Saturday, November 23, 2013

Colleges GAA Taking Hold in the Northeast

November 9, 2013 saw a significant step in the development of Gaelic Games at college level in the Northeast.  The Irish American Home Society in Glastonbury, Ct., home to the Hartford GAA Club, was the scene for the first ever Northeast Colleges GAA Tournament.  Teams from colleges in Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut competed in both Hurling and Football competitions for the title of Northeast champions. 

St. Joe's and King's College Battled it out in Hartford.
There had been activity in colleges with kids who had come through underage programs forming teams.  St. Joe's in Pennsylvania and Boston College had played each other in challenge games, and New York had sent an amalgamated college team to compete in the British University's each year.  In September of this year the Northeast Collegiate GAA Board was formed to provide some structure around the organization of Gaelic Games at the third level. 

The Fall Tournament featured a total of 12 teams.  Four hurling, UConn, NY Colleges, as well as the Hartford GAA Club and Worcester Hurling Club.  The tournament saw Worcester pull off a last minute win over UConn in the final to win the first ever Northeast Colleges Hurling Trophy.  Football saw 8 teams compete.  BC, Worcester, (Ma.); St. Joe's, Kings College (Pa.); Fordham, Iona, Manhattan College, (NY); and Hartford (Ct.).  The teams were drawn in 2 groups and the eventual winners were Iona, who proved to be strong all the way through the tourney.  There were some great games between BC and St. Joe's as well as Kings College and St. Joe's as rivalries start to develop.  The New York GAA Board sponsored the football trophy, while sponsorship for the Hurling trophy came from the Boston Northeast Board. 

Joy for UConn Hurlers vs NY Colleges.
Where to from here?  At the end of March, St. Joe's will be hosting a Northeast tournament.  St. Joe's are the first college in the United States to obtain club status for their GAA club.  Memorial Day weekend sees the National Collegiate Tournament come to the Northeast and it will be played at Randall's Island in New York.  College Teams from all over the United States will be traveling to participate. 

Chairman of the Northeast Colleges Board, and New York Games Development Officer, Simon Gillespie is hopeful that the kids who are forming and organizing these college clubs will develop the skills to take with them to adult clubs after they graduate.  The board is made up of the college kids, and with involvement coming from within it is hoped that there will be something sustainable in the works.  Eamon Gormley, who is based on the west coast saw the importance of developing games in third level institutions to provide continuation for kids who come through underage programs, and allow them to bridge the gap between playing gaelic games at underage and adult levels.  College teams were formed on the west coast several years ago, and now with development in the opposite corner of the country and the midwest, the dots are beginning to connect.   

The National Colleges Tournament is both a challenge and a huge opportunity for the Northeast Colleges.  As Simon Gillespie said, the weekend in November went well but there was also a lot from it that can be learned.  In the United States, March Madness basketball, all kinds of bowls in (American) Football, and NCAA Championship Hockey form the big dates in the college sporting calendars.  Colleges GAA has a long way to go to rival these events, however, with all of the work going into the organization of gaelic games at third level, Memorial Day weekend is sure to continue to become a bigger and bigger day for colleges GAA.

By Rory O'Donnell
Photos by Karen O'Connor, Moher Rose photography,

Thursday, November 21, 2013

When the Dubs Came to Town

Stephen Magill, Philly McMahon, Kevin Fagan, Ger Brennan
and Brian Rooney enjoying the celebrations Saturday night
at McGanns.
Boston was painted blue and navy last weekend when the Dubs came to town with the Sam Maguire and National League Cups.  A party of Dublin players, selectors, and the 2 cups made the 3,000 mile journey westward from Ireland to Boston, home to many natives of the Emerald Isle, amongst them many Dubliners.  It was the first time since 1976 that Dublin captured the League, Leinster, and All-Ireland trophies.  The visit was hosted by The Friends of Dublin GAA Boston, a group formed 2 years ago which also hosted a visiting party 2 years ago following the 2011 All-Ireland success. 

