"My friends support Mayo" - Syrian refugees visit Croke Park

A group travelled from Ballaghaderreen to watch Mayo v Roscommon

BY Stephen McNeice 19:26 Monday 31 July 2017, 19:26 31 Jul 2017

©INPHO/James Crombie u0003

Kerry, Galway, Mayo and Roscommon did battle in Croke Park on Sunday in the first two of this year’s All Ireland football quarter finals.

Fans from all four counties made the trip to Croke Park, but there was a very special set of fans in the crowd: a bus of Syrian refugees travelled all the way from Ballaghaderreen to attend the games.

Despite travelling from Co Roscommon, loyalties were split between Mayo and Roscommon - and, with a replay scheduled for next week, both sides ended up with cause for relief and frustration.

Newstalk Breakfast reporter Peadar Breathnach spoke to the group to find out how they felt about the experience.

As one Mayo supporter from Syria explained, the match was "grand".

"My friends support Mayo - that's why I support Mayo," he explained. "And Mayo's skills are more beautiful than Roscommon."

Elaine, a tutor who volunteers in Ballaghaderreen, told Peadar it wasn't difficult to organise the trip.

She said: "A friend of mine works with the GAA in Croke Park, and they sponsored us all the tickets. Then we get on to a bus company, and we get on with all that. I did a fundraiser to look to pay for the bus - [it] was the only cost we had. The GAA stepped up, and gave us everything for free really."

As for picking sides for the match itself, she explained: "It's purely for banter and for fun. Some are supporting Mayo, and some Roscommon - either way, we had great craic."

Elaine stressed that it "never ceases to surprise me" how welcoming the Irish people are: "It's just lovely to see the two cultures mixing.

"We're all very curious - we like to travel because we like to discover new culture, but better again if they come to our doorstep.

"It's about letting see our national sport, and meeting people who are very passionate about it."

As for the replay? "We'll talk about it tomorrow," she said. "If we can drum up for the few quid to get the bus over, I'd love to come over with the lads again."

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