No holding back the Irish Guards. It has only been a few years since the troubles in Northern Ireland ended, but that hasn’t stopped the British Army regiment from putting together and fielding a Gaelic football team to compete in the hugely popular Irish sport. Donning jerseys emblazoned with Gardaí Éireannach, the Irish Guards played their first offical game against a team from Tir Chonaill Gaels, a club based in Middlesex. They lost the closely fought pre- season game 1-7 to 0-6 but it was always more than just about winning. As Paul Coggins, who took charge of the Tir Chonaill team, said the occasion was “historic…We all have to live with each other at the end of the day and it’s all about sport”. The Army Gaelic Football team came about while the soldiers were completing a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Guardsman Tom from Waterford in Ireland explains “Everywhere we go we take our jerseys and hurls…We happened to be pucking about one day and there was a throwaway comment about having our own team.” And that was that. It’s fair to say the decision to allow the Guards team into the London Junior Football Championship ruffled a few feathers but as Guardsman Tom says “Of course, there are people against it and I’d never hold a grudge against anyone. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. But for me, GAA has always been about where you are from and where you grew up and for us, where we are from, our community is the Irish Guards. These guys are as close as you can get to being brothers.” Guardsman David, the team’s goalkeeper, added “We’re living in a world of sport and as soon as you walk out into that pitch it doesn’t matter who you are. This is 2016. It’s a new world.” All good sports, each and everyone of them.
June 7, 2016