CORK GAA enthusiast Paul Goggin is spreading the love of GAA as far as Kuwait, as the Beara man preaches the Gaelic games gospel in his adopted country.
Paul managed the Kuwait Harps to championship glory last year with a team comprised of international players.
“We are the only GAA club in Kuwait. I have been a member for three years. I played in my first year and became player-manager for the last two. The club has 40 members including male and female, but also caters for people passing through who turn up to training now and again. We have players from seven different nationalities including; Irish, British, American, Egyptian, Canadian, Kuwaiti, Australian and New Zealand,” revealed the Adrigole native.
Paul and his wife Laura moved to Kuwait back in August 2016. They currently work as teachers in the Western Asia country which sits at the tip of the Persian Gulf.
“The GAA is the only serious social outlet we have here. It is not like Dubai or Abu Dhabi in relation to the social scene. It is a dry country with no alcohol, so the social scene is non existent outside of the GAA club. The culture is hugely different as you can imagine without the pub scene.
"The Harps have been a saviour to many expats living here.”
The Kuwait Harps junior football team play in a Middle East league which requires a lot of commitment and travelling as most fixtures and tournaments are played in the UAE.
“We are at a disadvantage compared to teams from Dubai or Abu Dhabi as all five GAA tournaments are held in the UAE. This means we have to travel at our own expense to tournaments. This ensures, it is not possible to have a full squad at every tournament.
"We won the Junior B Plate in Abu Dhabi last year. It was a huge achievement for the men's team to win the championship title. We had been working hard all year to win that tournament.
"Kuwait Harps would be considered a complete minnow in relation to the clubs out here due to the lack of numbers and the lack of Irish players in particular. The 12 man squad was made up of seven Irish players, two English men, one American player, one Welsh player and a Brazilian native which made our success all the more remarkable.”
He was happy to take a back seat from playing and assume a coaching role last season.
“Throughout the year I played in goal and centre back, but in the championship tournament I was fully concentrated on coaching. We had trained to a very specific system as we were the weakest team in the division players wise. However we stuck rigidly to our system which teams found very difficult to break down. The club standard is very high. Lots of inter-county standard guys playing in the senior grade especially. This filters down and makes all levels relatively high standard as you can only have 12 players on a squad.”
heir achievements are made all the more special considering they are the only GAA team in Kuwait.
“It is very difficult for us to compete with all the travelling required which requires a lot of time and finance. We are struggling for numbers again this year and it is still up for decision whether we will even be able to compete at junior level this year. We train twice a week. We share an astroturf pitch on the Friday morning.
"On a Tuesday night we train on the roof of a school. Facilities are pretty basic, astroturf pitches with no changing or shower facilities. We just get on with it. We possess more of a team unit than any outstanding players. That's why it was such a great achievement.”
Paul played for his beloved Adrigole GAA Club for many years.
“I have the best memories from my career, winning underage championships and sharing great memories. The lads I played football with are friends for life. The craic after championship wins as well as losses stay with you forever. I grew up in the club.
"The club is the community. The guys I grew up with are now finished their playing days, but they are all giving back through coaching and selecting from U8 all the way up to the Intermediate team. Hopefully I can give something back once again when we return home. Even though we are far from home, I still follow the fortunes of both Adrigole GAA and Cork GAA. I am home every summer and go to all the Adrigole games.”