Leitrim hurler Semaco 'Zak' Moradi did not have the most conventional of GAA upbringings. By the time him and his family fled to Carrick-on-Shannon in 2002, they had aleady endured the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War and the reign of Saddam Hussein - not to mention a stay in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, for his father.
With the fear over the impending second Gulf War, his brother managed to get his family out of the country altogether. Zak was 11 when he arrived in Leitrim. He had no English and even less hurling experience. However he quickly fell in love with the sport, thanks to a coach by the name of Clement Cunniffe. In an interview with Dave Fanning, on RTÉ Radio One, this morning, Zak described how he went from being handed his first hurl at the age of 11, to actually playing alongside his mentor:
I started with hurling in primary school. Clement used to come in and he gave me a hurl and sliotar...
He'd be striking the ball, left and right, off the wall and I thought 'Jesus, I'd love to be like him one day,' and now I've ended up playing with him. It's amazing.
He also played Gaelic football but was more attracted to hurling by the fact he found it more difficult to play.
The hurling was just much harder. It was like when I started learning English. It was hard but I wanted to learn. I wanted to be able to speak like the rest of the lads and it was the same with hurling, I wanted to be as good as the rest of the lads, so I just kept practicing and kept at it.
Indeed he did keep at it. Although he moved to Tallaght and has been hurling with Thomas Davis, his hurling career reached its pinnacle when he lined out with Leitrim in the Lory Meagher Cup final, against Warwickshire, earlier this year. It would ultimately end in defeat but for Moradi, his life in the GAA is much more than just wins and losses.
'I have to say, only for the GAA I don't know where I'd be now,' he told Fanning.
I got looked after through the years. Even now, all the lads I hang around with, they're all Irish and they all play hurling and Gaelic with Thomas Davis.
I think the GAA is great. You go out playing matches; you might have a row with the fella but after the game you'll end up shaking his hand and you'll just go home happy again.
It has helped him find work, thanks to his club, Thomas Davis, and provided him with a social outlet:
It's great because three or four times a week you'll go training with the same fellas you play with and then when you go away on holidays, you'll end up playing with the same lads. I think the GAA is great that way and especially because there's no money in it.
The full interview should be available for listen on podcast later today and it is well worth your time.