Friday, December 12, 2014

All Stars, Boston v NY, and Scholarships

The coming of the All Stars to Boston was a huge event for the Boston GAA.  Combined with the involvement of underage players and the Boston and New York teams, it made for a memorable weekend.  It was a novelty to head to Canton in wintry cold, as locals we are more used to bearing with extreme heat when attending games at the ICC over the summer months.  The Boston versus New York game revealed that there is a considerable appetite in both cities for competition.  The Boston v New York rivalry that is touted in relation to the professional teams was there to be seen between the Gaels of both cities.  The players in Boston enthusiastically prepared for this game, training every Sunday morning for weeks in advance.  The word is that there will be a return date at Gaelic Park in New York in April, a game for which New York will no doubt be better prepared.  The New Yorkers will have their date with Galway in May’s Connacht Championship preliminary round coming up and playing at a competitive pace can only help improve match sharpness and identify areas for improvement.  Having a cup to play for between the cities would give added meaning to the game, (or series of games), and give the home based players in the Boston area a chance to represent the division on an annual basis.

The All Star game itself was played at a pedestrian place, which is to be expected given that this trip is a reward for players who have and sacrificed tremendously over 8 or 9 months.  Some were also involved in intense club championship activity, as well as the international rules against the professionals in Australia.  The chance for us here across the Atlantic to meet the players up close, take pictures (check out facebook in the days following the game), and for the kids have a chance to be coached by the stars from Ireland was a real treat.  Many of the players were hosted at social occasions by people from their counties after the game on the following day, which helps cement the links between the GAA in the states and at home.
Budding Players from Boston and New York met the star players from Ireland,
can this link be further built upon to develop the games in the States?

Speaking of links, there were a couple of interesting articles written following the game which got me thinking about one of the biggest hurdles that underage development of the game faces in the U.S.  The issue is that of athletic scholarships to third level educational institutions.  Parents look ahead to the post high school phase of raising a family with fear; the cost of sending 2 or 3 kids to college is akin to buying a second home.  This fact has a large bearing on deciding which sports kids are registered for at an early age.  It also goes a long way to explaining the exploding popularity of soccer and lacrosse.  In their own right, Gaelic games measure up favorably against either of these two, and also even against the likes of baseball or American football.  Unfortunately, at this stage in the game, Gaelic sports do not offer such scholarship opportunities and when compared to the other sports we are at a significant disadvantage.  There are examples of talented kids who have come through underage ranks being offered athletic scholarships for other sports, and not playing GAA sport for fear of losing the scholarship.  Also, trying to attract kids from a “non-traditional” background has an added barrier for this same reason.  Some adult clubs have introduced scholarship programs to attract or retain players who have come through underage ranks, and this is an element that needs to be focused on for the long term prospects of the game in North America.

In today’s Irish Times, Sean Moran’s article talked about scholarship funds raised by the GPA and awarded to players at home, and also mentioned that some of the funding was raised in the United States.  Many parents here consider sending their kids to Ireland as International Students to attend college, and some colleges are actively recruiting international students from the U.S.  A scholarship program for promising players coming through underage ranks to attend either a college in Ireland, and participate in the GAA set up at that school, or even to attend one of the colleges in the US that is part of the budding efforts to introduce the games at third level here, would be a beginning in attempting to breach this barrier.  The involvement of the GPA and/or a third level institution in Ireland could be part of that effort.  There is a huge effort going into trying to develop games with the youth all across the United States with introducing the games, organizing competition, and sourcing equipment and facilities.  The scholarship is one piece of the games development puzzle that can help make a breakthrough.

By Rory O'Donnell

Sunday, November 30, 2014

All Stars, Boston v New York Light Up the ICC

There was celebrity and action aplenty at the Irish Cultural Center on Saturday afternoon.  A crowd of around 700 hardy souls braved the cold temperatures to see the locals take on New York and the top tier players from Ireland take the field to contest the 2014 All Star game.  While the All Stars produced exhibition stuff, the Boston versus New York game got heated as sparks flew in the second half with neither side willing to concede defeat.  The inclusion in the proceedings of underage players from the Boston area as well as the Shannon Gaels who traveled from New York made the connection not only between the two cities in the Northeast corner of the United States, but also with the folks at the highest level of the GAA in Ireland who came in numbers. 

The Boston and Shannon Gaels Under 12 teams got proceedings off to a start.
The day started with a Boston Under 12 side facing the national champions, Shannon Gaels from Queens New York.  The Boston kids were under pressure for most of the game as the Gaels exhibited some great hand passing skills and broke through for some early scores.  Boston generated their share of chances but at the half there was a sizeable gap on the scoreboard.  The second half saw the New Yorkers continue their dominance, but Boston had success in putting some scores in their column. 

Kieran McDevitt (2013 Team) and Mark Dunphy (2014 Team).
Goals were the order of the day in the All Star game as the 2013 side came out winners by a score of 5-5 to 9-7.  It was a great occasion for two local players who came through the underage ranks, Kieran McDevitt and Mark Dunphy, who got their chance to share the field with the stars.  The young Americans were very much involved and fitted into proceedings seamlessly.  Rob Hennelley produced some fine saves to earn the man of the match award, while at the other end Bernard Brogan, Sean Kavanagh, and Aidan O’Shea fired home some bullets.  The 2014 side attempted a second half comeback, but despite the efforts of Ryan McHugh and Paddy McBrearty to find the path to goal, the 2013 teams defence, and Hennelly, prevented a comeback with some scrambling rearguard action.  

2013 bang in another goal.
With the final whistle the youth players who come in numbers stormed the field armed with notebooks, pens, jerseys, and footballs in search of autographs.  One enterprising youngster produced a bag with several county jerseys, pulling out the relevant one based on the player doing the signing!  Connections were made and restored as folks based on this side of the pond connected with players from their local areas or counties after the game. It is a testament to the association and the players that they make themselves available without question to meet and chat, take photos, and all in the best of spirits. 

