16-year-old Ukrainian refugee Vlad Biriuk has been awarded a medal for his part in Tullamore GAA's 2022 Offaly minor championship football win. Vlad and his family fled from Ukraine last year after the destruction of their home city in Ukraine's Sumy region, after which they relocated to the midlands last year. Vlad who played soccer in Ukraine took on GAA.
Unsurprisingly Vlad hadn't a notion of what GAA was but nonetheless got himself involved and playing. The TY student lined out for both Tullamore College and the club last year. The brave young man received his medal at an awards ceremony in front of his fellow club members on Saturday night. Despite Vlad not getting onto the pitch during the final, he made a number of appearances for his club and school side throughout the season, quite a feat considering he hadn't even heard of the game last April.
Speaking to the Offaly Express at the celebrations Vlad was delighted about the win and full of praise for his coaches but thought this was only the start for him with Vlad setting his eyes on bigger things.
It's pretty much wonderful
I just want to thank everyone who's helping me, Mervyn [Griffin], John [Keane], all the coaches that are helping me... they saw that I could do more than now... they still believe in it, I think I reach much more bigger heights than now
Speaking to reporters after his side's two-point victory over Kilcormac-Killoughey in the final Vlad was disappointed not to get on the pitch for Tullamore but happy that he picked up the sport and equally as happy for his teammates saying,
We just only got to know [Gaelic football] when we came. I was playing soccer but not such this kind of sport
I wanted to play [today] but I'm still very happy that we won. One team gets first place and it is very good news. I am very happy and everyone from my team is very happy
Fair play to Vlad and his all teammates. It's no easy task picking up a new sport, never mind under the circumstances that Vlad did and there's no doubt he should be proud of his achievements.
Photo courtest of Tulllamore GAA Facebook page