A TENNIS programme is being run throughout July for Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in Shannon.
It started last week and is being run by Wesley O’Brien, who said it came to Shannon after something similar began in Meelick a few weeks earlier.
“About three weeks ago I started a similar programme at the Radisson Hotel for the families there,” Wesley told The Champion. “A lady called Siobhán Boyd reached out to me, who’s with a group in Shannon, and she asked if I’d do something for the families in Shannon so I said no problem.”
He was very pleased with how it had begun.
“It went very well, we had good numbers considering it was the first day. We broke it into different age groups, there were five to ten-year-olds from half two to half three, 11 to 17 from half three to half four and then 18 and over from 4.30 to 5.30pm. Considering it was the first day and word of mouth is still going around, the numbers were good.”
While not speaking the same language is a difficulty, it’s far from insurmountable, says Wesley. “Some of them had broken English and for those who couldn’t understand me, there was always someone there from Ukraine who could speak English and translate for me.”
The Wolfe Tones astroturf is the venue for the programme.
“I think there were tennis courts around the Leisure Centre one time but they’re not there now, so Siobhan reached out to Wolfe Tones who have the 3G pitch. That was perfect, I could bring down the portable nets and we made do with them.”
Wesley said that the group were very easy to deal with. “The kids were happy and laughing and joking. They can put things behind them quite easily, but even the teenagers and the adults, it came across that they were very grateful and very happy to have something to do. They were very polite, lovely people.”
He said that with Wimbledon on television it was a good time to get going, and he found the refugees quite positive about it.
“I think a lot of them want something to do, they want to pass the time and to have something to take their mind off of things.”
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.