2013 Team:  Rob Hennelly (Mayo), Bernard Brogan (Dublin), Seán Cavanagh (Tyrone), Martin Dunne (Cavan), Lee Keegan (Mayo), Drew Wylie (Monaghan), Aidan O' Shea (Kerry), Michael D. Macauley (Dublin), Colm Boyle (Mayo), Conor McManus (Monaghan), Seamus O' Shea (Mayo), Cian O' Sullivan (Dublin), Donnchadh Walsh (Kerry), Rory O' Carroll (Dublin), Paul Flynn (Dublin), Colin Walshe (Monaghan), James O'Donoghue (Kerry).

2014 Team:  Keith Higgins (Mayo), ),  Neil Gallagher (Donegal), Paul Murphy (Kerry), Michael Murphy (Donegal), David Moran (Kerry), Cillian O' Connor (Mayo), Paul Durcan (Donegal), Neil McGee (Donegal), Fionn Fitzgerald (Kerry), Ryan McHugh (Donegal), Colin O'Riordan (Tipperary), Shane Walsh (Galway), Paddy McBrearty (Donegal), Tony Kernan (Armagh).

Boston 1-9 New York 1-9

The senior football match between Boston and New York really showed the potential for competition between the cities.  The game was keenly contested throughout, and on a number of occasions players were cautioned as things heated up down the stretch.  Boston started fast and looked like they could take the spoils in the late stages, but New York outscored their opponents four points to one in final few minutes to salvage a draw.  An unfortunate episode late in the second half saw Kieran O’Connor, New York’s full back, suffer an ankle injury that will require surgery.

Boston Football Team
The game opened with Cormac Joyce-Power and JJ Matthews trading points.  Boston got off to the faster start and moved the ball well and at speed for the opening 10 minutes as the forward line looked lively.  Noel Graham added to the lead, while a penalty following a pick-up in the square was deftly put away by Robert Croft.  Gary Brilly at center back had drawn the assignment of marking Longford man, Matthews, and was a leading light in Boston’s efforts.  Brilly’s anticipation and follow through when challenging for the ball was an example to his side.  A Matthews goal following a solo run through the heart of Boston’s defence settled the visiting side and the New Yorkers proceeded in putting the Boston back line under heavy pressure.  Boston defended well, and at times appeared to have an extra defender to help close down attacks as New York deployed the sweeper system.  Corner forward Colm McGinn who dropped back to shore up the defence left Niall Gallen to shield the corner backs on the Boston side.  

New York Football Team
At this stage options were scarce for Boston to move the ball past their own half forward line as it was all hands to the pump in defence.  New York’s half back line held what looked like a perimeter that their opponents could not breach.  Brian Connor, formerly of the Connemara Gaels, converted a free and Mike Hallissey stole forward for a point to put the visitors into the lead heading into half time.  Truth be told, the gap between the teams could have been more were it not for a fine save from Connolly who tipped a ball heading for the corner around the post.  Some wayward shooting from New York did not help their cause, and a rare Boston move into the opposing half saw Croft level the scores just before the break and make it 1-3 each.

The second half saw New York pick off two early points, Gary O’Driscoll and a Connor free, before Paddy Coakley was called upon to pull off a save from close range prevent a goal.  Boston found their groove as the half progressed and tallied five points on the trot.  Ian Whelan drew Boston level, and Dan McCabe put a well worked effort over the bar that began with his Wolfe Tones clubman Gary Brilly in the back line.  McCabe pointed again and Croft put two frees over the bar to see Boston into a three point lead as the hosts who had looked tired, found life with about 15 minutes left.  Things had been getting testy with referee Tadhg Lucey issuing yellow cards to try and maintain order amid flare ups on and off the ball, a few of the players wearing the result of the skirmishes after the game.  With the end in sight and the game looking like it was headed in favour of the hosts, New York lifted themselves and drove forward.  

With the push on to restore parity, Connor put another free over the bar, and shaved the top of the crossbar shortly afterwards to reduce the gap to one.  Ian Whelan won a couple of key midfield balls to relieve the pressure on his side.  Joe Fitzpatrick put Boston back into a two point lead, and almost restored it to the three only to see his effort drop just short.  A lengthy stoppage ensued as Kieran O’Connor suffered a bad ankle injury when in possession.  After play resumed points from Ciaran Hughes and Matthews brought the teams level before the whistle for time sounded. 

Boston:  Eoin Connolly, Niall Gallen, Damien Doolan, Sean Doherty, Mike O’Brien, Gary Brilly, Sean Conneeley, Ian Whelan, Sean Moriarty, Joe Fitzpatrick, Noel Graham, Coleman Mulkerrins, Dan McCabe, Cormac Joyce-Power, Robert Croft.  Subs:  Matt Smyth, Paddy Coakley, Gareth O’Neill.  
New York:  Gavin Joyce, Ronan McGinley, Kieran O’Connor, Ger McCartan, Keith Scally, Mike Hallissey, Keith Quinn, Brian Connor, MJ Fitzgerald, Keith O’Connor, JJ Matthews, Ross Wherity, Luke Loughlin, Gary O’Driscoll, Colm McGinley.  Subs:  Richie Morgan, Ciaran Hughes.

By Rory O'Donnell

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Boston Ready to Host All Stars

The All Stars are almost here!  Next Saturday is shaping up to be a day not to miss for GAA fans and supporters in the Northeastern United States.  The Boston Northeast Division and the Irish Cultural Center are hosting a traveling party of 100 from Ireland, including GAA and GPA dignitaries, referees, media, and of course a star studded group of 30 of the top Gaelic footballers in the world who will play on the storied turf at the ICC in Canton.  The ICC and Boston GAA have hosted All Star hurlers and footballers shortly after the facility opened in 1999, and since then, to great success, the Martin Donnelly Interprovincial football and hurling finals.  President Liam O’Neill, and President elect Aogain O’Fearghaill, will be making the trip, as will GPA President, Dermot Early.  The delegation arrives on Thursday, and there will be a series of events, including a reception with the Consul General, before the big day on Saturday. 

