2 Minutes with...NEIL CLARKE

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 September, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 September, 2003, 12:00am


The player-coach of the Hong Kong Gaelic Football team is all set to play a major role in the Asian Gaelic Games, which Hong Kong hosts for the first time next weekend at the Aberdeen Stadium. The 33-year-old NET teacher's advice to spectators who are brave enough to taste a little bit of Irish culture is to be prepared 'to have a lot of fun and a good time'.

How long have you been playing Gaelic football?

Growing up in Galway as a kid, it was the natural thing to do.

What's the main difference between the Gaelic version and ordinary football?

You can pick up the ball and there is no offside. It is also a lot less technical than rugby. And it is a more fluent game than soccer or rugby.

Is it like Aussie Rules?

This descended from Gaelic Football. Irish immigrants who were forcibly expatriated by the English brought the game to Australia. Of course over 150 years, the rules have changed in Australia. Nowadays, when the two countries meet, every two years, we play compromise rules.

What constitutes a foul?

You can't tackle with both hands and are not allowed to bring your opponent to the ground. You can use only one hand to knock the ball to ground.

It doesn't sound all that physical?

Oh, we can jostle opponents and knock them over. You are allowed to use your shoulders. There is a lot of close-in play.

What are the main attributes of a Gaelic footballer?

You have to be well co-ordinated as you need to be able to run, no more than four steps, while bouncing the ball on your foot or the ground.

It must be hard, especially after a lot of beer?

We try to stop players from drinking before the game. It is tough because a lot of people think beer is a prerequisite.

Sounds like the Games will be a lot of fun?

Yes. Not only for the 24 teams, but also for the fans. There will be loads of food, a band playing a lot of Irish music and also a bouncy castle which we will try to limit for kids only.