One of Mayo’s victorious All-Ireland U21 winners, Shairoze Akram, has thanked his club mate Andy Moran for forcing him to take up the game at the age of 11.
Akram became the first Pakistan-born player to win an All-Ireland medal when he helped Mayo to victory over Cork on Saturday night in Ennis. But none of it would have happened with the intervention of the Mayo senior captain.
There is a strong Ballaghaderreen influence in that Mayo U21 team - manager Mike Solan and selector John Ginty both hail from the club, while Akram, Seamus Cunniffe, and Ryan Lynch all represented the town in the U21 panel.
Despite being a keen soccer player and basketballer, Akram – who moved to Ballaghaderreen at the age of four in 2001 – was inspired to join the local GAA club on Moran’s orders.
“It wasn’t me, I was persuaded to play the game. Andy Moran, I put it all down to him. I was sort of made go by him and it has taken off from there. I picked the game up when I was in sixth class about eight or nine years ago and I’ve been playing ever since,” said Akram.
“He’d be one of the players I look up to in the club. He is a great mentor. He’s the one who got me involved in football and he has helped me ever since.
As a former student of St Nathy’s College in Ballaghaderreen, Akram was always likely to develop his game through his teenage years, so much so that he played as a wing-forward for the 2014 county minor team that lost the All-Ireland semi-final to Kerry.
Injury denied him a place in last summer’s disappointing Connacht minor championship effort, but after Saturday’s success, the DCU fresher is keen to progress further with the county. “Hopefully down the line I’ll make the seniors. You’d never know.”
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