2014 Player of the Year - James O'Donoghue
Jim Gavin, Dublin manager, will be taking care of the 2013 All Star team, while Mayo’s James Horan will manage the 2014 selection.  2013 and 2014 players of the year, Dublin’s Michael Darragh McCauley and Kerry’s James O’Donoghue are part of the trip, as is 2014 young player of the year, Donegal’s Ryan McHugh.  The underage players in the region will have the exciting opportunity to train with the All Stars on the morning of the game.  At 9:30 the players will hold a camp for the underage players in the region, what a chance for a young kid to learn from the best players there are!  All underage players are welcome to participate.

The Boston Gaelic Football panel received a visit from Mikey Harte during their preparations.
Not only will folks be journeying across the Atlantic, a sizeable contingent of adult and underage players will be heading up Interstate 95 from New York to participate in the historic proceedings.  A Boston selection will play New York’s Shannon Gaels in a U12 challenge game to get the action rolling at 11:00.  Then it is the turn of the Boston and New York senior players at 12:00.  The local home based players seldom have the opportunity to play together and have jumped at this chance.  For New York, entrants to the Connacht Senior Football Championship each year, this is an opportunity to play against North American based opposition.  While the game is billed as a challenge, Boston versus New York in any sport is seldom that, neither team will want to come out on the losing end of this one.   
Boston U12s will face the National Champions, Shannon Gaels of New York.
So, plenty to look forward to as the two biggest GAA cities in North America come together with the best of the best from Ireland.

2013 Team: Rob Hennelly (Mayo), Bernard Brogan (Dublin), Seán Cavanagh (Tyrone), Martin Dunne (Cavan), Lee Keegan (Mayo), Drew Wylie (Monaghan), Aidan O' Shea (Kerry), Michael D. Macauley (Dublin), Colm Boyle (Mayo), Conor McManus (Monaghan), Seamus O' Shea (Mayo), Cian O' Sullivan (Dublin), Donnchadh Walsh (Kerry), Rory O' Carroll (Dublin), Paul Flynn (Dublin), Colin Walshe (Monaghan), James O'Donoghue (Kerry).

2014 Team: Keith Higgins (Mayo), ), Neil Gallagher (Donegal), Paul Murphy (Kerry), Michael Murphy (Donegal), David Moran (Kerry), Cillian O' Connor (Mayo), Paul Durcan (Donegal), Neil McGee (Donegal), Fionn Fitzgerald (Kerry), Ryan McHugh (Donegal), Colin O'Riordan (Tipperary), Shane Walsh (Galway), Paddy McBrearty (Donegal), Tony Kernan (Armagh).

Boston Squad: Eoin Connolly ( Connemara Gaels) , Paddy Coakley (Mc Anespies) , Colin Mc Carron (Donegal) , Sean Doherty (Donegal) , Shane Kelly (Shannon Blues) , Damien Doolin (Connemara Gaels) , David Clifford (Shannon Blues) , Sean Connelly (Connemara Gaels) , Garry Brilly (Wolfe Tones) , Pat McNicholas(Connemara Gaels) , Conor Mullen (Shannon Blues) , Niall Gallen (Mc Anespies) , Paudie Kenneally (Christophers) , Collie Donnelly (McAnespies) , Pat Murray (Shannon Blues) , Ian Whelan (Kerry) , Noel Graham (Connemara Gaels) , Matt Smith (Donegal) , Gareth O’Neill (Mc Anespies) , Mike O’Brien (Wolfe Tones), Coleman Mulkerins (Connemara Gaels) , Cormac Joyce-Power (Wolfe Tones) , Robbie Croft (Kerry) , Conor Fitzgerald (Shannon Blues) , Ciaran Mc Devitt (Donegal) , Sean Moriarty (Shannon Blues) , Joey Fitzpatrick (Kerry) , Dan Kenneally (Christophers) , Dan McCabe (Wolfe Tones) , Shane Kavanagh (Shannon Blues) , Joe O’Shea (Kerry) , Mark Dunphy (Donegal).

New York Squad:  Gavin Joyce (Cavan), Ger McCartan (Kerry), Kieran O’Connor (Kerry), Ronan McGinley (Cavan), Keith Scally (Westmeath), Anthony Sweeney (Kerry), Lee Kelly , (Rockland), Mike Jim Fitzgerald (Kerry), Brian Connor (Leitrim), Keith O’Connor (Cork), Colm Maginn (Cavan), Seán Dalton (Cavan), JJ Mathews (Longford), Gary O’Driscoll (Kerry), Luke Loughlin (Westmeath), Jer O’Sullivan (Kerry), Tommy Warburton (Cavan), Richey Morgan (Armagh), Michael Hallissey (Armagh), Liam Deane (Barnabas), Shane Hogan (Barnabas), Ciarán Hughes (Leitrim), Mickey Leneghan (Cork), Ross Wherity (Kerry), Damian McCaughey (Manhattan Gaels), Seán Liddy (Armagh), Keith Quinn (Leitrim), Seán O’Neill (Cork), Jason Kelly (Offaly), Ciarán Brennan (Leitrim), Eoin Ward (Cavan), Dermot Mullen (Cork).

