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Syrian Refugees In Berlin Are Being Introduced To Hurling

Berlin’s first gaelic games club was founded in 2012 by Dublin native Colin Manning. The following year with the help of Kerry footballer, Chris Hennessy, the club began to expand. Due to the vast size of the city, the club split into two sides; Berlin GAA and Setanta Berlin, the latter focusing on families and kids.

Despite the tragic passing of Hennessy last year, GAA and indeed Irish culture in the city has continued to grow, with Manning working with club chairman Antrim native David Smyth to co-ordinate Setanta’s efforts around the German capital.

The club enjoys tremendous exposure in the various expat family groups around the city, weekly turnouts peaking at over 50, and a major St Patrick’s Week event attracting over 200 people.

Players training in harsh conditions.


Setanta were asked to run a gaelic sports session at the Gustav-Dreyer-Schule school, a very successful three days of gaelic football and hurling coaching culminated at the school open day where 50 kids showed off their new skills.

Club member Roisin O Mahony, the German entrant to the Rose Of Tralee 2015, led the kids’ training.

O'Mahony at a training session.
O’Mahony at a training session.


With a number of families involved with the club attending the international National Mandela School, Setanta Berlin were approached to run Gaelic sports as an official school activity for the classes 7-10 (the first three years of secondary school).

These classes have now been running with great support from the kids since last September, and the class being the most popular non-core class among the students.

Berlin is used to welcoming people from many cultures and backgrounds, and one such newcomer was a boy rescued in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea with his family, who had just been settled in Hermsdorf.

Roisin O’ Mahony was running the sessions with the little Syrian lad, who shone in the games at the school open day.

Little did they know that only six month later, Berlin would be overflowing with more boys like their new Syrian hurling convert at Gustav-Dreyer-Schule, and by October the school hall where Setanta train would become home to 250 refugees primarily from from Syria.

With boredom setting in among the young adults and teenagers, a number of the refugees were invited to join the Irish music session at the clubhouse in October 2015, where Arabic songs joined the familiar Irish songs at the session.

Soon some of the kids started to approach them during training sessions, with one Syrian eleven year old, speaking excellent English, telling them after his first hurling lessons that “hurling is the coolest sport ever”.

Setanta Berlin has a program of hurling coaching planned for Spring 2016 with the refugee residents, once the icy Berlin weather passes, with a view to the group having enough to field a team at either the St Patrick’s Week, or Easter weekend hurling festival activities.

Fascinating stuff indeed!

Brilliant work by Manning, Smyth, the Setanta Berlin committee and all in Berlin, spreading the gospel as well as offering expats the opportunity to play our ancient games.

If you would like to get in touch with the club, make sure to check them out on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks to Setanta Berlin for contacting us!


If your club has a story to tell, feel free to get us on Pundit Arena’s GAA Facebook page.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.