IRISH rugby international Luke Fitzgerald has called for more money to be put into promoting wider use of the Irish language and helping people develop their Irish language skills.
Speaking a day after Ireland's bruising encounter with France, the Leinster and Ireland winger said he would like to see "a big revival of the Irish language".
A fluent Irish speaker himself, the 25-year-old Dubliner said that despite the tough economic circumstances it was still important to put money into the language as it gave people a sense of Irishness.
"To speak our own language sets us apart in a world which feels like it is getting smaller," he said.
Describing himself to the Irish Independent as "passionate" about Irish, he paid tribute to former boxer Bernard Dunne's efforts to promote the cupla focail.
"He has been fantastic. I met him after one of our games and he is putting in a big push on Irish."
Fitzgerald officially opened a new clubhouse for Loreto Hockey Club in Rathfarnham, Dublin. His grandmother's sister, Natalie Liuzzi, was the club's first ever Irish international in the 1940s.
He urged girls to get involved in sports as a way of building friendships.
"I think one of the most important things for a flourishing life is the relationships you build. Team sports are one of the best ways to do that", he said.
His views were echoed by RTE television presenter Mary Kennedy.
"It is for social interaction as well as health and fitness," the presenter who has run two marathons said.
Speaking about Seachtain na Gaeilge, which takes place up to St Patrick's Day, she said: "It is so wonderful to see people like Luke, who is a hero to so many young people, speaking Irish."