BY KIERAN McCARTHY
A ST JAMES’ clubman won two Middle East GAA medals – in football and hurling – on the same action-packed day last week.
Goalkeeper Diarmuid O’Donovan lined out between the posts in both the Dubai Celts’ football and hurling teams that captured the top prizes at Dubai Sports Centre.
The Dubai Celts won both the Middle East senior ‘A’ football league and hurling league, with West Cork man O’Donovan and Niall O Heili of Cappatagle the only dual players to line out on both teams.
What’s more, the duo made a little piece of Middle East GAA history, as Diarmuid explained: ‘We were the first two to win the hurling league and the senior ‘A’ football league on the same weekend, so that’s a great honour.’
The St James’ GAA clubman is in his second year in the UAE after making the move with his fiancée, Orla Courtney from Castlehaven, who is also heavily involved in coaching with the Dubai Celts, in September 2014.
Taking a career break from teaching at Clonakilty Community College, Diarmuid decided to experience living abroad, and seeing as Orla had spent time in the Middle East before, the move to Dubai ticked all the boxes.
Heavily involved with Ardfield GAA, as a player, a coach with underage teams as well as being club registrar and on various committees, Diarmuid has also lined out for the Carbery senior hurlers in the past – and it was between the posts where the Dunmore man has become a rock for the Dubai Celts’ football and hurling teams.
Explaining how Dubai were crowned Middle East senior ‘A’ football league champions last Friday, he said: ‘We have four rounds of the football league between October and March. Our first round was in Doha, Qatar, in October. We lost the final that weekend. Teams accumulate points. If you win the tournament, you get 10 points, lose the final you get eight points, it’s seven points for losing a semi-final, and so on.
‘The next round was in Bahrain in November and we lost the final after extra-time to Abu Dhabi. The next round was in Al Ain, a city in UAE, and we won the final there. Last Friday was the last round, we got through the group stage and the semi-final, and it was winner-take-all against Abu Dhabi in the final. We won after extra time to win the league.’
In the early hours of last Friday morning, and before the football later that day, Diarmuid completed the first leg of a double.
‘Technically, we won both championships in the same day,’ the St James’ shot-stopper explained.
‘The hurling tournament started at 7pm on Thursday evening. There are less teams in the hurling, leaving six altogether. We won our first two tournaments and lost the semi-final in the third tournament so all we needed to do was get out of the group to win the league. We accomplished that.
‘We won the semi-final after extra-time, and we won the final after extra-time with a last-minute 65, which finished half 12 at night – so we won the hurling and football on the same day!’