An Astroturf playing field flanked on all sides by Dubai’s desert sand was a sea of green and gold this weekend as Donegal supporters from across the United Arab Emirates came to watch the All-Ireland champions play.
The Donegal players, management, backroom team and their partners are currently enjoying a well deserved break in Dubai. In addition to soaking up the sunshine, Jim McGuinness scheduled in training sessions and a match against a team made of the Middle East’s finest players.
The Middle East players had an obvious advantage over the Donegal opposition; these Irish expats are now well used to playing in hot humid conditions, nevertheless Donegal easily won the game.
Speaking after the game Jim McGuiness said: “We’ve had a great welcome in Dubai. It’s a great honour to be invited out here. The holidays are going great, it will soon be time to get back to the grindstone and everyone’s themselves out here so far.
Anthony Thompson added: “Dubai is a brilliant city. It’s my first time out here but hopefully not the last.”
The match provided a unique opportunity for Donegal fans to admire the skill and finesse of the players up close. “It’s fantastic to see our local lads out in Dubai, especially because I couldn’t go home for the final,” said Louise Collins, who moved from Inishowen to Dubai over four years ago.
Paul Gildea from Glenties cheered on Donegal from the sidelines with son Cillian: “It’s great to watch the boys play here. I was at Croke Park for the final back in 92 and this year I watched the final in McGettigan’s Irish bar in Dubai, it was an unbelievable game - a big up to Jim and the boys!” he said.
Donegal’s GAA Secretary Aodh Máirtín Ó Fearraigh was also keeping a close eye on the match, “It’s brilliant to watch the players in action and I’m really enjoying it. It’s the first big game since the All-Ireland so it’s nice for the boys to get a run out.”
After the game Jim and the players posed for photos with fans and signed autographs for young Donegal supporters, then it was on the Irish Village pub for a night of craic agus ceol.