What do you get when you take a group of youngsters from a deprived area of south east London and throw them a Gaelic football?
A team of champions if the story of St Paul’s Academy in Abbey Wood is anything to go by, thanks to the efforts of their under 14 team in Ireland’s annual international youth tournament.
A group of players from the Finchale Road school was given just four months to pick up the sport before heading out to compete in the Féile Peil na nÓg in Derry in June last year.
In partnership with the Dulwich Harps GAA Club, the 20-strong squad romped away with the Division Four crown and their story was captured for a gripping feel good documentary.
Headteacher Patrick Winston is the son of Irish immigrants and introduced Gaelic football to St Paul’s in 2000.
He told News Shopper: "It made it a fairytale ending for us to actually win the competition.
"We’re on the Abbey Wood estate which is not exactly the nicest part of London.
"Many of these kids who live in inner city flats got to experience rural Ireland and they were absolutely gobsmacked.
"They had seen countryside like that on TV but never got to see it for themselves.
"The reception for the kids from London was fantastic."
Staying with host families in Derry, the cameras follow the team’s fortunes as they sneak through a nail biting quarter-final against opposition unbeaten all season before eventually triumphing in the final.
Wayward star player Victor Ozobia, 14, from Thamesmead is banned from playing in the team’s first warm up game after being suspended from school, but ends up blossoming into one of its leaders by the end.
Mr Winston said: "I spoke to one of his primary school teachers who said ‘crumbs, what a job St Paul’s has done for Victor’.
"They had to learn the three main skills of the pick-up, the hand pass and the solo.
"The solo is where you have to bounce the ball or flick it on the end of your toe every time you take four steps.
"They are good athletes, are physically fit and they picked up the skills very quickly."
The sport remains incredibly popular at St Paul’s, with this year’s under 14s scoring seven wins from seven in a tour of Ireland last month, while last year’s champions will be moving up to Division Three for this year’s Féile tournament.
To see the Teenage Kicks documentary, visit londonlive.co.uk/programmes/platform-8
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