Irish nurses bring their sporting culture to the UK

A group of Irish nurses working in England have decided to keep in touch with their traditional culture by setting up a Gaelic football team.

The economic downturn in Ireland has driven many key workers, including nurses, to emigrate to the UK and other countries including the US, Canada and Australia.

The surge in emigration over the last few years means there are about 150 Irish nurses now working at the Royal Berkshire hospital, Reading.

The newly formed St Anthony’s Gaelic football team was set up by Dee Donohoe, from County Mayo, who’s been living in Reading since 2002.

Home comfort and tradition

Ms Donohoe, an occupational therapist in the stroke unit at RBH, told the BBC: “It was an idea which came from the girls living away from home wanting a bit of home comfort and tradition.

“We’ve had the core group of Irish girls bolstered by others just wanting to learn a new sport – we’ve got a pretty successful team on our hands.”

Since being formed in 2010, St Anthony’s have won the London Junior Championship and Junior League and are playing a demonstration match at the Madjewski stadium this Sunday during half time of the London Irish v Sale Sharks rugby union match.

It’s ‘all the qualified people who are leaving’

About 80% of the team is made up of Royal Berkshire Hospital staff.

A Royal Berkshire Hospital spokesman said: “We have recruited very heavily for nurses in [the Republic of] Ireland over the past couple of years’’.

Ms Donohoe said “It’s all the qualified people who are leaving. It’ll be a while before the economy is strong enough to sustain all the jobs in the health sector.’’

The unemployment level in Ireland is edging towards 15%, and many more people are expected to leave next year after an estimated 42,000 Irish people emigrated last year.