The Irish Cultural Center is located off Route 138 in Canton Mass.  Take Rte 138 South off I93/Rte128.  After 2 sets of lights, turn right on New Boston Drive and drive straight into the car park.  Check out or or follow us on Facebook, Boston Northeast GAA.
Saturday, November 29.
Schedule of events:
10:00 Underage training with All Stars
11:00 Boston U12 v Shannon Gaels U12 New York
12:00 Boston v New York Senior Football

1:30 2013 All Stars v 2014 All Stars Senior Football

By Rory O'Donnell

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Gaelic Football All Stars Coming to Boston

Saturday, November 29 2014 is lining up to be a day to remember at the Irish Cultural Center.  The cream of Gaelic Football talent from Ireland, along with adult and underage players from Boston and New York will be part of a celebration of the GAA and the sport of Gaelic Football.

Kieran Cox puts the players through their paces.
The 2014 All Star team was picked last week and features 5 players from champions Kerry, 4 from beaten finalists Donegal, and 3 each from semi finalists Mayo and Dublin.  These players along with the 2013 All Star team, will play at the ICC in a game featuring the cream of gaelic football talent from this year and last year.  Boston Northeast Board Chairman, John Cunningham, feels that the event represents a massive opportunity for the local division to promote and grow the games in the region.  “As we continue to grow our games in the Northeast it is vital that we be able to host more games of this magnitude and I am confident that that everyone will see from this game that we are more than capable of doing so” said John.  “By allowing us to host inter county games it will greatly enable us to promote the GAA and advertise our underage programs to a greater audience.  It also affords our underage players the chance to meet and practice with top caliber players from the GAA, and will encourage them to continue playing the games into adult level” continued the chairman. 

John also indicated that an event of this magnitude provides a spotlight in which the Boston Northeast division can shine in with the presence of senior members of the GAA and the cream of the country’s talent.  “It is a great honour for me as Chairman of the Northeast Divisional Board to welcome both the 2013 and 2014 All Stars to Boston.  I would like to thank the executive committee from Croke Park for allowing us to showcase our facilities at a GAA event of this magnitude” added John.
Getting the abs in order.
Of course, the weekend will be about more than the stars from Ireland.  The home based players from Boston and New York will also get the opportunity to show their stuff.  John has been impressed by the response from the local players and had words of praise, “I would like to thank the Boston Senior football team and management for the efforts they are making in preparing to play our neighbors and good friends in New York.  New York compete in the Connacht Football Championship each year, so may have a leg up on the Boston lads who have not yet played together as a team, not least against top tier opposition from Ireland.  John feels that with proper preparation that day may not be far away for Boston.  “New York are preparing for another all Ireland campaign, something that we feel we could someday soon be represented in at adult level through the North America County Board,” said John. 

Tralee native Brian Kennedy is managing the Boston side and along with Gerry Prior (Wolfe Tones) and Michael McGinty (Donegal) the local team is in good hands.  Brian has managed the Shannon Blues to two Boston senior football championships and has taken the reins to manage the Boston team that will play New York.  The Boston home based players rarely have a chance to get together and play as a team, and Brian is greatly appreciative of the support and backing the group has received from Boston Northeast Chairman.  “JC has backed us from the start and to be asked to manage Boston is an honor” said Brian.
The group has been training the last two weeks and Brian is enthused by the response from the home based players.  Turnout at training has been almost one hundred percent with home based players from the local clubs showing a real desire to represent Boston in five weeks time.  “There has been a great response,” said Brian.  “The commitment is great, the lads are putting it in on the training ground and giving everything for the game” he added.  As for the game itself Brian is sure that the Boston side will represent themselves well against their counterparts who have inter-county championship experience.  “If we keep this going for the next 5 weeks we will give New York a good game.  We do not just want to show up, we want to win the game.” 
In addition to the adults, Gaelic footballers based on this side of the pond, the kids will also get their chance to shine.  A Boston Under 12 team will play Shannon Rangers on All Star Game day.  Players from the local underage teams will get together to face Shannon Gaels, one of New York’s pre-eminent underage clubs.  Training for the Under 12s takes place on Sundays at 1:30 at the ICC.  GDA Kieran Cox is managing the Boston team.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

North American Finals Report

The grounds at the Irish Cultural Center were looking in immaculate shape for the North American Finals over Labor Day weekend.  There were three days of games, 120 teams, and 2,500 players competing for the county finals in several grades of men’s and ladies Gaelic football, hurling, and camogie.  Senior dignitaries traveled from Ireland to witness the largest Gaelic games event outside of Ireland, and get a first-hand look at the main event in the calendar of the GAA in North America.  President, Liam O’Neill, President elect, Aoghan O’Fearghuil, and Camogie chairperson, Aileen Lawlor and Ladies football president Pat Quill, were present for the three day event to witness the fruits of the efforts of the exiles and enthusiasm and passion that the native born Americans have for the games of the Gael.  Local teams ended up with a haul of 6 national trophies, while Ulster of San Francisco made it three in a row in the final game on Sunday.

It was all action all the time from eight on Friday morning till 5:30 on Sunday evening.  With teams representing all parts of the United States and Canada, as well as the Cayman Islands, the event truly represents North American GAA.  The hurling clubs of St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis continue to impress while the more traditional strongholds of the GAA in North America, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, were well represented.  Of course, the Boston teams and supporters were out in force and by the time we reached the finals day there were still nine of the original 14 teams that entered the competition still standing and in with a chance of a national championship.

Donegal junior Bs fell at the first hurdle to Setanta by a goal, while the Shannon Blues were well beaten on Saturday by Washington DC.  There were two teams entered into the Division 2 football competition, which is an Intermediate or Senior B level championship.  The first was an American Born selection that fell to Kevin Barry’s of Philadelphia on Saturday morning, while a team made up mostly of the Cork junior A team, along with some additions from other clubs, were defeated by Vancouver.  Fr. Tom Burke’s let a place in the final against local rivals Galway slip through their hands.  Leading by eleven points against Naomh Padraig of San Francisco in the second half, Tom’s conceded 3 goals and failed to make much of an impact in the final 15 minutes of the game.  The San Franciscans celebrated a great comeback win while Tom’s were stunned at the final whistle.

