BY KIERAN McCARTHY
THREE Castlehaven women will go head to head in the inaugural GAA World Games in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
Sisters Mairead (29) and Siobhan (28) Courtney and their Castlehaven neighbour Noreen O’Sullivan will all take to the GAA pitches in the United Arab Emirates on Friday and Saturday to give a distinct West Cork flavour to the first-ever GAA World Games, as they bid to get their hands on the GAA World Cup.
Mairead and Siobhan, who are based in Dubai and play their club football with Dubai Celts, have both been selected on the Middle East GAA ladies’ team while Noreen, now living in Sydney and who lines out for Cormac MacAnallens GAC, will play for Australasia ladies.
The three friends from neighbouring townlands in Castlehaven will meet on the football field in Abu Dhabi on Friday as the Middle East and Australasia teams have been drawn in the same group in the GAA World Cup, and Mairead can’t wait to catch up with her lifelong friend and neighbour Noreen.
‘We are all very good friends and would socialise together when we are home at the same time. Noreen and I lived together when we were in college in Limerick and Siobhan went to Mary I in Limerick so there were many nights out back then as well. Noreen also came to visit me on holidays when I first moved out here,’ Mairead said.
‘We all went to primary school together. Noreen and I were in the same class, lived in college together and studied the same degree. We played basketball together for Mercy Heights and Skibbereen club all through secondary school.’
There will be plenty of Castlehaven support in Abu Dhabi this weekend. Mairead and Siobhan’s cousin, Orla Courtney, who also lives in Dubai, will be there, as will Noreen’s parents, Teddy and Mary O’Sullivan, who are flying over for the event.
While Noreen flew out to Abu Dhabi from Australia with her team on Tuesday, both Mairead and Siobhan are working up until Thursday, so it will be Thursday evening at the opening ceremony before the three friends are altogether again.
Having moved straight after she finished her degree, Mairead has been living in Dubai for six and a half years where she works as a secondary-school physics teacher in an international school.
Younger sister Siobhan has been working as a primary school teacher for two and a half years in Dubia after spending a year volunteer teaching in South Africa. She is on a career break from Darrara NS.
The youngest of eight children, and daughters to Peggy and the late Morgan, football was an ever-present in the family home growing up and joining up with Dubai Celts GAA Club was a no-brainer.
‘Football was always a huge part of our lives growing up, whether it was accompanying dad when he was going training or as a supporter of all the Haven teams,’ Mairead said.
‘I began playing football in Dubai completely for the social aspect. It is a fantastic way to meet people when you move abroad. When I first moved to the Middle East football was less competitive but over the years the number of clubs has increased massively and with that so has the competition.’
Both Mairead and Siobhan came through a series of trials to be selected on the Middle East team while in Australia Noreen was selected on the Australasian team as one of two New South Wales players.
Noreen has made a big impact in the Australian GAA scene since arriving in Oz in 2011. She has won two New South Wales championships and three league titles with Cormac MacAnallens, and she also captained the New South Wales ladies’ team to victory in the 2014 Australasian championships held in Melbourne. Not only that, but Noreen also won an Australasian All-Star award.
Two kilometres separate their family homes in Castlehaven, 12,000 kilometres separates Dubai from Sydney, but this weekend Mairead, Siobhan and Noreen will all be united again in Abu Dhabi to play, quite literally, their role in GAA history.
GAA World Games
The first-ever GAA World Games takes place this Friday and Saturday in Abu Dhabi and 28 teams, in total, will compete.
Twenty teams (ten men and ten women) will play in the GAA World Cup (teams from Asia, Australasia, Canada, Europe, New York, North America and the Middle East, predominantly of Irish players who are based in these countries).
Eight teams (four men and four women) will play in the International World Cup (teams from Argentina, Galicia, Middle East and South Africa, made up of natives from these countries mentioned who have taken up GAA).
The group games will be played on Friday to determine who reaches the knockout stages and finals on Saturday.
Each squad has 12 players with nine on the pitch and three rolling subs.
The games are nine minutes a side with a two-minute break at half time. Knockout games are 12 minutes a side and the finals are 15 minutes a side with a three-minute break at half time.