WATCH: Gaza children leave Ireland after 10 days of football

The youngsters, aged from 10 to 14, have played several matches

WATCH: Gaza children leave Ireland after 10 days of football

Image: Facebook/Gaza Action Ireland

A group of 14 children from the Gaza Strip are flying home after spending 10 days in Ireland.

They have spent their time here winning friends and football matches around the country.

The footballers, aged from 10 to 14-years-old, have stayed and played in Nenagh, Co Tipperary - as well as in Dublin, Limerick, Kinvara and Wexford.

They also met with President Michael D Higgins at Eamon Deacy Park in Galway, where the children played on the pitch at halftime of the Galway United v Dundalk match last Friday.

"For these children, it has been the highlight of their lives - certainly in terms of fun," chairman of the Al-Helal group Ayed Abu-Ramadan said.

Abu-Ramadan said the warmth and excitement of their reception in Ireland has affected not only the 14 children and two adults who travelled from Gaza, but many hundreds more people in Palestine who have followed their exploits on social media.

"We have been so delighted to have these lovely, funny, brilliant boys finally here to see us," Gaza Action Ireland (GAI) coordinator Zoë Lawlor said.

"It's heartbreaking to see them go, but we know they are bringing home a powerful message of friendship and solidarity from Ireland."

"And we're very pleased that they go home undefeated, having beaten every team they played," Ms Lawlor added.

Lawlor and former Irish rugby international Trevor Hogan have led the GAI team that helped organise 'Gaza Kids to Ireland' - having first met many of them on a visit to Gaza in 2013.

'A much needed break from conflict'

Members of Nenagh Friends of Palestine visited them previously and hosted the children in Tipperary for five nights of their visit.

"The situation for Palestinians in Gaza trying to play sports, living as they do under siege, is extremely difficult. The children are hampered by lack of facilities, equipment, places to play and restrictions on their movement," Ms Lawlor said.

Lawlor said the GAI hopes to continue working with Al-Helal and with soccer in Gaza, including supporting the development of girls' soccer in the impoverished territory.

The long effort of fundraising and red tape to bring the children to Ireland was launched by former Ireland manager Brian Kerr in 2014, along with former rugby international Trevor Hogan.

Al-Helal's clubhouse and facilities in northern Gaza were damaged by Israeli bombing in 2012 and again in 2014.

"As well as giving the kids a much needed break from stress and conflict, it has been a great opportunity for the people of Ireland to participate and support them," Ms Lawlor said.

There were 14 children visiting from Gaza, all of them travelling outside Gaza for the first time - and they were joined by two of their adult coaches and carers.

Five more adults and one child were not issued with permits by Israeli authorities to leave the territory.