James McGrath will return to senior inter-county football on Saturday with Waterford after two seasons working and playing in the Middle East.
The 27-year-old left Ireland due to a lack of work in the construction industry and headed for Saudi Arabia, settling into "a different culture" and lifestyle.
McGrath told RTÉ Sport: "I’ve a degree in construction management. (There were) no jobs when I came out of that in 2012 so I had to pack up and leave.
"I went to Saudi Arabia. There were loads of Irish out there. It was easy to settle in and all that but it’s a different culture out there now, I tell you.
"I was in Al Khobar, which was lucky in that it’s well populated. Riyadh is a bit further in.
"You couldn’t get out of the country as easy, whereas Al Khobar was closer to a small country beside it called Bahrain. You could drive over a bridge and have a bit of a social life.
"It’s all compounds, guarded compounds. It’s very different but I suppose after the few years there, a fella with an AK47 standing at the gate is not something unusual, if you know what I mean."
Socialising was different with no alcohol in the country but the wealth and economy meant there was plenty to do.
"You wouldn’t get any alcohol, no," he said. "Now you’d hear of odd fellas making the equivalent of poitín in Ireland but you wouldn’t be too inclined to go near it now.
"If it’s within the compound you might be all right. Embassies might get it.
"They have shopping malls... it’s a bit of an Americanised culture because there would be a lot of Americans there due to the oil and that so the fast food joints are all there, all the shops are all there.
"You wouldn’t be afraid of going out on your own or anything like that. I wouldn’t say it’s like other middle eastern countries. I wouldn’t compare it to going into Afghanistan or anything like that, a war-torn country."
McGrath bolstered what was to become a thriving GAA Saudi scene amid scores of Irish arriving. It led to him playing for Arabian Celts and winning the GAA World Games in 2015 for the Middle East team.
"I started off in 2013 and it was only kind of getting up and going two years," he said.
"There’s like six countries around the Middle East, and even within them Abu Dhabi and Dubai are split, all different teams, you have seven tournaments a year, you fly around to each one, play your tournament on the day on the sevens team and go home.
"You have the craic but there’s an amount of county stars out there now due to being teaching or the better life in the sun or whatever else.
"They’re all out there, there are top quality players out there now. It’s another attraction, Dubai and Abu Dhabi being a country where teachers have gone and over the last five or six years they’ve gone to take up residency and stuff like that."
Waterford face a big ask against Tipperary at Semple Stadium today as McGrath goes in search of his first ever Championship win.
There are new faces again on the panel, all aiming to cause an upset.
"Every guy we have is committed. It’s not as if they’re coming in just to fulfil a place on the panel or just coming in to say that they can play for Waterford," he said.
"So they’re coming in and they’re giving it everything they have to play on an inter-county team. The recognition may be not there like your Dublin and Kerry and all the guys at the top but definitely every fella is committed.
"Tipperary were pushing hard for Division 1 this year, and unlucky not to get there.
"They’re going to be a massive, massive challenge and the very same to what Cork was last year. But we can only implement the game plan that we’re happy with and work on that and fulfil it to the best of our ability."
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