Hundreds of Asian visitors, who had come to marvel at some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, looked on in wonder as three-year-old Eoghan Carey and his dad, Brian, who is originally from Mallow, Co Cork, enjoyed a short puck around on a viewing area overlooking the Chinese city’s stunning Pudong district.
Brian is one of hundreds of Irish expats who have arrived in the sprawling metropolis ahead of this weekend’s 20th anniversary GAA Asian Games.
He, and his wife Aisling from Fermoy, are UCC graduates (electrical engineering and business information systems). They also have a one-year-old daughter, Aoife. Brian and his team will compete against 54 other teams from all over Asia in what has become one of the biggest GAA competitions outside Ireland.
Paraic McGrath, chairman of the Asia County Board, said they will stage 180 men’s and ladies’ football, hurling, and camogie games over six pitches at Shanghai rugby club from 8am today until the finals at around 5pm tomorrow.
“And for the second year in a row, there will be more ladies’ teams than men’s competing — the split is 28 ladies’ teams to 26,” he said.
“We’ll have about 850 players competing. There is a strong Irish presence in Shanghai this weekend ahead of the games.”
The Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum took place yesterday. Irish business leaders were briefed on the enormous opportunities in China.
Cork Chamber president, Barrie O’Connell, told the gathering the success over the last 10 years of Cork’s twinning link with Shanghai — the first Irish city to twin with a Chinese city — proves that a targeted approach, focusing on Ireland’s key sectors such as research, agri food, and tourism, works best. Mr O’Connell said: “For Irish companies, it’s not about scale. We’re bringing the experience and know-how and the Chinese will deliver the scale. That’s why it works for Cork and Shanghai.”
Broadcaster Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh, honorary president of the Asia County Board, which stretches from Mongolia to Jakarta, and from Toyko to Delhi, none of which are hurling strongholds yet, is due to commentate on the finals. It’s also the first time a team from Iran will compete in the event.
“People back home don’t realise how far apart the teams taking part are. We think ‘sure they’re all in Asia, they’re all close to each other, and that they all see each other at Mass on Sunday’. But you must consider that the team from Kuala Lumpur took a six-hour flight to get here — that’s further than Dublin to New York — that’s how vast Asia is,” Mr Ó Muircheartaigh pointed out.
Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Chris O’Leary is due to attend the GAA Asian games too as his week-long visit to Shanghai comes to an end.