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Diversity signals a quiet revolution in Gaelic games

Last update - Sunday, May 15, 2011, 16:28 By Metro Éireann

The GAA, in partnership with Sport Against Racism Ireland (Sari), hosted the inaugural Gaelic Games Intercultural Youth Tournament at the Garda and Camogie Grounds in Phoenix Park on Wednesday 4 May.

The tournament, which celebrates the UN International Year of Youth and EU Year of Volunteering, was a pilot scheme for first-year secondary students from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds with the aim of aiding integration in schools through sport.
Over 120 students aged between 13 and 14 from schools in the greater Dublin area – including St Mark’s CS in Tallaght, Luttrellstown Community College, St Kevin’s CC in Clondalkin and Hartstown CS – gathered to compete for trophies.
Young players with roots in such diverse places as Bosnia and Herzigovina, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India and beyond took to the field and displayed their natural ability for the game.
Hartstown’s boys and girls were particularly adept in conquering all that lay before them, with both teams reaching and winning their respective finals.
The event was the brainchild of GAA national inclusion officer Tony Watene and Sari executive chair Perry Ogden.
“We are delighted to be working with the GAA on this event, which we see as an extension of our annual sports tournament held every September,” said Ogden. “Gaelic games have been a part of our festival for some time now, and uptake by people from different ethnic backgrounds, grows every year.”
Since the appointment of New Zealand native Watene as inclusion officer, there has been a quiet revolution taking place in the GAA family of games. With the support of strong representative committees in Croke Park, Watene has been building a grassroots movement for diversity through Gaelic games both at home and abroad.
From wheelchair hurling to integrated rounders, he says the pushing of the diversity button has impacted on the core culture of the GAA.
“The GAA promotes positive behaviour and respect both on and off the field,” added Watene. “Respect for people from different backgrounds is also an important message for the association. 
“By bringing students together through Gaelic games, we hope that they will develop greater mutual understanding and learn to embrace differences, whilst playing sport and long after the whistle has blown.”

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