On other fronts the news was better.  There would be representation in all hurling grades.  Galway came through in their semi-final against Toronto, while Wexford beat a mostly American born Indianapolis outfit in the junior A semi-final.  Barley House Wolves advanced to the junior B final, and Worcester earned a crack against St. Louis in junior C.  The Tir na nOg ladies advanced with a one sided win over San Francisco, and Boston Shamrocks defeated Pittsburgh at junior level.  Eire Og made the camogie final with a good win over Baltimore, while the Shannon Blues senior footballers eventually shook off as stiff challenge from Chicago St. Brendan’s and Donegal beat Sons of Boru in the junior A final to set up a Sunday with plenty of local interest
Worcester Capture First NACB Title

Worcester Celebrate
The day began at the crack of dawn with Worcester taking on St. Louis in the junior C hurling final.  Worcester captured their first North American championship with a 3-7 to 1-6 victory over St. Louis.  Worcester got off to a great start and were ahead at the half, but as the game wore on the scores dried up for the local side.  The defence was called upon to hold the line and prevent Worcester from denting what was a 2 goal lead over the final 10 minutes.  An insurance point came from Liam Kelly.  With three scores between the teams and the anticipation mounting the final whistle was met with unbridled joy.

In junior B action, the Barley House Wolves gave it a good rattle but ended up on the losing end to San Jose by a score of 1-13 to 2-15.  It was a good tournament overall for the BHW who fielded teams in the junior C and junior B completion, making the semi-final in one and the final in the other. 

Junior A Football Final

Donegal junior A footballers were crowned junior A football champions following an objection against Chicago’s John McBride’s.  Having lost out by a score of 0-17 to 3-9 it was ascertained that McBride’s fielded a player who was sent off in the previous day’s senior match with St. Brendan’s.  It really should not have come to that as having led at one point by nine points, Donegal conceded two goals and five points in the final 10 minutes.

The Chicago side netted an early goal and Donegal battled back.  Owen Grant, Pauric McLaughlin and Christy McLaughlin pulled their side back with points, though the Mid-western team, it must be said, were guilty of some wayward shooting.  Jonathan Byrne was a busy man between the posts for Donegal and on a couple of occasions scrambled to prevent a second Chicago goal.  With Donegal making better use of their chances the home side went in leading by a score of 0-9 to 1-3 at the break.

The second half saw Donegal open up the lead to nine points.  Donegal enjoyed most of the possession with Dean Kelly and Mark Dunphy moved the ball well in the middle of the field.  Outscoring their opponents seven points to one over the following 15 minutes Donegal looked to be cruising.  Chicago looked dangerous when in possession however. The visiting side pulled back a goal, and following that Byrne made two fantastic saves.  The writing was on the wall however.  The high ball into the corner forward was proving a successful tactic and a third goal went in to reduce the gap to two points.  With Chicago winning every kickout and Donegal now struggling to win any sort of possession three points on the trot saw the boys from the Windy City take the cup at the death, but later news confirmed that it was Donegal official winners following the objection.

Junior A Hurling Final

Vancouver Hurlers
The junior A hurlers of Wexford faced a very strong looking Vancouver side in the junior A hurling final.  Wexford were up against it from the beginning.  An early goal from the Canadians was followed by the loss of Brian Dalton to a red card and the home team were chasing the game the rest of the way.  Wexford could not dent the a three point differential. 

Things got off to a bad start for Wexford with Brian Dalton getting sent off for a reckless challenge.  Vancouver had got off to a great start by contrast with an early goal from Wille Donnellan.  Wexford pulled closer thanks to some accurate free taking by Dave Power.  A golden chance at a goal went awry when Jamie Keogh’s penalty effort went wide of the posts.  The Boston side did draw level, and were fortunate to see a Vancouver goal waved off for a square ball.  The Canadians finished the half the stronger side with three points on the trot to lead 1-6 to 0-6 at the break.

Another goal early in the half by Donnellan for Vancouver proved to keep their noses ahead throughout the second half.  Wexford drew within a goal following four points on the trot from Power frees.  The key for Vancouver was to maintain a clean sheet in the goals column and the visiting side accomplished that part of their mission.  With Peter Ryan ploughing a lonely furrow inside the 21 the prospects for Wexford were not good.  The sides traded points as Vancouver matched some long range efforts by Wexford with some well taken efforts of their own, but that gap could not be reduced by the home team.  A deserved win for the Canadian side and captain Tommy Burke was gracious in his victory speech after accepting the trophy from Liam O’Neill.

Ladies Senior Football Final

Lisa Brick with the Ladies Senior Football Cup
Tir na nOg met Aisling Gaels of Chicago in the Ladies senior football final and claimed the national title that they came so close to in San Francisco two years ago.  After a tight start to the game Tir na nOg got into the rhythm that they have shown all season and ended up comfortable winners by a score of 3-14 to 1-6.

After falling behind by two early points from the Chicago outfit the Brighton side got the boost to put them on track with a Jenny Byrne goal.  Chicago almost made amends, but Niamh Hynes made a superb save from a close range shot.  After the visitors leveled the scores to make it a one goal to three points game, Tir na nOg took over.  With the midfield of Jane Moore and Ciara O’Connor doing well, Shauna Jackson, Lisa Leonard and Byrne converted points while Caroline Nee goaled after her first attempt was saved.  At the break it was a 2-6 to 0-3 lead for the home side.

Hynes was alert to dangerous ball on a couple of occasions to make sure that a comeback would not be on the cards.  The Brighton ladies picked up in the second half where they left off the first, on top in most positions and defending in numbers when the situation required it.  Leonard, Jackson and Byrne pointed before Nee netted her second and her team’s third goal.  With the game entering the final quarter and Tir na nOg holding a 13 point lead it began to look academic.  Chicago continued the battle and added a couple of points to the tally, but at that stage a minor miracle would be needed.

