Monday, May 28, 2007

Gaelic games come to Vietnam

The Asian Gaelic Games are to be held in Singapore this year from June 23rd - 24th.

There's been a Vietnamese Gaelic football team assembled, which is currently four weeks into a gruelling eight week training (and learning the rules) programme. They haven't a chance at winning but they'll be dressed to impress and sure I personally just want to see the Sling factories where those fancy cocktails come from. Though I'm a bit concerned most of our team will be arrested for bad habits they've picked up, such as smoking anywhere you like or hurling used napkins and chicken bones onto the floor, driving the wrong down a street with no helmet while texting your friends, who you left back in the pub.

After all - Singapore is famous for scrupulously clean surroundings and a very strict administration

Hmmm, not two things which are high on my "why-I-would-travel-to-another-country" list but ...well, this is the kind of sacrifice I will make for my country and Vietnam.

Here's a press release written by Pittstop Public Relations team.

A brief history of the Viet Celts' brief history

Previously in Vietnam the word 'ga' with a falling tone might have meant chicken or with no tone at all 'station' but now the scholars will have to make room in the local dictionary for a new entry - GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) as Gaelic Football has landed in Vietnam and although not too many people know it, the very-recently formed Viet Celts are about to change sport in the land of Ho Chi Minh… possibly forever!

In what will surely be known as a hinge of history in years to come, one minute a motley bunch of Vietnam-based expats were drinking beer, smoking cigarettes and talking about – of all things – cricket, the next they, and a couple of unsuspecting local Hanoi lads, had been presented with an opportunity to join the Viet Celts Gaelic Football team. All they had to do was remember or learn how to play Gaelic football and travel to Singapore to represent Vietnam in the Asian Gaelic Games.

Bemused onlookers at the inaugural training session will no doubt never forget the day four 'Ong Tay' (foreign gents) stood in a circle punching a football to each other. Despite the meagre turnout a seed had been planted and the word started to spread. Dreams grew and eyes twinkled with thoughts of what may come to pass and the excitement manifested itself in a bunch of slightly humorous emails. The next Sunday a score of would-be players arrived and passing motorbikes that slowed down by the Thuy Loi pitch would have had the privilege of witnessing the first ever Gaelic Football game played in Vietnam, not that they necessarily would have realised what was going on when people were being congratulated for punting the ball ten feet over the crossbar.

Colm "At the end of the day, I'm the Gaffer" Ross, threw the imported-with-no-expense-spared-O'Neills' ball into the air and the Viet-Celts sprang into action. Four minutes later, slowly evaporating in the sweltering heat, cries for a break were ignored as Patrick Cooney rattled the dust off the back of the onion sack to score the first ever goal in Viet-GAA-history.

Slowly over the ensuing weeks, the lads have met up every Sunday to hone their skills or in most cases learn the rules from scratch, in preparation for the Asian Gaelic Games to be held in Singapore on June 23-24. The lads are quietly confident they can turn a few heads in the looks department, if not on the actual playing field. As for their secret weapon, as soon as they work out who or what that is, they're definitely keeping it to themselves – otherwise it wouldn't be a secret.

The Viet Celts travel to Singapore thanks to the generous sponsorship of ESB International, Terotech International Limited, Finnegan's Bar Hanoi, and Enterprise Ireland.

A few classic quotes by the inimitable commentator Micheal O' Muircheartaigh, the Voice of Gaelic Games.

"I saw a few Sligo people at Mass in Gardiner Street this morning and the omens seem to be good for them. The priest was wearing the same colours as the Sligo jersey! Forty yards out on the Hogan Stand side of the field Ciarán Whelan goes on a rampage, it's a goal. So much for religion."

"Colin Corkery on the 45 lets go with the right boot. It's over the bar. This man shouldn't be playing football. He's made an almost Lazarus-like recovery from a heart condition. Lazarus was a great man, but he couldn't kick points like Colin Corkery."

"Sean Og O'Hailpin... his father's from Fermanagh, his mother's from Fiji, neither a hurling stronghold."

"And Brian Dooher is down injured. And while he is, I'll tell ye a little story. I was in Times Square in New York last week, and I was missing the Championship back home. So I approached a news stand and I said: 'I suppose ye wouldn't have The Kerryman, would ye?' To which the Egyptian behind the counter turned to me and he said: 'Do you want the North Kerry edition or the South Kerry edition?'. He had both. So I bought both. And Dooher is back on his feet."

"Teddy McCarthy to John McCarthy, no relation, John McCarthy back to Teddy McCarthy, still no relation."

"Teddy looks at the ball, the ball looks at Teddy."

"Pat Fox out to the forty and grabs the sliothar, I bought a dog from his father last week. Fox turns and sprints for goal, the dog ran a great race last Tuesday in Limerick. Fox to the 21 fires a shot, it goes to the left and wide... and the dog lost as well."

"Setanta Ó hAilpín....the original Setanta from the old Gaelic stories was ten foot tall, had ten fingers on each hand and ten toes on each foot but even he couldn't be playing better hurling than his namesake here today."

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