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Orang Éire – Built to last – Gaelic Life

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Two Ulster men started the first Gaelic football club in Malaysia 17 years ago. Michael McMullan takes a look at the progress…

By Michael McMullan

STRIP away everything else and even the name Orang Éire tells you of the imprint made by Irish exiles across the globe.

Orang in Bahasa, the native language of Malaysia, means people. So there it is – the club name is translated as Irish people. Simple as that.

It’s the same the world over. Irish accents and culture is rooted in most corners.

Before 2007, there was no organised GAA activity in Malaysia. Tyrone man Ronan Kelly and Danny McBride of Donegal set the club up.

Danny’s nephew Domhnall played in Donegal’s win over Tyrone on Saturday. He is part of the current Donegal squad Jim McGuinness has helped back to the cutting edge of the game back home.

Back in 2007, Danny and Ronan’s plans resulted in Orang Éire, Malaysia’s first club, taking their place at the Guinness Asian Gaelic Games in the first season.

That was the start. Now, with 120 members, the club is here to stay. Like all clubs overseas, it offers a home from home. There is somewhere to get fit and play their national spots. More importantly, it provides a community for other Gaels to embed into.

In the latest of our series looking at Ulster Gaels overseas, Gaelic Life reached out to Cookstown man Paddy Campbell, the current vice chairperson.

As it stands, 60 per cent of the Orang Éire men’s teams hail from Ireland. The ladies’ playing pool is more diverse with 95 per cent of the players non-Irish.

The club has fielded three men and ladies’ teams at the recent Asian Games tournament. It’s significant progress from 2007.

There is also a growing youth development group.

“We also have a youth set up for kids aged 5-12 and an academy program for teenagers,” Campbell outlines.

“The academy is mostly made up of refugee players from Palestine to Pakistan and Somalia to Syria.”

At the recent South Asian Games, the men’s B team included Abod from Gaza. Ali’s mother is also from Gaza.

The South Asian Games became a family affair for Abod as his younger siblings played in an exhibition match on the day and his parents were part of the food vendor team on the day.

The club has a significant Ulster core. Campbell’s fellow Tyrone man is Killyclogher’s Paul Mimnagh.

Antrim are represented by Fintan O’Reilly and Andrew Irwin. Portaferry’s Eoghan Fitzgerald, a former county minor and u-21 player, flies the flag for Down. Camog Lou King is from Armagh club Ballymacnab.

Former Cavan footballer Oisín Mimnagh (Redhills) and Shauna Wilson (Mullahoran) bring a Breffni flavour to the committee.

In the past, Ulster Gaels Connor Clarke, Farron O’Hare, Laura Doran (all Down), former Antrim footballer Chris Lynch, Cathal Brady (Donegal), Kenny Woods and Ryan Lewis (both Armagh), Adam Roache and Mark McAnenly (both Tyrone) were part of the Orang Éire family.

Meghan Jones grew up abroad but is the granddaughter of Down All-Ireland winner Paddy ‘Mo’ Doherty.

While most of the GAA’s focus is on home shores and who challenges for the biggest prizes every year in Croke Park, delving intoam overseas club gives an excellent insight into the GAA reach.

In a feature interview for Gaelic Life, new World GAA chairman Ciarán McLaughlin outlined the importance of clubs outside Ireland becoming self-sustainable.

That’s what real success will look like, with the overall big picture a growth that could see the games on the Olympic menu.

This outlook tells of the success in Orang Éire’s journey since 2007.

The men’s team’s key victories include the South Asian Games and the Intermediate Cup at the Asian Gaelic Games in Shanghai in 2015.

The ladies’ A team consistently competes at a high level.

Orang Éire’s local rivals are the newly formed Johor Malaysia club from Johor Bahru. Singapore are always the team to beat.

Success is one barometer, but not the only one. Getting everyone involved in the general picture of success but silverware brings reassurance things are moving in the right direction.

Orang Éire have hosted Asian Gaelic Games for the last two seasons and are preparing to roll out the South Asian Games in 2024.

This year, a number of players from their youth development squad will play for senior teams. That’s what self-sustaining looks like.

“These players hail from countries such as Syria, Palestine, Iran and Somalia,” Campbell points out.

“Our ladies team at South Asian Games had two Irish players out of 40 registered ladies with players coming from Egypt, England, South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand to name but a few.”

The club had three ladies involved at the World GAA Games in Derry last season – Jenn Collins (Canada), Tasha Jayabalan (Malaysia) and Claire Wilkie (South Africa).

You soon see a picture of a club on the rise. And their door is always open.

“We offer a welcoming environment for fitness, socialising and community volunteer days,” Campbell concludes.

“Orang Éire is an ideal spot for newcomers in Kuala Lumpur seeking friendship, sports activities and active engagement in community volunteer events.”

The club is here to stay. Ronan Kelly and Danny McBride built something to last.

This is the latest of our stories of Ulster Gaels involved in clubs across the world, If you want your club featured here, get in touch via editor@gaeliclife.com

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