‘An Iraqi coaching Syrians and Afghans in Gaelic games was very different to see!’

Roscommon Gaels launches multicultural drive

Roscommon Gaels GAA Club is embarking on a multicultural project in conjunction with all the schools in Roscommon town, with a view to introducing young people from new and diverse nationalities to Gaelic games in order to reflect recent demographic changes.

CSO figures show that there were 645,500 non-Irish nationals resident in Ireland in April 2021, one-eighth of the total population.

Roscommon Gaels successfully applied to Roscommon County Council for Creative Ireland Programme Funding (2017-2022) for the production of a multicultural video, introducing various nationalities to Gaelic games. The project will also involve ‘Have a Try’ sessions in the schools where children and young people are introduced to the games and can have a go at them. It is envisaged that this could be a model of best practice for other clubs in the region.

Notable national role models from a mix of ethnic backgrounds in Gaelic games include Sean Og Ó hAilpin (the Fijian-Irish hurler who distinguished himself playing for Cork), Shairoze Akram (the Pakistani footballer who won an All-Ireland U-21 title playing for Mayo), Lara Dahunsi (an Irish-born footballer with a Nigerian father who played for County Antrim), Lee Chin (born in Ireland to a Malaysian father and Irish mother, and has starred as a hurler for Wexford), and ‘Zak’ Moradi (a Kurdish refugee from Iraq who played senior hurling for County Leitrim). Shairoze Akram points out that his involvement helped not just Asians, but other minorities get into Gaelic games, and helped them to see that the GAA is for everyone.

Noel Connolly from the Gaels’ Culture, Community and PR Committee, highlights that this is only a first step in trying to communicate to various nationalities the fun and enjoyment Gaelic games can bring, how the games can help them connect to their wider community, and the power of sport in integration.

“I want to compliment the principals, teachers and coaches in local schools – both primary and secondary – who cater for up to 28 different nationalities and have wholeheartedly come behind this initiative, seeing it as timely and badly needed”, he said.

“We have some local role models in Gaelic games from different ethnic communities, but just not enough to reflect the changed demographics. The GAA should encourage the appointment of Integration Officers in clubs who could take into consideration the changed demographics and progress similar projects like this nationwide.

“Recently I met and was very impressed with an Iraqi refugee, Abood Al Jumaili aka Bonnar Ó Loinsigh, in Ballaghaderreen GAA Club, where he delivered football and hurling coaching sessions to Syrian and Afghan refugees. An Iraqi coaching Syrians and Afghans in Gaelic games was very different to see and it was inspiring!”

Filming for the project will commence shortly, with Mike Hourigan from Mimar Media as the producer.