South Africa Gaels touch down in Dublin tomorrow morning, ahead of a six-day tour which will see the squad from two South African townships face top Dublin sides St Vincents and Ballyboden St Enda’s.
South Africa Gaels face St Vincents at 5pm on Sunday, and will take on Ballyboden St Enda’s under lights on Tuesday at 8pm. Former All-Ireland winner and current St Vincents director of football and UCD head of sport Brian Mullins will coach the team tomorrow at Croke Park, while a jersey presentation ceremony will also take place at GAA headquarters on Sunday.
The club was founded in 2010 by Paul Carpenter, an English native who first played Gaelic football while living in Singapore. Many of the team have not travelled further than their nearest city, and for all involved it is a first trip abroad.
“We have a squad of 17 fully sponsored guys, who are from the disadvantaged townships of Tembisa and Alexandra in Johannesburg,” former Ballyboden player and SA Gaels member Greg Heraty said.
“They absolutely love Gaelic football and unlike many Irish ex-pats, look forward to the early morning Sunday training sessions. These guys are a credit to their country and will be great ambassadors for South Africa.”
The trip is the brainchild of Carpenter and has been driven by David Devine and the South Africa Gaels committee.
“It’s been a long-term goal of the South Africa Gaels to bring a squad to Ireland to experience Irish culture and play the foreign sport they have adopted in its original environment,” Heraty said. “We’ve been planning and organising all aspects of this trip for the last 18 months and are delighted with how it has begun to materialise.”
South Africa’s cultural and historical links with Northern Ireland will also be explored as part of the trip, with St Mary’s University College set to face SA Gaels in a game on Monday, while a visit to Stormont is also planned.
“Paul has links up North. There’s a historical connection between South Africa and Northern Ireland. When apartheid ended in 1994, the new government [ANC] sent their representatives to Northern Ireland as they saw the North as a template on how to bring previously conflicting communities together. We’ll also learn about the GAA’s involvement in this.”
The trip comes as part of the build-up to South Africa Gaels involvement in the Dubai Gulf Gaelic Games Competition on March 28.