tournaments previously, securing a Plate final was enough to see them hold the trophy aloft.
There was plenty of local interest in the side, with Ramelton’s Dean Boyce captaining the team which included Cloughaneely’s Paul Sweeney, while Carndonagh’s Christy ‘Winkers’ McLaughlin was also involved earlier in the season.
However the Donegal association with Jumeirah Gaels doesn’t end there.
Gaoth Dobhair’s Charles Doogan was part of one of the first teams to line out for Jumeirah and fellow Gaoth Dobhair men Sean McGarvey (Senior) and Jonathan Harkin (Junior A) are currently involved with the club.
Four Masters duo Conor O’Donnell and Steve Keeney were both integral in the setting up of the ladies team who welcomed Sean MacCumhaills’ Caoimhe McMenamin to their ranks this year. They look on course to win the Intermediate title and secure promotion to Senior next season.
To say it’s been a successful few years for Jumeirah Gaels would certainly be and understatement.
Founded in 2015, they won their first Junior title that year, and the club have gone on a run of consecutive promotions and now boast four men’s and ladies teams competing at various levels.
The club has also fielded their first hurling and camogie teams recently, and have attracted household names in the GAA world including former Tipperary skipper Peter Acheson, Galway’s Keith Kelly and Tyrone’s Conor Clarke, who is also the current club Senior captain.
But away from all the success on the pitch, Jumeirah Gaels, like many other clubs in the gulf region, offer young expats a community, support and a taste of home so badly missed by many of our friends and family around the world.