Born in an Iraqi refugee camp and raised in “mud houses”, Zak Moradi is now coaching the next generation of Dublin hurlers.
His unique tale is captured in a book published next month, detailing just how much of a culture shock it was moving to Leitrim at 11. Speaking at the launch of the 2022 European Week of Sport, which runs from September 23rd-30th, Moradi revealed how he couldn’t speak any English when he first arrived in 2003.
But his interest in hurling helped with his integration and he’s been a key player and coach at Thomas Davis since moving to Tallaght.
“It was a big culture shock coming to Ireland because I would have lived in mud houses that were put together by hand in the middle of nowhere really and obviously you were surrounded by oil fields,” said Moradi of his early life. “Iraq is just full of oil, you can really smell that petrol when you are there. Obviously going down to Leitrim then it was just fresh air, the cows and the farms.
“It was different, it was a big culture shock and luckily my elder brother was able to speak fluent English so we didn’t need an interpreter the whole time. It helped us get by, day by day. A lot of people in Carrick-on-Shannon helped us to start school as well and to get my brothers jobs.
“There are a lot of good people there doing voluntary work and that’s what makes this country great.”
Moradi’s family eventually moved to Tallaght, though he continued to answer Leitrim’s call, helping their hurlers win the Meagher Cup at Croke Park in 2019.
“I’m still hurling but not as much as I was because I’m doing shift work and it’s a little harder to make training,” said Moradi. “I coach a kids team in Thomas Davis, I’ve been with them a couple of years and I’ve been coaching some form of team at the club for a good lot of years.
“It’s great, some of the lads I’ve coached are actually playing senior hurling or football now which is great to see.”
Moradi reckons there’s huge potential for the growth of hurling in Tallaght, a Dublin suburb of almost 70,000.
“It’s a working class area and with some parents you deal with, they might not have the money to buy their kids a helmet and a hurl,” said Moradi. “It can cost far more money to play hurling than football.”
Moradi keeps a close eye on the Dublin hurlers as his clubmate Davy Keogh plays for the Blues. Moradi reckons recruiting All-Ireland winning Galway boss Micheál Donoghue as manager was a shrewd move.
“It’s a very good appointment,” he said. “He obviously has his experience of winning an All-Ireland and there’s so much talent there. They do have potential, I’ve even noticed a big difference in the hurling in the last 10 years. All the fellas playing hurling now are very skilful, they are all hurlers.
“You can see it with Cuala, Kilmacud Crokes, Na Fianna, Ballyboden. All the young lads coming through are very skilful so there’s a bright future.”
*Sport Ireland is calling on you and your family to get out and #BeActive between September 23rd-30th, and who knows, this may be the start of a new found love for sport. For more information and to find an event near you, see sportireland.ie/europeanweekofsport