Five Ukrainian children have been warmly embraced by Kildare club Straffan GAA who have welcomed and integrated them into their community and underage set-ups.
The Straffan club invited the children to join their club and train with their teams and last week presented them with jerseys, which was an idea brought to the Straffan executive by club mentor and member Damien Fitzpatrick.
The children recently started school in the area and Straffan GAA were keen to invite them to play Gaelic football.
At their first training session, the children were presented with both Straffan and Straffard LGFA jerseys - the club links with Ardclough allows girls from both clubs to play football.
"Once Damien and I discussed the jerseys, it was clear that it was the right and obvious thing to do," said Straffan treasurer Francis Farrell.
"There are a few Ukrainian people in the village and we just asked if they would come and see the club, play some football with us.
"We wanted to welcome them to our community and also present our jerseys to them.
"One of the little lads has already got fairly stuck in at training and is embracing GAA. He used to play soccer in Ukraine for an Under-9 team and he is obviously very sporty. We are checking to see how he is getting on and his coach reports that he has no problem picking the ball up, running with it and even soloing.
"I think all the children are delighted with it."
"He can most definitely get stuck in and understand what needs to be done. His hand-to-eye coordination is already there enabling him to pick up the key skills.
"I think all the children are delighted with it. The girls have been very much embraced by Straffan too and I know everyone involved has welcomed them with open arms."
No one knows how long their stay in Ireland will be but Farrell said the goal is to make those living in Straffan village feel as welcome as possible for as long as they are with them.
And that prompted the club to encourage their participation in Gaelic and ladies' football.
"We don’t know how long they will be here," the club treasurer acknowledged. "But while they are with us, we want to do all we can to make sure they are integrated.
"Their world has been turned upside down, but they are here with us now and the club has rowed in along with the village to help.
"We will obviously cover all costs of membership, we just want them to go off and enjoy themselves, to play football. It is the least we can do.
"I’m sure they will want to return home at some stage but again no one knows when the conflict will be resolved. In the meantime, we have underage and Go Games teams that they can be a huge part of.
"This is what the GAA does. It is the ethos of the association. Its core values are to accept everyone and provide levels for everyone."
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