The GAA continues to grow – Seoul Gaels

Seoul Gaels

By Kevin O’Brien

As Irish clubs continue to mourn the loss of so many departing players, the game in Asia is flourishing, with GAA clubs thriving in countries like Japan, Thailand, China and Taiwan. None more so than the Seoul Gaels club from South Korea’s capital, who celebrate their 10 year anniversary in July having become one of Asia’s most successful GAA sides.

Established just after the 2002 World Cup due to the flocks of young Irish people arriving in Seoul to work, Seoul Gaels have gone from strength-to-strength.

“The club is hugely important to Irish people in Korea as it gives us all a taste of home in such far and distant place,” said club P.R.O. Tom Gaughan.

“We have over 40 women training with our girl’s teams and 20 with our men’s teams. When you join the Seoul Gaels you become a part of an expat family, not just Irish but North Americans to New Zealanders and everyone in-between.”

The club also helps new arrivals look for work. “There are no jobs available directly through the Seoul Gaels itself but with over 90 paid up members in 2011 somebody will point you in the right direction,” he said.

Last year, Seoul Gaels hosted the 16th annual Asian Gaelic Games in Suwon, just south of Seoul, in what was the largest amateur team event in Asia. 60 teams from 27 clubs based in 15 Asian countries all competed to become champions of Asia in Football and Hurling.

“We actually used the pitches right beside the World Cup stadium where Ireland played Spain in 2002,” said Gaughan.

“Good pitches are hard to find in Seoul as there are so many people and not a lot of land so we were forced to go to Suwon for such an important event. It went extremely well with everyone having a great time both on and off the field.”

The Gael’s had a mixed weekend, winning the Men’s ‘B’ competition and losing narrowly in the Ladies ‘A’ final. But they are no strangers to success in the Games, having won the Derek Brady Trophy (Asia’s replica of the Sam Maguire presented to the Men’s ‘A’ winners) for three years running from 2002-04.

“People who have come to live and work in Seoul, particularly Irish, have settled in very well because they have found a home away from home,” said Aine Deasy, the club’s representative for women.

“Being part of the large network of friendly and helpful members of Seoul Gaels is a rich and rewarding experience.”