As the Irish gear up to celebrate St Patrick’s Day on Tuesday, Taipei’s Irish community has even more reason to celebrate — as the Taiwan Celts Gaelic Football Club is marking its 20th anniversary this year.
However, it is not just Irish who will be celebrating, as the men’s and women’s teams over the years have had a largely international makeup — with expatriates from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, the UK, Hungary, Latvia, India and Japan as well as many Taiwanese forming a part of the Celts “family,” as former club president and Celts member of 13 years Barry Cahill describes it.
He said the Taiwan Celts are the oldest Gaelic football club in Asia, with the founding members the driving force behind the inaugural Asian Gaelic Games in Manila in 1996 — a tournament now held annually at different venues around the region.
Photo courtesy of Leah AVERY
“Our major target for this year will be a big showing at the annual Asian Gaelic Games that will be held in Shanghai in October,” the Cork County native said. “All of the clubs in Asia, the Middle East and Northern Australia participate. With more than 2,000 players, this is the largest annual amateur event in Asia.”
Also on the cards for the club’s milestone year are a number of fundraising initiatives, including some novel events tomorrow in celebration of St Patrick’s Day, to help the homeless club establish its own facilities.
“The Taiwan Celts’ world-famous cabbage and Guinness eating competition will be hosted by the Brass Monkey Fuxing beginning at 8pm,” Cahill said. “All the proceeds will go into the long-term club development fund, the objective of which is to have our own dedicated Gaelic pitch and facilities that we can call home. We currently play on rugby grounds that are a little bit different in size to a traditional Gaelic field.”
Photo courtesy of Taiwan Celts GaelIC FOOTBALL CLUB
The Celts are also on a recruiting drive and any hopefuls can give the game a try tomorrow during the club’s first training session of its 20th season.
The session will begin with a challenge match against local rugby union team, the Taipei Baboons, at Bailing sports field in Taipei’s Shilin District at 11am.
“Following the game we will be filming a fun training video to help anyone who might be interested in learning about Gaelic football by illustrating the basic rules; this will be posted on our Web site — www.taiwancelts.com — and on our Facebook page,” Cahill said.
“In addition to training sessions and tournaments, we organize regular fun social activities,” he added. “We are after all a ‘social club with a Gaelic problem’ and our club motto in Irish is ‘Ni neart go cur le cheile,’ which translates as ‘There is no strength without unity.’”
Reflecting on the club’s growth over the past two decades, Cahill said he had witnessed many highs and lows.
“Without question the lowest point for the club was the death of one of the club’s founding members, Derek Brady, in a Taipei traffic accident back in 1996 aged 22,” he said. “Naturally, Derek’s family and the club were devastated by his untimely death, but his parents were very strong and seeing the passion that he had for Gaelic, made the huge gesture of donating a Cavan crystal replica cup of the Sam Maguire Cup [Ireland’s national competition winners’ cup] and the Derek Brady Memorial Cup is what the winners of the Asian Gaelic Games receive every year.”
“Derek’s memory will always be honored by the Taiwan Celts,” Cahill added.
In terms of highlights for the club, Cahill said there have been many — both on and off the field.
“On the field, standouts have been the ladies’ team winning the 2006 Asian Gaelic Games Bowl competition and the men’s team winning the 2011 Asian Gaelic Games Plate competition,” Cahill said.
“However, it’s really the club’s off-field success that I am most proud of,” he said. “The Taiwan Celts are a family and a ‘home away from home’ for expats in Taiwan, with members quite literally from all over the world.”
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