Boston Shamrocks Juniors
Boston Shamrocks made it two for two for Boston on the ladies football front with a close run victory over St. Mike’s of Toronto in the junior A final.  The home side came out on the right side of a 3-13 to 2-14 final to capture the first North American title since the seniors took the cup in Philadelphia in 2003.  Leading by 10 points at the break, Toronto stormed back into the game and drew level, forcing extra time.  The Shamrocks held a two point lead till late in the game and breathed a sigh of relief to see a last minute effort fly wide of the posts.

Eire Og with the Senior Camogie Championship Trophy
In the senior camogie championship, Caroline Hanley’s last after 16 years with the Boston outfit, Eire Og captured the cup with a 2-7 to 0-9 victory over Toronto to continue the legacy of North America’s most successful camogie club.

Senior Football Final

Shannon Blues 0-9 Ulster 2-15

Ulster celebrate the third NACB senior football championship
Shannon Blues met Ulster, the reigning champions, in the senior football final.  Ulster retained the North American championship with room to spare, and in doing so won their third in a row.  Two first half goals set Ulster on their way, and in the second half a loss of personnel for the Blues due to disciplinary issues made it all the easier for the San Francisco side in the end.
After a two points to no score start for the Blues, life became difficult for the Boston champions.  Liam Connerton netted for Ulster after the San Francisco team opened up the Blues defence.  Greg Loughran added a point before Mike Brosnan pulled one back for the Blues.  Ulster opened up the Blues defence on several occasions, and at one point hit the crossbar.  The Ulstermen had to settle for points but a second goal was on the cards and it came from  Luke Kelly. 

The Blues had to work hard to generate scores.  Much of the ball that went in to the danger area was dealt with by the Ulster defence.  Steven Coogan free kicks kept the Blues side of the scoreboard ticking over.  Sean Moriarty and Luke Kelly traded points before the break to make it 2-8 to 0-6 in Ulster’s favour at the half.

Ulster extended their lead in the second half with a couple of quick points from Jason Lennon and Harry Og Conlan.  Things did not improve from the perspective of the home side after Cathal Long was shown a black card for a reckless challenge on Luke Kelly.  After Daly and Kelly added to the differential, Sean Moriarty was sent to the line.  With Ulster leading by double digits and the Blues already struggling the rest was fairly predictable.  Ulster retain the national title, and for the Blues it is still a missing place in the trophy cabinet after the fourth attempt.

Blues:  C. Wallace, C. Long, T, Wallace, D. Clifford, J. Walsh, D. McElligott, S. Moriarty, K. Byrne, S. Kavanagh, D. Treacy, M. Brosnan, D. Wallace, S. Coogan.  Ulster:  D. Devlin, G. Hannigan, C. Pike, P. Duffy, P. Bonny, D. Murphy, G. Loughran, C. Daly, L. Kelly, A. McKenna, M. McCartan, L. Connerton, H. Conlan.

Senior Hurling Final

Galway 3-13 Naomh Padraig 2-11

Galway senior hurlers NACB champions!
Galway made amends for last weekend’s defeat to Fr. Tom’s with a well earned victory in the NACB final against a game Naomh Padraig from San Francisco.  Galway led from 15 minutes in and the closest that their opponents got was 5 points in the second half.  Rory Hickey at center forward played a great 60 minutes, while Chris Murphy won the John Hehir player of the tournament trophy.   On an additional note, American Born Dan Swetland had a senior hurling medal to go with his junior C won earlier in the day.

Galway asserted themselves once the first half got going and some accurate free taking by Rory Hickey, and a John Moylan goal had them eight points to the good at the break.  After taking a five points to one lead, Galway were hit with a Robert O’Donnell goal.  O’Donnell, who played with Tipperary in Boston last season, swung one handed to land the ball into the corner of the Galway net.  Dave Concannon and O’Donnell followed with a point each and the westerners were level mid way through the period.  Galway then went on a run of a goal and seven to a single point from San Francisco.  With Skehill’s puckouts dropping just outside the San Fran 21 and Hickey under them, things were going Galway’s way.  Moylan’s goal came a few minutes before the break and Galway were looking good coming into the second half.

There were two goals in it with 10 minutes to go, though the side from the City by the Bay had come back from larger odds the previous day.  O’Donnell had got behind the Galway defence for a second goal, and again two points followed to cut the gap by five.  Both sides worked hard, Galway to keep the lead and Naomh Padraig to reduce it.  Chris Murphy at wing back for Galway did well, and Galway closed down the opposing side.  Moylan and Skehill each put superb points over the bar.  Moylan’s was a sideline from 45 yards and Skehill’s a booming from inside his own 65.  With Galway leading by nine points things started to get a little heated.  JJ Doyle was shown red and Robert O’Donnell yellow.

Two late goals from pat Ahearne and Dan Wallace made sure that Galway would be kings of North America for the first time since 2003.

Galway:  J. Skehill, P. Dowling, M. Lennon, JJ Doyle, C. Murphy, J. Kinsella, P. Holden, G. Malone, R. Hickey, P. Ahearne, J. Moylan, T. O’Hanrahan, D. Wallace.  N. Padraig:  J. Burke, C. McDonagh, D, McGreal, C. Clince, P. Moban, D. O’Connor, T. O’Brien, M. Sheehan, J. Ryan, R. O’Donnell, D. Concannon, J. Bergin, B. Burke.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Junior B Football Final: Donegal v Shannon Blues

