A Kerryman and a former Dublin footballer on watching the All-Ireland from Dubai

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By Peter McNamara

Kerryman Jimmy Foley and Dubliner Ger Regan are two of many involved in Dubai Celts GAA club readying themselves to put their own slant on the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final.

Foley has been living in the United Arab Emirates and Oman for the last seven years and is an integral member of Middle East Kerry Society within Dubai Celts.

Alongside the likes of Nemo Rangers clubman and Leesider Stephen Twomey, Foley is part of a team driving Gaelic games in that part of the globe.

The Middle East Kerry Society of Dubai Celts.

The week of an All-Ireland final is much the same in Dubai as it would be in Killarney or Tralee for Foley, though.

“As a Kerryman, whether you are at home or abroad, the build-up is similar,” Foley said. “You’re constantly reading newspapers and particularly scouring to find out what the Kerry greats of the past have been saying ahead of the match.

“We have a group of Kerry lads here in the Middle East with WhatsApp and Facebook groups going discussing tactics and potential outcomes of games.

“We have our own Middle East Kerry Society which holds football tournaments and social events.

“At our Kerry Banquet each year we get a few videos from the players and management of the Kerry team wishing us well which is a nice touch.

“The hype here is definitely cranking up notch after notch as the time gets nearer to throw-in.”

Foley and co, despite being so far from home, are surrounded by a sense of Ireland and our culture.

“I definitely think when people are abroad that they try to hold their culture and values of being Irish.

“In Dubai, people have set-up Irish dancing and Gaeilge lessons.

“We even have a company importing Kerrygold, Clonakilty sausages and pudding and Tayto crisps into the supermarkets across the whole area,” he outlined.

Why, though, is Dubai Celts different, if at all, from any other GAA clubs across the world?

What gives Dubai Celts its unique flavour?

“For me, one of the things that probably sets Dubai Celts apart in ways is how the people here surround newcomers so that more of the Irish diaspora can settle in here as quickly and as seamlessly as possible.

“Dubai Celts is a great, great club. It invites every Irish and non-Irish person out to training and makes all feel welcome, even the odd Corkonian,” Foley jokes.

“Whether you have just moved here or are here years, everybody is looked after by the club.

“It certainly provides people moving out to the region with a starting point to meet fellow Irish people and build bonds and friendships with them.

“And the Irish bars in Dubai will be heaving on Sunday with all of those people.

“The atmosphere will be electric.”

However, at the end of it all will the Kerry clan in Dubai be celebrating or drowning their sorrows on Sunday night?

Jimmy Foley reckons David Moran is central to Kerry’s hopes on Sunday.

Foley suggests David Moran will be a key figure once more for Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s side but appreciates how important it will be for the Kingdom to put Stephen Cluxton’s restarts under pressure.

“Kerry will win if they can push up on Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs and force him to kick them into midfield.

“I think Kerry, with David Moran and Anthony Maher, have the best midfield around and if those two, particular Moran, perform, it might open the game for a Kerry victory, with a bit of luck,” he added.

Conversely, Ger Regan, a man that knows a thing or two about earning senior inter-county silverware first-hand, will be in the opposite corner to Foley on Sunday.

Regan is the current Dubai Celts team manager and brings a wealth of experience to the post.

Ex-Dublin footballer Regan was, of course, a former team-mate of Jim Gavin.

And he has likened Gavin’s on-field persona to that of present wing-forward Paul Flynn.

Regan, these days, obviously resides in Dubai and is a Corplease Emirates Ltd employee.

He soldiered alongside Dublin boss Gavin after they both became inter-county minors in the late eighties.

The pair later joined the senior team and shared many successes including the Metropolitans’ All-Ireland triumph in 1995.

Jim Gavin celebrates at the final whistle of the All-Ireland SFC final in 1995 against Tyrone.

A dislocated shoulder severely hindered Regan’s claims for a place on the All-Ireland final match-day squad that year against Tyrone, however.

He picked up the injury after earning his third provincial championship medal in a row that summer but kept good company in the treatment room.

“I dislocated my shoulder just after the Leinster final and unfortunately didn’t make the 24 for the All-Ireland final,” Regan explained. “Myself, Jack Sheedy and Dermot Deasy were injured in ’95 which was a bummer but it was great to be part of it all regardless.

“I actually played most of those years as a seventh defender and was fortunate to win three Leinsters (1993, ’94, ’95) and a National League in ’93 as well.”

Regan is probably better-placed than most to assess Jim Gavin, the character.

And Regan, a St Vincent’s clubman, reckons Gavin trained and played much the same as he manages now, with a sharp focus on “work-ethic and attention to detail”.

“I know Jim (Gavin) and played with him since we were Dublin minors together in 1988 and 1989 before both of us graduated to the senior ranks in ‘92/’93.

“Jim has a tremendous character and his persona as a player and coach is obviously very highly-respected.

“It’s significant Jim has the likes of Davy Byrne, Mick Deegan and Declan Darcy in his backroom team and the support they give to him, all fellas from his own playing days.

“I suppose his role as a player when we won the All-Ireland in ’95 reflects his managerial persona now.”

Regan believes there are on-field characteristic similarities between Gavin and Fingallians’ Flynn, an attacker Dublin need a major display from on Sunday.

“Jim, both as a player and manager, is a tremendously dedicated individual with an unrivalled work-ethic.

“His attention to detail is frightening which, I suppose, you would expect of somebody with a military background.

“In ’95 his work-rate around the middle-third and high tackle count allowed others such as Charlie (Redmond), Jason (Sherlock), Dessie (Farrell) and Mick Galvin to do what they do best, score.

“Jim, as a player and the characteristics he showed, were similar to that of Paul Flynn, they are cut from the same cloth.

“The energy levels of Jim and Paul now are remarkable and hopefully Paul can have a similar impact on Sunday as Jim had for us that day in ’95,” he stated.

Regan, alongside his Dubai Celts compatriots, will watch the match in local spots such as Fibber McGee’s and McGettigan’s.

It’s a far cry, obviously, from Jones’ Road but it’ll be no less special an occasion for the diaspora there, as Regan illustrates.

“The traditions and cultures of the GAA and home are never lost once you leave really.

“There are 200-plus playing members in our club which has been given phenomenal support from Dubai Duty Free and the two main bars where the match will be watched, Fibber McGee’s and McGettigan’s.

“Dublin and Kerry jerseys will be everywhere.

“It’s always great excitement for a Dublin-Kerry All-Ireland as we’ve folk from both counties working and training together here.

“Sunday is a working day so plans are always made in advance to make sure we get to see the matches.

“Teachers, for example, will have arranged their day to finish at around 5pm Dubai time which is 2pm back home.

“Sunday will be no different and the banter should be excellent again.

“Personally, of course, I’m wishing Jim and the team all the best.

“He has assembled a squad of passion and collective belief and hopefully that can be vital at Croke Park,” Regan concluded.

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