There were sliotars, hand passes, solos and hurley sticks galore at the King's Park sports ground yesterday as Hong Kong hosted the Asian Gaelic Games, an annual celebration of Irish sports that are spreading their influence far beyond Ireland's borders. Players from 14 Asian countries, including India - making its first appearance - Qatar, Singapore, Dubai, and Japan will compete to be crowned the Asian Gaelic Champions in football and hurling today. 'It's gone really well. We have had 65 teams on five pitches, and 1,400 people through the gates. Over 700 players are playing in what is now the single largest amateur team event in Asia,' said Shane Harmon , chairman of the Hong Kong Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). 'This is great for Hong Kong and it's proven especially popular with local Hong Kong Chinese. But look around the region - the Malaysian team are all from Malaysia, for example' said Harmon. Gaelic football is in some ways similar to soccer, but use of the hands is allowed and it bears some resemblance to Australian Rules Football. Hurling, meanwhile, is a form of field hockey in which the player can either hit the ball (or sliotar) with a hurley stick or pick it up and run with it. In both games, a point is scored when the ball goes over the bar and a goal is worth three points. The game tends to be high-scoring and is fun to watch. It is also tremendous craic (an Irish term for fun) to play and because both the hands and the feet are used it's a great workout, which means the sport has been a big hit with women in particular. Brenda Chan Ka-ka, 31, first started playing this summer after some friends from her rugby team told her about it. 'I'd heard about the sport but didn't know the rules or anything. But it's very easy to understand,' said the consultant who lives on Hollywood Road. 'It's fantastic exercise, so much running. I've never been to Ireland, though I have lots of Irish friends,' she said, as she ran up and down the sideline getting ready for her next game. The Asian Gaelic Games began in Manila in 1995 and has become one of the fastest-growing amateur sports in the Asia Pacific region. Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai are among the dominant cities in the competition. Blathnaid MacNamara, from Dublin but living in Singapore, is the Ladies' Officer of the Asian Games Board. 'It's been expanding a lot. Women go for it because there's nothing else for them in terms of sport that mixes the competitive and the social. It's easy to take up - 65 to 70 per cent of our girls had never played before,' she said. Of the 450 women playing Gaelic football across Asia, 75 per cent are non-Irish. The event was opened by Ireland's ambassador to China, Declan Kelleher, and commentating on today's games will be M?che?l ? Muircheartaigh, a legendary commentator in Ireland.