Sean Carey hoping Dubai Eagles can soar as they join UAE rugby scene for 2017/18 season

Matt Jones - Editor 18:26 04/07/2017
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Sean Carey believes Dubai Eagles can be the community club “Dubai really needs” after they were officially incorporated into the UAE rugby family last week.

There have been recent murmurings of a new club being established and this was confirmed when the UAE Rugby Federation sent out an email six days ago announcing the new calendar for the 2017/18 season, which will kick off on September 22.

Attention was immediately drawn to the top-tier UAE Premiership and West Asia Premiership – which will welcome Eagles as a new entry after their creation was ratified by the governing body.

Details such as players and coaches are yet to be made clear but the team will be based at Dubai Sports City (DSC) and UAE international Carey, 29, is the club’s director of rugby.

For all the clubs located in Dubai, there are none in the UAE’s top tier that actually play in the city, with Jebel Ali Dragons located on the outskirts by the port and Hurricanes and Exiles both playing at The Sevens.

Dubai Sharks and Arabian Knights have called DSC home in recent seasons, although their future is now far from certain.

But former Ireland youth international Carey is excited about the future with Eagles.

“It’s a new dimension to rugby, there’ll be a lot of excitement at DSC and it’s positive for UAE rugby,” said Carey, who manages the sports park at DSC.

“There’s lots of teams in Dubai but many play outside the city so it’ll be nice to have a team playing rugby in Dubai.

“We’re trying to build a community club that Dubai really needs. Like Bahrain and Doha, build it from within the community. Something that sports city residents or anyone in the region can come to and join.

“We don’t want to just be a club that comes and plays and leaves the next season. We want to start something and start it right and take it forward over the next few years.

“We’ve got all the facilities here at Sports City so it makes sense to do it. They have the Spanish Soccer School and the ICC Academy here so it’s the next step. It’s been coming and it’s about time to do something with rugby.

“We’re still in the teething process and will know more in the next two weeks. It’s great to be in the UAE and West Asia Premiership and have the backing of UAE Rugby Federation, it’s now about building the club up.”

Carey featured alongside future internationals Keith Earls and Cian Healy when he appeared for Ireland in Dubai in 2006 when the Under 19 Rugby World Championship was staged here.

The former Lansdowne prospect has been in the Emirates for the last four years, playing first for Hurricanes before moving to Exiles.

He insists the level of rugby has increased every year he has been here so he is not naïve enough to think that Eagles are going to swoop in and challenge for silverware in their first season.

But he is adamant they will compete and not be whipping boys.

“We’re not stupid in thinking we’re going to win the league in the first season,” he said.

“We’re realistic on what we’re targeting. We’re trying to get something built and off the ground. If we can go out and compete in the first season we’ll be happy. We’re not expecting to light up the world but we want to get it right from the start and grow it over the years.

“It’s hard to know how competitive we’ll be until you get training started but it’s not our agenda to go for any trophies.”

Having passed the three-year residency period last season, winger Carey was part of Apollo Perelini’s UAE squad that played at the Asia Rugby Championship in Malaysia in May.

After being promoted to Division I a year ago, hopes were high that the UAE could compete for the title this year and perhaps even begin an unlikely journey to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

But despite battling bravely with an improved squad, the UAE lost all three games to the hosts, as well as Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

And with the likes of Al Ain Amblers dropping back down to the UAE Conference at the start of last season after being stripped of players, and Doha not featuring next term after diplomatic ties were cut with the UAE, Carey believes an extra team in the top tier will benefit the national team and region’s top club sides.

Sean Carey

“The standard of rugby here is improving all the time. I was with Canes for my first two seasons  and you can see where it’s going, towards professionalism,” said Carey.

“I’ve come from high quality background too and it’s been catching up each year the last four years. It’s pretty close to the semi-professional level back home. I was involved too with UAE in May and I know the UAE needs the clubs to improve for them to get better.”

Carey says more information on the Eagles will be released in the coming weeks, including the recruitment of players and naming of coaching staff, but he insists the club is in talks with people that will instill quality.

“I have no doubt we’ll have enough players,” he added.

“It’s just getting the good quality coaches and people in positions to make those players perform right. We’ll have the players no doubt, because of the location. We want to get it done properly.

“We’re in talks with a few people and maybe in the next week we’ll be able to release something properly on that. We’ve got a few guys coming in. Good quality high coaches that we’re looking to bring in. We can’t really say yet. We’re waiting to get everything together.

“Where we’re at now is building a team in time for the season so we’re competitive. We’ll have some players from other teams probably but we need to give them a chance to talk to their clubs.

“We have the facilities, like the gym. We’ll have a proper programme. It’s pushing towards professionalism and a proper standard of rugby in the region.”

It might seem a little strange that a brand new club has gone straight into rugby at the highest possible level.

But Doha’s situation and Amblers’ withdrawal after just one game of the 2016/17 season just adds to pre-existing fears that there are not enough competitive games on domestic rugby’s elite stage.

Carey can sympathise with this and adds that the Eagles have the UAE RF’s full backing

“They have seen how serious we are about it. They agreed with it,” he said.

“We got lucky with Doha not being in it this year so they wanted more games for the Premiership teams. There’s a bit of luck to get in there but they’ve seen the potential in us and where we can go and it will benefit rugby in the region.

“I work for DSC and I’ve seen the potential that it can be done here. It was a pity to leave Exiles but I’m hoping it will be worth it in the long run.

“We’re just trying to get things off the ground at the moment. We’re trying to get a team together, something that’s competitive for next season.

“It’s been in the pipeline for quite a while. There’s been a few plans over the years but this year is the first year we got everything in order. We decided to go full on for it.

“I can’t release information like sponsors and financial backing yet. All I can speak about is what our ambitions are. We own the facility and we’ll know more in the next few weeks.”

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