British Army regiment to play in GAA Championship

The Irish Guards have become the first British Army regiment allowed to field a team in a GAA Championship.

The regiment, nicknamed The Micks, will take to the field next year in the junior championships in London after the new club was narrowly cleared to join the GAA.

Fifteen players have already put their names down to play, including some Irish-born former minor and under 21 players and soldiers from Fiji and South Africa.

Part of the Irish Guards application to join the GAA’s amateur sporting ranks referenced how the Fijians wanted to play a “strong, physical game that would suit them”.

Chairman of the London County Board Noel O’Sullivan said “and that’s what they’ll get”.

A spokesman for the British Army said: “The Armed Forces have a strong sporting background and the Irish Guards are no exception.

“With a strong link to Ireland there is no doubt that there are some highly capable GAA players in the ranks keen to show their prowess at competition level.”

The regiment, whose Colonel-in-Chief is Prince William, applied to join the association several months ago.

A vote on the application ended tied last night with the chair using his casting ballot to accept the new club after a presentation by Irish Guards Sergeant Ken Fox.

The ban on members of the British armed forces and police from joining the GAA and playing Gaelic sports was lifted 14 years ago when the controversial Rule 21 was deleted following long and divisive debates in Ireland.

“Very simply for me I can see both sides. I can appreciate the way people feel,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“But we have to move forward, don’t dwell on the past.”

The new club, going under the Irish name Garda Eireannach, will not be restricted to soldiers or past members of the regiment but open to anyone living in areas surrounding their new base in Hounslow Cavalry Barracks, west London.

They will initially play Gaelic football and are said to be considering offering hurling to members in the future.

The regiment was formed on April 1 1900 by Queen Victoria. The Army states it was in recognition of many courageous acts carried out by Irish soldiers in the Second Boer War.

The regiment now draws most recruits from Northern Ireland but also takes in soldiers from the Irish Republic and many communities across Britain with strong Irish connections.

It boasts that its opportunities for sport are fantastic with Gaelic games now added to football, boxing, rugby, mountain climbing, sailing and white water rafting.

The regiment’s mascot is an Irish Wolfhound and St Patrick’s Day is traditionally marked with presentations of shamrocks by the Royal Family.

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