Emigrant GAA footballers return to Ireland for charity match

Hundreds turn out to watch Tuam Stars beat the Exiles 4-13 to 3-11 in Galway

No sympathy, no injuries, just "very high quality" play. Seán Murphy had three simple aims when he and fellow members of the Tuam Stars GAA football club, in north Galway, put together a special homecoming event this Christmas.

So when up to 40 players togged out for the inaugural Tuam Stars v the Exiles match on a cold morning two days after the turkey there was more than a trace of London grit, Dubai sand and Australian soil on some boots.

As one of the most successful clubs in Galway football history, Tuam Stars has lost 20 adult players to foreign lands in the past six years, and, as the Connacht Tribune has noted, it could "almost field a full team in London these days".

A straw poll by the newspaper several months ago showing the full impact of emigration had spurred members into action. The word was put out and the match planned in tribute to the emigrants and in memory of late club member Michael McGough, who passed away in May 2013.



The “ayes” came from





United Arab Emirates

, the

United States



and Britain, and it was agreed that all proceeds would be contributed to the Galway Hospice Foundation.

“It has really hit us in the last two years,” Murphy says. “We had got to the county final in 2012, and lost about half of our seniors in the following year.”

Several didn't quite sever the link, with Paul Doherty flying back from Guernsey and Ian McGough, son of the late Michael, travelling from Bristol for league and championship games.

“It was tough enough, as you’d be training with a club over there during the week, flying back on a Friday night, and returning for work early Monday,” says McGough, who undertook a PhD in molecular cell biology in Bristol.

He stopped when he took up a research post in London, but was delighted to captain the Exiles team at the Tuam Stars home ground on Saturday – when, he admits, there were some very persuasive voices whispering in his ears.

Several hundred people turned out for the event: the home team won the new cup, with four goals and 13 points to three goals and 11 points.

Murphy estimates more than €1,000 was raised and it is expected that it will become an annual event.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times