The Cologne Celtics take part in the Virtual Cork City Marathon

Cologne Celtics chairman Oisín O'Mahoney in front of the Kölner Dom

In April 2021, a group in Ireland called “Sanctuary Runners“ contacted the Cologne Celtics about the idea of taking part in this year’s Virtual Cork City Marathon. After a productive discussion with the founder of the organisation, Graham Clifford, we decided this was something for us.

After hearing about the project, many of our players put their hands up to say they would like to participate. It will involve our players walking, hiking, and running in relay teams around the Rhineland wearing the specially designed “Köln” Sanctuary Runners jerseys. Distances will vary between 7-10km for the relays, while some of our runners will attempt the half-marathon distance. On Sunday, June 6th, expect to see the blue jerseys of the “Sanctuary Runners” around Cologne, Bonn, Hürth, and other parts of the Rhineland.

We’ve raised over €1300 for the Peter McVerry Trust so far

Due to the disruption to regular training sessions, our players have taken to running all over the local area to keep fit in the time of the Coronavirus pandemic. While staying active, several of our players have been involved in the #RunningHome initiative to raise money for homeless charities in Ireland, including our Commercial & Partnership Director Stephen, who is on the committee. So far, our charitable efforts have raised over €1300 for the Peter McVerry Trust. Taking on the Sanctuary Runners challenge felt like a natural fit for us.

Photo: Sanctuary Runners

“Sanctuary Runners” is a group that was formed in Cork in February 2018 by journalist Graham Clifford and photographer Clare Keogh. The group came together to enable Irish residents to run alongside refugees and asylum seekers to create bonds and raise awareness of the migration system. It is a non-profit organisation whose central message consists of three words: “Solidarity, Friendship, Respect”. Essentially, the goal of the group is to use sport as a force for positivity and belonging.

This inclusivity, respect, and community model is a good fit for the Celts as they are central to our club’s values and code of conduct. As a club, we do not tolerate any form of racism, sectarianism, homophobia, or sexism. Our members consist of people from many continents, countries, and counties. We desire to provide a welcoming atmosphere for everyone who joins us – regardless of their experience of our sports. As much as we want to win on the pitch, we strive to create a friendly space for those who join us.

Since its formation in Cork, Ireland, “Sanctuary Runners” has grown to many locations across Ireland with hopes of expanding to other countries in the future. It currently consists of 25 groups around Ireland with over 3000 members. We hope that members of the Sanctuary Runners will come to Cologne for the Cologne Marathon (Rheinenergie Marathon Cologne) in the future when it is safe to do so. If they do, they can expect a warm welcome from the Cologne Celtics GAA Club. 

If you live in Ireland and are interested in getting involved, contact the group at or by their social media accounts.

For this year’s Virtual Cork City Marathon, Sanctuary Runners has sought support and solidarity from Cork’s partner cities around the world, and they have answered! These partner cities consist of San Francisco, Shanghai, Rennes, Coventry, Swansea and, of course, Cologne. In Shanghai and Rennes, as well as here in Cologne, the local GAA clubs have played a central role in the organisation of runners. Furthermore, there will be runners, walkers, and everything in-between, taking part from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Brazil, New Zealand, Japan, Cyprus, and Australia, among other countries.

If you are based in Cologne, Bonn or other parts of the local area and would like to get involved with the Virtual Cork City Marathon in Cologne with the Sanctuary Runners, please contact the Cologne Celtics directly. We can be reached by our website, social media accounts or contact Oisín at +353 86 0682866.

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