Northern Ireland

Irish Guards: Regiment becomes first British Army club in GAA

Image caption The Irish Guards will become the first regiment to become an affiliated club within the GAA

A British Army regiment will compete as a club in the GAA for the first time from next year.

The Irish Guards will play in the junior championship in London after being narrowly voted in by the county board.

The Irish Post reported that chairman Noel O'Sullivan used his casting ballot to accept the club after a tied vote.

British security forces were banned from playing Gaelic games until 2001 under Rule 21.

The controversial rule also prevented security force personnel from becoming members of the association, until it was abolished 14 years ago.

The Irish Guards are the first Army regiment to become an affiliated club in the GAA's history.

"Very simply for me I can see both sides. I can appreciate the way people feel," Mr O'Sullivan said.

"But we have to move forward, don't dwell on the past."

The regiment, nicknamed the Micks, will play under the Irish name Garda Eireannach.

The club will be open to anyone living in the area surrounding its base in Hounslow, west London.

The Irish Guards applied to formally join the GAA as a club several months ago after moving to London from its previous base in Aldershot.

'Strong, physical game'

Their application was presented to the county board meeting on Monday by Sgt Ken Fox, from County Waterford.

Fifteen players have already put their names down to play, including some Irish-born former minor and under-21 players and soldiers from Fiji and South Africa.

Part of the Irish Guards application to join the GAA referenced how the Fijians wanted to play a "strong, physical game that would suit them".

Mr O'Sullivan replied: "And that's what they'll get."

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The Duchess of Cambridge presenting shamrocks to soldiers from the Irish Guards on St Patrick's Day

They will initially play Gaelic football and are said to be considering offering hurling to members in the future.

A spokesman for the British Army said: "The armed forces have a strong sporting background and the Irish Guards are no exception.

"With a strong link to Ireland there is no doubt that there are some highly capable GAA players in the ranks keen to show their prowess at competition level."

The regiment was formed on 1 April 1900 by Queen Victoria.

The Army says it was in recognition of many courageous acts carried out by Irish soldiers in the Second Boer War.

The Irish Guards' colonel-in-chief is the Duke of Cambridge.

The regiment now draws most recruits from Northern Ireland but also takes in soldiers from the Republic of Ireland and many communities across Britain with strong Irish connections.

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