This St Patrick’s evening, there are Irish in the capital city of Uganda who are representing Ireland in spreading something that is unique to our heritage and culture: GAA.

Former Kilkenny hurling All-Star Aidan 'Taggy' Fogarty and Sinead Brennan, who plays ladies Gaelic football, travelled to Uganda thanks to the sponsorship of Newpark Hotel, where Sinead is assistant health club manager.

Discovering how the Ugandan youngsters began their fascination with our national sport through TikTok and YouTube videos caught the attention of the hotel.

“The joy that these kids have found in Gaelic Games really struck a chord with us,” said general manager Paul Behan.

“How could we not help on hearing how they were learning hurling, despite all the obstacles stacked against them,” he added.

Getting the right gear

With some children playing in bare feet and improvising with tennis balls, efforts were made to send out hurls, helmets and sliotars to the enthusiastic players.

The girls in Gaelic training/Hassan Omar Wamwayi

The Kilkenny 2 Kampala Challenge has set a target to raise €20,000, which will go towards securing three acres of land to turn it into a GAA training pitch.

There is quite the impetus to reach this as, when completed, this pitch will be the first full-size GAA pitch on the African continent, as well as being the highest altitude pitch in the world, located on the shores of Lake Victoria.

Before travelling, fundraising took place on social media and in the hotel. Sinead and Aidan travelled with GAA jerseys donated by local businesses so the children could have the chance to 'pull on a jersey'.

Clearing the ball/Hassan Omar Wamwayi

At the moment, there are five schools learning both the big ball and small ball; Gaelic football and hurling.

Community football pitches that are used for other sports are the current training venue. With their own dedicated GAA pitch constructed to the association’s measurements, this will no doubt field some serious contenders in the future.

Levelling the playing field

Sinead is leading training sessions to instill confidence in the girls that there is as much a place for them on the pitch as there is for the boys.

“The kids were a breeze to coach; they were really willing to learn the skills and do them properly,” Sinead says of a rainy session last Sunday morning.

Aiming for below the bar/Hassan Omar Wamwayi

“The blitz opened my eyes to where exactly this money is going and, yes, we are trying to raise €20,000, but if you could raise €100,000 because I just want to give them so much; they have so little,” Aidan tells the Irish Farmers Journal after giving out medals at a blitz that featured more laughs than jostles.

A key aspect of planning the official Kampala GAA club is the provision of a kitchen in the clubhouse, so that meals will be cooked for every training session.

This is to assist parents who struggle with putting food on the table and feeds into the club’s long-term goal of incorporating the community spirit of the GAA.

For more on this trip, check out @sineadbrennan99 and @taggykk on Instagram, where their stories will give you a flavour of the trip, including a puck about across the equator.

To contribute to the first full-size pitch on the African continent, log on to www.idonate/NewparkKilkennyUgandaGAAFundraiser.

Training time/Hassan Omar Wamwayi
Ready for throw in/Hassan Omar Wamwayi
Sinead Brennan and Aidan Fogarty give out medals at a blitz held at Kampala GAA club, Uganda/Hassan Omar Wamwayi
Sinead Brennan with the girls she trained in Gaelic football at Kampala GAA club, Uganda/Hassan Omar Wamwayi
The Kilkenny 2 Kampala GAA Challenge is hoping to raise enough funds to secure a new training pitch and clubhouse in Kampala, Uganda/Hassan Omar Wamwayi
Taking part in a blitz at Kampala GAA club/Hassan Omar Wamwayi/Hassan Omar Wamwayi/Hassan Omar Wamwayi

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