Monday 19 February 2018

Meet Zak, the Kurd with hurling in his heart

Shane Coleman of Newstalk
Shane Coleman of Newstalk
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

'Fifty percent Kurdish, 50pc Irish… 100pc Thomas Davis (GAA club)." So said Shane Coleman of his guest, Zak Moradi, on Newstalk Breakfast (Mon-Fri 6.30am). He added, "It's a great story, an absolutely brilliant story" - and that it certainly is.

Zak plays hurling for the aforementioned Tallaght club, and also intercounty for Leitrim. So how is it that this young man, with his Dublin accent, plays in the Lory Meagher Cup for a county at the other side of Ireland?

He moved to Leitrim in 2002, aged 11, from Ramadi in Iraq. Zak's family were Iranian Kurds, forced to migrate during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

Eventually, things got so bad for the Kurds - a much-abused minority in that part of the world - that the Moradi family moved to Carrick-on-Shannon. A few years later, they headed east for Dublin, but Zak retained fond memories of his formative Irish years, and declared for Leitrim.

He'd been playing hurling since primary, loved it, and turned out to be pretty good at it. (No jokes please about the standard of Leitrim hurling…) Now he represents the western county, while also singing the praises of Thomas Davis and Tallaght.

This was a great piece, mostly because Zak Moradi seems a great guy: cheerful, smart, full of optimism and appreciation of the life he's made here. And listening blind, as it were, on radio, you wouldn't know from his accent, slang or way of phrasing that he wasn't born and reared in Ireland.

Proof, I suppose, that there really isn't much difference between human beings, wherever they come from, if there's proper integration. Culture is king to some extent, but individuals can move past that.

Actually, maybe we should just get everyone to join the GAA. That might sort out the world's problems. Muslims and Jews, Indians and Pakistanis, Russians and Ukrainians, whoever: join the GAA, folks.

You'll care far less about geopolitics when you're busy obsessing about who the Jaysus should we play corner-back tomorrow? Because the other crowd have a fierce knacky little corner-forward.

It's like a totally benign version of the Freemasons - once you're in the club, you're in, forever. Nobody gives a damn about your skin colour, religion, politics or anything else. The only important question is: are you a GAA person, yes or no? Zak Moradi is a definite yes.

The TED Radio Hour (Newstalk, Sun 6pm) looked at "Industry 4.0": how humans and robots might work together in the future. I'm not a huge fan of TED talks; there's a slight sense of "the emperor's new clothes" about it, wherein the material says much less than it initially appears to.

And I do feel - a bit cynically, yes - that the kind of people who really buy into these lectures, or are impressed by them, also consider Stephen Fry an intellectual, watch lots of American political satire and say things like, "Prestige TV is the new novel." Eh, no it's not. Read an actual book, dumbo.

But this edition was good, my fascination with the whole robot thing overpowering my anti-TED sentiments and the fact that the host Guy Raz has an oddly squeaky voice.

This fascination is a double-edged blade. Part of me wants to live in a world where robots with gleaming chrome skulls and sexy Scarlett Johansson voices do every little thing for us; part of me lives in dread that one day they'll get sick of doing my laundry and crush my windpipe with their titanium talons.

And that would really suck. Though not as much as someone thinking a TV show is equivalent to a book. Seriously, switch off the screen and read something.

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