Jason Sherlock, Chris Sage, his cousin Ger Brennan,
and Paul Campbell at McGanns.
Star players, Ger Brennan, Dermot Connolly, 2011 captain Bryan Cullen, Darren Daly and Philly McMahon were joined by selectors Shane O'Hanlon and Michael Kennedy on the trip.  Jason Sherlock, a winner in 1995, who was in town for the week as part of a group from DCU, joined in the celebrations.  First stop Saturday evening was the Irish Pastoral Center fundraising banquet in Florian Hall, Dorchester, where Ger Brennan addressed the crowd, amongst them President Mary McAleese.  Then it was into town to a reception at McGanns Pub on Portland Street.  A group of 100 guests had a chance to meet the players, take pictures with the cups, and enjoy a celebration of Dublin's second All-Ireland in 3 years.

L-R: Shane O'Hanlon, Philly McMahon, Darren Daly, Bryan Cullen,
Ger Brennan, and Dermot Connolly visit the Boston Marathon
finish line. The autographed shirt will be auctioned with the
proceeds going to the One Fund.
The celebrations were non-stop on Sunday as the party toured several Boston area bars.  Hundreds of people, young and old, Dubs and non-Dubs, showed up as the cups and the group made their way from The Phoenix Landing in Cambridge, to The Black Rose and Mr. Dooleys downtown, on to Porter Belly's in Brighton and ending the day at The Blackthorn in South Boston.  People took photos with the trophies, and the players were more than willing to oblige those who wanted to take a souvenir pic with one or more of the stars.  On Monday the group were received by the Consul General, Brendan O'Chongaile, and then paid a visit to the finish line of the Boston Marathon to show their respect for the victims of that terrible day in April, a touch of class by the players who to be great ambassadors for the GAA, Dublin and Ireland

The lads and the cups headed home Monday night, and certainly left a great impression with everyone they met on their visit to the city.  It was a weekend that will not be forgotten too soon by those who had the good fortune to be part of it.  A big thank you to the traveling party, the committee, those who supported the event, Joe Dunne, the Consul General, the hosting bars, Guinness, Magners, Budweiser, and Dirty Water TV for helping make this weekend happen.

By Rory O'Donnell

Sunday, November 3, 2013

McGann's to Host Dublin All-Ireland Celebration Nov 16

2013 was a spectacular year for Dublin GAA.  With a haul of 4 trophies between the senior hurling and football teams, it was a year of unrivalled success.   In fact, 1976 was the last time that the Dublin footballers captured all 3 cups.   The season got off to a great start with the footballers winning the National League.  Meath proved to be a tough obstacle in the Leinster Final, but the Dubs beat off a tough challenge from the next door neighbours to land the second trophy of the year.  The fruits of more than a decade of work at hurling development were borne when the Dublin hurlers captured their first Leinster Hurling Championship in over 50 years, beating Kilkenny and Galway in the process.  An All-Ireland eluded the Boys in Blue however, as Cork narrowly defeated the Dubs in a fantastic semi-final.

The Future Looks Bright for the  Dublin Senior Footballers
The third Sunday in September the footballers hauled in their the biggest trophy of the year winning the iconic Sam Maguire Cup in fine style.  Who can forget that magical win over Kerry in a semi-final where Kevin McManamon scored a fantastic last minute goal to slay the Kingdom dragon.  The game recalled memories of 1977 when Dublin defeated the old rivals in what still is described as one of the most exciting games of gaelic football ever.  The Dubs captured the All-Ireland title against a highly fancied Mayo team.  Goalkeeper Steven Cluxton redefined the role of the goalkeeper, slotting long range frees over the bar and dictating the game with kickouts  that consistently found their targets.  It brought to mind the precision of an American Football quarterback hitting his targets.  The players dug deep to recover from an early Mayo onslaught, and late in the game held off a last minute run from the westerners to emerge one-point victors. 

With manager Jim Gavin adding young players of the likes of Jack McCaffrey and Ciaran Kilkenny to a team that already contains veterans of the 2011 championship, Bernard Brogan, Paul Flynn, Michael Darragh McCauley, and James McCarthy, the future looks exciting indeed.

On November 16 the 3 football trophies will be coming to Boston along with members of the victorious Dublin squad.  There will be a reception in McGanns on Portland St. in Boston.  Join in welcoming the players to Boston, hold the cups, and enjoy what will be a memorable celebration of this year’s success.  The event begins at 7:00, with a cocktail reception from 8-9:00.  Tickets are $100 with the proceeds going to the players fund.   Find our page on Facebook, Friends of Dublin GAA Boston, for further information.  Tickets are limited and are available through McGann’s, porter Belly’s in Brighton, or contact Sean McCormack at (617) 840-2983.