GAA

Underdogs Returns With Inspirational Star's Powerful Story The Highlight

Underdogs Returns With Inspirational Star's Powerful Story The Highlight

Underdogs made its eagerly anticipated return last night for the opening episode of the new season as Valerie Mulcahy, Kevin Cassidy and Mickey Ned O'Sullivan selected their panel to build towards the ultimate challenge of playing Mayo.

Over six weeks, the squad will be whittled down to a 28-man group. The TG4 show combines footballing insight with real life stories to make for a comprehensive program. The star of Thursday's show was a testament to that.

Israel Ilunga came to Ireland from the Democratic Republic of Congo to escape civil unrest and rebellion. The Westmeath man explained that he arrived with nothing but was placed in a foster home and quickly found a loving family.

I never knew were Europe was. I couldn't read or write. To be honest, I never looked at a map. I never knew where Ireland was.

They say you don't choose family, you are born into it. But they choose me, it is outrageous. I am always thankful. I am always proud to be one of their kids.

"From a young age, he has always said he is Irish. I was born to be Irish. There is a reason I came over here, the reason was to play Gaelic," his father explained.

Both Israel and the show proved a hit.

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The defender's footballing ability was immediately apparent. "That's the standard", said an onlooking impressed Mickey Ned O'Sullivan.

Having encountered some heinous treatment on the field in the past, Ilunga cut a content figure when he was told he was on the squad.

"I don't want to be known as the kid who was racially abused. I just want to play football, the game that I love."

SEE ALSO: From Running Down Cul-De-Sacs To Being One Of Kerry's Main Weapons

Maurice Brosnan

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