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David Clifford: How GAA Could Be More Accessible For Young Immigrants

David Clifford: How GAA Could Be More Accessible For Young Immigrants
PJ Browne
By PJ Browne
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David Clifford thinks the GAA could do more to help children who immigrate to Ireland in their teenage years develop a love for Gaelic games.

"I'm lucky enough to be a PE Teacher at the moment," the Kerry footballer said in episode one of the new SuperValu Dressing Room discussion series.

"We have access to GAA coaches in primary schools with GDA's and GPO's but as we get onto secondary school, we probably don't have that luxury.

"We have one hour of PE a week to bring these students along with us, we're trying to be inclusive, but at the same time there's a curriculum to cover of which GAA is only one element.

"There's definitely scope for the GAA at central level to roll out more coaches, more programmes, or having us as the PE teachers running the programmes where we can include these students.

"It's well noted the power that the GAA has. Being part of the GAA family has brought so many opportunities to me. It's brought me opportunities to meet most of my friends.


"The fact that we are receiving immigrants at a higher age at the moment - there's teenagers coming to the school - they are not really having access to the GAA.

"They might have access to the GAA for an hour once every five or six weeks. It's a lot harder at that age to go and join their local club because a club is trying to win their championship, they are trying to beat their closest rivals. There's definitely scope for the GAA to roll out programmes and have more personnel on the ground."

Pictured is four-time Kerry All-Star David Clifford, Mayo footballer and autism advocate Padraig O’Hora, leading GAA referee Maggie Farrelly, Tipperary GAA superfan and broadcaster, Kevin Hanley, Clare footballer Ikem Ugwueru, LGBTI+ community advocate and referee David Gough, and Hannah Looney and Erika O’Shea of the Cork Ladies Football Team. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Shairoze Akram, who moved to Ireland from Pakistan aged four, won an All-Ireland U21 title with Mayo in 2016. He was also briefly part of the county's senior panel.


Akram was introduced to Gaelic football in primary school by Andy Moran. Clifford questioned if it had been later in life, at secondary school level when Akram took up the sport, whether he would have continued to play.


"That's where the support structures come in," said the Ballaghaderreen man.

"When people are coming from a completely different part of the world, they don't know the rules and might not know the language. It's getting them involved but providing them with support - whether that is extra training or putting on a group of people that might be at the same skill level.

"The other side of it is the language side. Maybe the government could do more, provide funding for GAA clubs. The GAA might be able to provide funding to get an [interpreter] in because a lot of people coming to the country struggle with the language. My parents are here 20 years but my mam has very little English and my dad has OK English. Roll back 20 years, they were just nodding yes and no."


30 April 2016; Mayo players, from left, Michael Plunkett, Shairoze Akram, Brian Reape, Eddie Doran and Matthew Ruane, celebrate with the cup in the dressing room after the game. GAA All-Ireland U21 Football Championship Final, Cork v Mayo. Cusack Park, Ennis, Co. Clare. Picture credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE

Current Mayo footballer Padraig O'Hora added: "It's not English you're learning over here, it's a fine twist on English! You try to understand David (Clifford) and you try to understand me, there's a real difference."


Clifford, who works at St Brendan's College in Killarney, also suggested that an over emphasis on winning could be off putting for those new to Gaelic games.

"The big factor, and it's a general mindset that is within the GAA, is the competitive nature and having to win regardless of the age, regardless the team or competition," he said.

"Our mindset is that 'We want to win'. I think we have to scale that back a small where when we have new members joining, it has to be more about the real things that we get from the GAA.


"Winning is great, of course, but we make friends, you're active, you're meeting new people. We have to put more of a focus on that, and that can be difficult because you go to a small club, and they have an U14 team, and they need 15 players, so anyone that comes is on the 15. Then you realise, 'This isn't for me, it's too difficult'."

Sponsors of the GAA All-Ireland Football Championship for a 14th consecutive season, SuperValu have this season launched the Dressing Room discussion series (filmed earlier this year) featuring Padraig O'Hora, David Clifford, Maggie Farrelly, David Gough and a whole host of big GAA names. Find the episodes here.

See Also: GAA Clubs Need To Redefine What Success Means To Them



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