Young Palestinian footballers begin tour with beach training session

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Palestinian footballers tour

Young Palestinian footballers have touched down in the Republic of Ireland for a whistle-stop tour of the country.

A group of 18 children from the Al-Helal football academy in Gaza arrived early at Dublin airport on Saturday - and within hours were training on the beach with former Ireland manager Brian Kerr.

Mr Kerr, who made an appearance at the Sandymount Beach in Dublin, said he was "impressed by the toughness of the kids" as well as their "obvious ball skills".

He added it was a pleasure to see them "get a break from their own place - where it's obviously very difficult".

It is the second trip in as many years for the academy, who will visit Galway, Cork, Leitrim and Limerick, playing matches against local teams such as Shamrock Rovers on the nine-day visit.

The "brilliant and joyous" group, aged 11-15, are like "little celebrities", said Zoe Lawlor, an activist with Gaza Action Ireland, which organised the tour.

She added: "It's a window into Palestine for us and a window out for them. They got a fantastic welcome at the airport, huge cheers.

"Everywhere they go there's interest, they're like little celebrities. It's been brilliant so far."

The trip was especially sweet for the players, given the tight travel restrictions placed on Palestinian citizens, she said, adding their coach was "denied exit" from Gaza.

After the tour ends, the team will travel back home on Sunday August 6.