Shannon Blues 1-11 Donegal 2-5 
Shannon Blues Junior B captain, Simin Sinnott, presented with the cup.
A young Shannon Blues team captured the junior B championship in convincing style on Saturday evening.  Donegal battled to stay in the game, but a last minute goal came a little too late to provide any realistic hope of pulling off a comeback.  The Blues proved to be that bit fitter and stronger and remain unbeaten at this level for the season.  .
A highly competitive first half saw the Blues take the break four points to the good.  Steady free taking from James Young and a Conor Fitzgerald goal half way through the period had the Blues on top.  Donegal tallied a fine goal from Chris Rush after some great work by Jason McDaid and Matt Cutliffe, but the Blues had that little bit more going forward and finished the half with points from Tommy Hernon Young.  At the break it was a 1-7 to 1-3 Blues lead.
Matthew Cutliffe on the attack for Donegal.
The Blues extended the lead to seven points following the restart.  Donegal endeavored to eat into the deficit, but attacks from the northerners frequently met their end within 30 yards of goal.  Barney Friel entered the fray and brought some tenacity to Donegal’s efforts, but even when a shot got off the ball ended wide of the mark. 
The Blues always looked dangerous when on the attack, Cian Moriarty pointed late in the game.  The Blues sat on the lead as the light began to fade, and Donegal searched for a way a route to goal through the defence, but met with dead ends until Chris Rush forced a shot over the line from close range.  Unfortunately for Donegal time was up seconds later and the Blues deservedly earned the title and a crack at the North American next weekend.
Blues:  Gary Henry, Mike Moriarty, Mike Keegan, Pat Moriarty, Simon Sinnott, Damien Sweeney, Maurice Young, Pat Murray, Cian Moriarty, Brendan Driscoll, Conor Fitzgerald, James Feeney, Tommy Hernon.  Donegal:  Chris McLaughlin, Phil McCaffrey, Michael McBride, John Deery, Hugh Devine, Luke Reden, Mark Dunphy, Ciaran McDevitt, Jason McDaid, John Duggan, Ronan Shovlin, Matthew Cutliffe, Chris Rush.

By Rory O'Donnell

Senior Football Final: Wolfe Tones v Shannon Blues

Wolfe Tones 0-12 Shannon Blues 1-13

Another Boston Championship for the Blues
Shannon Blues captured their second senior football championship in three years in a nail biting encounter with first time finalists, Wolfe Tones.  A large crowd enjoyed a superb final that could have gone either way until the final few minutes.  It was all square with ten minutes left, and Blues finished with four points on the trot to end up on the winning side.

It was an up and down battle in the first half with each side making forays into opposition territory with each kickout.  Marty Farrell and Sean O’Connor traded three points each to get things going, O’Connor’s left boot was working well as was Farrell’s accuracy from the frees.  The Tones then went on a run of four unanswered points.  Darragh McVeety put two tremendous efforts over the bar, and Michael Argue another.  In the meantime Charles McCarthy had to make way due to an injured leg, and on came Dan McCabe. 

Blues Captain Sean Moriarty presented with the trophy by
John Cunningham
The Blues started to threaten and worked an opening for Darragh Treacy who put the shot from the edge of the penalty area wide of the far post.  Sean Moriarty was then in for another goal chance but his shot was a little high and went over for a point.  Farrell put another great score over for the Tones, before O’Connor answered in kind with a fine point, this time off the right boot.  Darragh Walsh added another fine score for the Blues.  It was helter skelter up and down the field at this point and Cathal Hynes pulled off a fine save to deny the Blues a goal and preserve the Tones lead.  At the break it was an eight points to six Tones lead.

Before the second half was three minutes old the Blues had turned the deficit into a three point lead.  Two quick points from Treacy and Moriarty had the teams all square before Treacy finished a strong run with an uncompromising shot that billowed the net.  The Tones were not discouraged and their running game paid dividends as they ran at the Blues defence.  Frees were conceded by the Blues and Farrell took advantage on two occasions.  A Killian Clarke pointed a 45, along with a McCabe point had the Tones level, a Sean O’Connor point came in between for the Blues.

As the game entered the final stretch Hynes pulled off two fantastic saves to keep the Tones in it with the Blues ahead by a point.  O’Connor had put the Blues ahead with another excellently taken point before James Walsh had only Hynes between him and a goal.  The second chance fell to Darren Wallace as the Tones were hanging on to keep the game from getting away from them.  Hynes dived to his left and put the ball out for a 45 that was put over the bar by Niall Murphy.  With two points in it and the game still in reach Michael Brosnan and O’Connor each pointed to put two scores in it with time expired.  A great win for the Blues who will be looking to bring a North American Final to Boston next weekend once the celebrations die down sometime during the week!

Blues:  Conor Wallace, Trevor Wallace, Gareth Ryan, David Clifford, James Walsh, Denis McElligott, Ambrose O’Donovan. Kieran Byrnes, Sean Moriarty, Sean O’Connor, Darragh Treacy, Paul O’Connor, Niall Murphy.  Subs:  Darren Wallace, Shane Kavanagh.  Tones:  Cathal Hynes, Killian Clarke, Luke Flynn, Kevin Gorham, Kian Cleere, Mike O’Brien, Gary Brilly, Michael Argue, Darragh McVeety, Glenn O’Connell, Lee Carr, Marty Farrell, Charles McCarthy. Subs:  Sean McGuire, Dan McCabe, Cormac Joyce-Power, Darren McGuire.

By Rory O'Donnell

Senior Hurling Final: Galway v Fr. Tom Burke's

Fr. Tom Burke’s 3-13 Galway 1-11
Tom's celebrate their first Boston championship victory in 10 years.

Fr. Tom Burke’s bridged a 10 year gap and captured the senior hurling championship for the first time since 2004.  A brilliant second half performance from substitute John Mulhall turned the tables in favour of Tom’s, and two goals in the latter period by Ian McDonnell earned Tom’s a well deserved victory over arch rivals Galway.  

