"The main difference is that you’re more likely to suffer from sunburn than frostbite" - Life at a GAA club in Australia 4 months ago

"The main difference is that you’re more likely to suffer from sunburn than frostbite" - Life at a GAA club in Australia

"We consider the social and networking side of the club to be as important as the sporting activities, so you’ll never be stuck for someone to have a pint with."

Throw a stone in Sydney and chances are, you will hit an Irish person. There's no denying it, we have well and truly taken over the land down under.

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However, although the stereotypes suggest we skip about with pints of Guinness, telling folks 'top o' the morning,' the reality is that there is nothing on God's green earth that is as Irish as a GAA club.

The community element, the games, the celebrations, the sorrows - a GAA club anywhere in the world, is the one thing that truly encapsulates the spirit of our nation.

In sunny Australia, thousands of miles away, and with a weather forecast that may as well be on a different planet from what we have here, one such club has captured this essence.

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Niall McDonald, a Tyrone man, has been living in Oz for nine years now, and his club, the Bondi Gaels, has helped make it a home away from home.

"This year is the club’s 10-year anniversary. Initially the club started just as a men's football team, but in recent times we’ve developed a partnership with fellow Sydney club Central Coast GAC who offer ladies' football, camogie and hurling.

"In my mind, a GAA club in Sydney must first and foremost be about providing an outlet for the diaspora who find themselves so far away from home, so far away from their family and friends’ support network.

"Whilst the losses were undoubtedly discouraging, we perhaps always felt duty bound to keep the club afloat so that it served its ultimate purpose of bringing fellow Gaels together to help each other out."

Of course there were teething issues, and they once had to endure a four-year losing streak.

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"Ending the losing streak was great, especially as we grinded out a closely fought game. The lads definitely celebrated, a few of them ended up missing Tuesday and Wednesday’s work as well as their standard Monday 'sick-day'!

"What was also funny was that by pure coincidence we had planned to get a team photo done that particular day after the match.

"The photo was organised so that we could get a team picture wearing a new set of jerseys that we’d received from one of our generous sponsors (Jimmy’s Bar in Randwick).

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"I think some of the other clubs thought we were a bit mad and assumed that we were getting a team photo done simply because we had finally won a game!"

As much as it's important to enjoy the Irish culture, there's no escaping that playing for a GAA club halfway across the world has its differences, and some of them would be welcome changes.

"The main difference is that you’re more likely to suffer from sunburn than frostbite!

"With Bondi Gaels we like to stay true to the Sydney beach spirit. We’re always keen to have a training session down at one of Sydney’s many sunny beaches if we can.

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"A big difference is that you get to meet and play with people from all parts of the world, and not just those from your own parish or county as would be the case back home.

"I suppose in a way there’s also an element of novelty, and even a certain amount of glamour, when playing GAA in Oz. For example, there are inter-state tournaments meaning the team might get to fly down to Melbourne for the weekend.

"Some tournaments are played at the beach, which means you’ve the opportunity to play our native games in a stunning location accompanied by Aussie surfers and bikini clad beach goers!

"When I played for my home team Killeeshil, I always loved the craic and camaraderie that went hand-in-hand with being involved in the club. With Bondi, I suppose there’s a bit of a home from home vibe in that the club will always try to look out for their own.

"Covid obviously had a massive impact the world over, and the GAA in Sydney was of course affected as well. From recollection, the 2020 season didn’t happen at all and then last year we were just getting ready to play our championship when a lockdown occurred. The season never got up and going again after that.

"Right now, the 2022 season is about to kick-off. Our first league game is on Sunday (13 February 2022) and after that we’ll be sending a squad down to the Melbourne Sevens tournament (hopefully they will all make it back again)!

"We consider the social and networking side of the club to be as important as the sporting activities, so you’ll never be stuck for someone to have a pint with, and the lads always do a great job to ensure that new arrivals get sorted for employment.

"Some of the other Sydney clubs tend to be dominated by a particular county or province whereas with Bondi you’ll get to meet and become friends with people from all over Ireland (and beyond).

"With our partnership with Central Coast GAC we are also able to offer all four GAA codes to you (and/or your better half).

"We also have a class jersey and a cool name; I mean who hasn’t heard of Bondi, it’s a name synonymous with Australia. It’s probably also only a matter of time before the club is invited to feature on an episode of Bondi Rescue!"

Right then, who's emigrating with me??