'We train right on the edge' - The rise of GAA in Cambodia

Cairde Khmer has members spread across Cambodia's two largest cities - Phnom Penh and Siem Reap
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

11.05 4 Apr 2023

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'We train right on the edge' -...

'We train right on the edge' - The rise of GAA in Cambodia

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

11.05 4 Apr 2023

Share this article

A GAA club formed in Cambodia back in 2017 has gone from strength to strength - even reaching the final of the South Asian Gaelic Games.

Cairde Khmer has members spread across Cambodia's two largest cities, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Regular trainings take place in both cities, and the two branches combine to compete in regional tournaments.


Club chair Ronan Sheehan told Newstalk Breakfast they started with mostly Irish players, but that has all changed.

"It's a very, very different story right now at the minute, where about 90% are Cambodian," he said.

"The Irish are very much in the minority in it, and the Cambodians very much in the majority".

The Cairde Khmer GAA Club The Cairde Khmer GAA Club. Picture by: Cambodia GAA

He said this is down to opportunities the sport provides.

"A lot of these players they come from tough backgrounds... it's not an easy country to be coming from," he said.

"It's 152 on the GDP ranking per capita.

"So, to get the opportunity to travel outside of Cambodia - to Thailand or Vietnam or to Malaysia - that's once in a lifetime.

"Whatever about Ireland, getting even as far as the neighbouring countries in south-east Asia is once in a lifetime".

'Countries come in and visit'

Asked who they play against and how they train, Rob laughed: "We train right on the edge".

"We've trainings weekly - what we have as well in Cambodia is a local AFL (Australian Football League) club.

"We do an awful lot of international rules with them; they'll also play a bit of Gaelic and we'll play a bit of AFL.

"We do have countries that come in and visit - for example, Malaysia came last year.

"Vietnam were supposed to come last year, but they had to pull out [at] the last minute".

He said the teams also travel abroad to play.

“We play in tournaments like the Asian Gaelic Games and the South Asian Gaelic Games, and there's countries from all over Asia that play in both those tournaments,” he said.

"I think you could have anything up to 14 different countries playing in those tournaments over those weekends.

"So we get around, and we keep busy".

'The final hurdle'

Rob said it was "massive" for the ladies team to get to the final of the 2022 Asian Gaelic Games.

"In 2019, it was mainly Irish girls that were making up the team, but this year it was literally all Cambodian ladies," he said.

"The semi-final was beyond an experience that I've ever been able to translate on to a field.

"The feeling when the final whistle blew after they came against all the odds to beat a very, very strong Thailand team - we couldn't really put it into words.

"It was just massive, for a team that was meant to go nowhere in the tournament to get all the way to the final hurdle - and almost over it as well - was just indescribable," he added.

Listen back to the full interview below:

Main image: The Cairde Khmer ladies team on the pitch. Picture by: Supplied

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Afl Cairde Khmer Cambodia Cambodian GAA GAA In Cambodia Ireland Malaysia Newstalk Breakfast Phnom Penh Ronan Sheehan Siem Reap South Asian Gaelic Games Sports Thailand Tournaments Vietnam

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