The first half was marked by several wides early on from Tom’s and later in the half from Galway.  In the meantime Galway tallied six points, Rory Hickey, John Moylan, and Paul Holden contributed to the tally.  A Galway penalty resulted in a point after Alan Keating deflected James Skehill’s shot over the bar.  Tom’s found the going tough around the half forward line.  Galway’s first line of defence was solid and much of the ball dropping in that area was returned from whence it came.  A goal kept Tom’s in the game.  Joe Fitzpatrick crossed the ball to Ian McDonnell who batted home from the far post for Tom’s first score of the game.  Fran Keenan pointed once from a free and once from a sideline cut to keep it close.  At the break Galway led by a score of 0-7 to 1-5.
Tom's Captain Cormac Joyce-Power

Tom’s stormed out of the gates following the restart and the fortunes of the forward line greatly improved.  Kilkenny man John Mulhall had been introduced just before half time and with his presence on the field, Tom’s game had some added bite to it.  After a three points to two start to the second half, Ian McDonnell’s persistence resulted in a goal.  The chance came from a Shane Howley hook further out the field broke up the Galway’s possession, and the ball ended in McDonnell’s hand.  The big man’s strength made the opening for the shot.  Galway’s John Moylan got the goal back minutes later.  A clean grab from a puckout and Moylan was off to the races and finished well into the corner of the net.

The goal reduced Tom’s lead to two points as Keenan had hit three frees.  Tom’s further extended their lead with points from Keenan, McDonnell, and Mulhall and the belief grew among the Tom’s supporters in the crowd that the day could be theirs.  On the field Tom’s dug deep and every ball was tightly contested as they could taste the win.  Galway needed a goal as time was running out, but it was McDonnell who netted for Tom’s and rounded off his hat trick with 2 minutes to go, the goal another where strength and persistence paid off to put the ball over the line.  There was too much for Galway to do at that stage and Tom’s celebrated a well earned victory. 

Tom’s last Boston championship was also marked with a NACB championship.  Seamus Higgins, who started on Sunday, was also on that Tom’s team that dominated in Denver in 2004.  San Francisco’s Na Fianna will be coming to town looking to make it four North Americans in a row, Tom’s will have their work cut out.

Tom’s:  Alan Keating, Gordon Joyce, Cahir Healy, Dylan Costello, Cormac Joyce-Power, Niall O’Brien, Seamus Higgins, David O’Mahoney, Ian McDonnell, Zane Keenan, Shane Howley, Joe Fitzpatrick, Oisin Burke.   Galway:  James Skehill, Paddy Dowling, Chris Murphy, Sean Phelan, Greg Lally, JJ Doyle, Odhran Floyd, James Regan, Paul Holden, Rory Hickey, John Moylan, Thomas O’Hanrahan, Richie Cummins.

By Rory O'Donnell

Ladies Senior Football Final: Connacht Ladies v Tir na nOg

Tir na nOg 3-10 Connacht Ladies 1-13

Back on Top - Tir na nOg Senior Football Champs
Tir na nOg and Connacht Ladies played a tremendous senior final.  Unbeaten this year, Tir na nOg were pushed all the way by the defending champions, who looked out of contention a few short weeks ago.  Each side dug deep when the chips were down in the second half, and it was late second half goal by Roisin Leonard that proved to be the difference between the teams in the end.

Intense Stuff in the Ladies Senior Football Final
Two Shauna Jackson goals in the opening period had Tir na nOg ahead of Connacht Ladies.  Playing at corner forward Jackson stole behind the defence on two occasions to finish well.  The first came mid-way through the half, and the second just after back to back points for the reigning champions drew them within two points.  Jenny Byrne punished fouls by the Connacht back line with five points from frees. 

Connacht were a match for their unbeaten opponents and played their best football of the season.  Catriona Smith at wing forward was especially effective, and Jane Ward showed some of the form of the past two years to keep their side in the game.  Catriona Foley at full forward showed well for the ball and when in possession looked dangerous.  Foley answered Jackson’s second goal with a well taken effort right from the kickout and at the break it was a two point lead for the challengers.

The second half saw each side fight for every ball and inch of space in an effort to gain the upper hand.  With fifteen minutes to go it was all square.  A Byrne free had put three points between the teams, but Connacht answered with three in a row.  The leveling score came from Joanne Conroy who was also found to be helping her defence soon afterwards.  Each set of defenders made enormous efforts to deny the opposing forward lines room to move the ball, full back Ellen Healy came out with the ball on a number of occasions for the Brighton side, and Connacht Ladies Siobhan Polly denied Tir na nOg scoring chances several times. Tir na nOg goalkeeper Niamh Hynes made two brilliant saves to prevent the defending champions from netting what would be a go ahead goal early in the second period.

A breakthrough came for Tir na nOg when substitute Roisin Leonard came up with a goal.  Leonard looked dangerous at times, and a high ball found her behind the defenders and the corner forward finished well.  Byrne followed with a pointed free and there was five points between the teams with five minutes to go.  Connacht attacked in force as the clock ticked towards the final whistle.  Aisling Kerr had a half chance that she got under and put over the bar and Tir na nOg held on to win their first senior championship since 2011.  That year the Brighton side fell to Mairead Farrell’s of Philly after a brave comeback in the final that fell just short.  Best of luck next weekend at the finals in Canton!

Tir na nOg:  Niamh Hynes, Niamh O’Neill, Ellen Healy, Amy Potts, Niamh Daly, Alison Taylor, Louise Bergin, Jane Moore, Ciara O’Connor, Lisa Leonard, Tessa Mullen, Sinead Bannon, Lisa Brick, Jenny Byrne, Shauna Byrne.  Connacht Ladies:  Caroline Heraty, Kelly Cunningham, Aisling Egan, Hazel Poff, Sinead Greene, Siobhan Polly, Emma Mulgrew, Claire McDonald, Joanne Conroy, Catriona Smith, Caoimhe Moran, Aisling Kerr, Jane Ward, Catriona Foley, Nora Morgan.

By Rory O'Donnell