It was certainly a moment of pride for Oman when the supremely talented Oman GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) team brought home a trophy from the World Games, beating professional teams from the United States, Europe, and Australia putting the Sultanate on the world map of Gaelic football. But there is one woman who has quietly been responsible for the achievements of the team. Steph McQuaid came to Oman in 2010, having no intentions of staying in the country for more than five years.
It’s been seven years and she now has no intention of leaving the country any time soon. McQuaid and her friend from Ireland started playing the sport that they had all grown up playing in Ireland, but which was absolutely alien to some of the Omani friends that would join her occasionally. She noticed that while many were very curious and interested in playing, they weren’t very comfortable playing with Irish pros. “They were intimidated by the Irish people that were playing,” McQuaid said.
That is when she realised that the country was in dire need of an organised set up, where players of different nationalities, who weren’t even acquainted with the game could come and play and see if they liked it or not. And that is how in 2012 the Oman GAA was established, with the aim to introduce non-Gaelic players to the sport.
The Middle East County helped to get the club officiated and now Oman GAA is possibly the only club in the world that is not dominated by Irish people with people from at least 24 different nationalities actively participating and bringing trophies home.
“The first two years were slow but now it has grown,” McQuaid said, adding, “In the beginning, there were just five or six people training, but now there are 40 to 50 people every time we train.” Under the passionate tutelage of McQuaid, who has managed to rope in some of the best coaches and trainers from Ireland, who have put their hearts and souls into giving the players the best training. And McQuaid boosts their morale, not just from the sidelines, but from the middle of the field itself in all the different languages that she has picked up from the players, who speak their own language while on the field. “I did manage to learn some Arabic. But even during warm up, the counts would be given in different languages.”
While the top players, coaches, and captains have all been lauded for their miraculous achievement in the world games, it is McQuaid who truly needs to be showered with all the praise for bringing Gaelic football to Oman, putting together a team, and pushing them hard to play with other countries in the region and finally at Croke Park in Dublin, which is the home of Gaelic games.