Monday 5 December 2016

Some middle-eastern promise for football All-Stars

Published 23/11/2016 | 02:30

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

This morning's Etihad Airways flight from Dublin to Abu Dhabi carried a large party of football All-Stars for the annual tour.

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The group will be based in Dubai, with the game between the 2016 and 2015 All-Stars (managed by Tyrone's Mickey Harte, right, and Liam Kearns of Tipperary) taking place in Abu Dhabi on Friday under weather conditions that not even the hottest Irish summer day would deliver. Still, these contests tend not to be overly-strenuous so heat exhaustion is unlikely!

One of the most noticeable features of All-Stars tours since they were re-launched in 2001 has been the growth of GAA clubs in the most unlikely places.

Who would have thought some years ago that the GAA would have thriving clubs all over the Middle East, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires as well as Australia and cities in America well away from New York, Boston and San Francisco, which always had large Irish populations?

Indeed, in the early days of the All-Stars in the 1970s the tours were always to America. And while they were for a longer duration (this year's group will be back home early next Tuesday), the arrangements were much more basic. As a cost-cutting measure, players stayed in the homes of GAA enthusiasts, a scenario that wouldn't be accepted nowadays.

It wasn't popular then either, prompting comparisons between players on the attitudes of the hosts to such an important pursuit as socialising.

Suffice to say, some were more liberal than others.

Still, the arrangement was of its time for a scheme originated by GAA journalists, Mick Dunne (RTE), John D Hickey (Irish Independent), Padraig Puirséal (Irish Press) and Paddy Downey (Irish Times).

Their brainchild is still standing the test of time 45 years later.

Irish Independent

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