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First Ever International Gaelic Football Match in India

History was made in New Delhi on Friday night, as the men and women of the India Wolfhounds and Qatar GAA lined up to play the first ever Gaelic football match in India. It was also the first time ever that the India Wolfhounds were represented by a women’s team.

Over 40 players gathered to take part in in this momentous occasion at Thyagaraj Stadium, constructed for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

On one side, Qatar GAA brought together the Irish community from all corners of the island, with a sprinkling of talent from Germany, while their hosts’ core group consisted of players from Dublin, Offaly, Cork, Clare and Galway, with players from India, Argentina, the Netherlands, the UK and America bolstering the quality and diversity of the team. Gaelic sports’ capacity to act as the gathering point for the Irish community was clearly in evidence, as some Irish players had never played Gaelic sports before coming to India and Qatar, while others hadn’t kicked a score since they were twelve years old. For those coming to the game from beyond the shores of the emerald isle, it was an opportunity to move beyond learning how to solo, kick and hand-pass, as they discovered the intensity of a competitive match. Even though some players had only taken up the sport a few weeks before the matches, they used skills learned from American football, handball, football and rugby to step up to the task at hand and perform admirably.

Speaking about the importance of the match, the departing club president of the India Wolfhounds, Conor Farrell said, “It was an immensely proud moment for the India Wolfhounds to host the first ever international games in India with both men's and women's teams taking part. We revived the club after a three-year hiatus on Gaelic Sunday (5 August) last year with just 6 at our first training. The game allows us to promote Gaelic football to a wider audience in India and show how truly international Gaelic games are. We look forward to welcoming and visiting other teams in the region as we build momentum towards the Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur in November.”

John Mullen from Qatar GAA explained how much it meant to the team to play in the first ever Gaelic football match in India,
“After a few tough years for our club not being able to travel to many competitive tournaments in the Middle East, we were delighted when the opportunity arose to travel to play the India Wolfhounds.

“The men’s game started in vigorous fashion with Derryman George McCallion becoming the scorer of the first ever point in a competitive match on Indian soil. The Wolfhound’s targetman Raj (Rajveer Choudhary) wasn’t to be outdone however, and contributed some very impressive scores, including one delightful flick that lobbed the onrushing Qatar goalkeeper. The game was played in great spirit and the intensity, work rate and skill levels of both teams in the Delhi heat is to be commended.

“The Ladies game followed the men’s and was worth the wait. The teams traded scores in an enthralling encounter that was played at 100 miles an hour.

Overall, the games were very competitive and both sides are a credit to the work going on behind the scenes. As a club, Qatar GAA would like to thank the India Wolfhounds for the opportunity to make history alongside them and for the hospitality shown. We hope that this can be the start of a great relationship between the two clubs and look forward to welcoming the Wolfhounds to the desert soon, Insha’Allah!”

Katie Daly, newly arrived in New Delhi, was the driving force behind the creation of the first India Wolfhounds women’s team,
“On my first Saturday in India I turned up to India Wolfhounds training, on a patch of grass at the side of one of Delhi’s busy roads, with just about a football! I’m not going to lie I wasn’t sure how this was all going to go!

“I was one of two women at training for some weeks but decided last minute to join the lads to support them as they were heading to Bangkok for the Asian games at the end of November. I enjoyed a great weekend but said to myself it would be great to have a women’s team next year.

“We started out 2019 again with one or two ladies training amongst the men but we all have made a huge effort for both our men’s and ladies’ teams and it was a very proud moment on Friday last, welcoming Qatar GAA to Delhi and not only making history by playing the first ever GAA games on Indian soil but to also field a Ladies’ India Wolfhounds football team. Being the only Irish player on the Wolfhounds’ Ladies team this was something I will always remember while joined by Americans, British and Indians. Coming from a huge GAA family, Wolfhounds now is like that piece of home away from home!!”

The India Wolfhounds will now look to build up the club by attracting new players ahead of the 2019 Asia Gaelic Games, taking place in Kuala Lumpur on 8th-10th November. The club recently received funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the GAA’s Global Games Development Fund and will seek to use the money to connect with schools founded by Irish religious orders to encourage a younger generation of Indian players to discover Gaelic sports and re-invigorate the cultural links between Ireland and India.

Jai Wolfhounds,
Wolfhounds abú!

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