Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 A year of firsts for Boston GAA

2016 will be remembered as a year of firsts in the sporting world.  The Chicago Cubs, Leicester City, and Cleveland Cavaliers were among high profile winners in the professional world, and it was no different on the local front for the Boston Northeast GAA.  The Wolfe Tones won their first ever senior football championship, and Offaly hurlers won the junior championship in their maiden season.  From a Boston and Northeast perspective there was a lot to feel good about with regard to the state of affairs, however there were warning signs as well.  Two new hurling clubs joined the ranks in Providence and the aforementioned Offaly, but there was one less club in football as Kerry pulled out this year.  At underage level there was much to feel encouraged about with a team representing Boston at the U14 Feile in Ireland for the first time in 8 years, and there were successes from the local underage clubs at the CYC in Chicago. 

Having started off on an unsteady note following the AGM in February, the season passed successfully, and without major incident, under the leadership of Joe Lydon.  Kerry, who have been in existence for over a century, were added to the list of long standing Boston clubs that have bitten the dust in recent years. There are rumors that the Kingdom may be making a comeback for 2017, and please God, we will see the green and gold back on the field at Canton.  Offaly and Providence were added to the ranks of hurling clubs, bringing the total to 10 – outnumbering the men’s football clubs by one, with 9 playing football.  Indicative of how Americans are embracing the ancient game of CuChulainn, there are now 5 junior B and C hurling clubs representing all but one New England state – a club in Vermont would mean representation in each state in the region. 

Offaly hurlers won the junior championship on the first try.
There were firsts for the Wolfe Tones footballers and the Offaly hurlers.  In their third successive final, the Wolfe Tones faced a strong Galway team, a team that would have been strong enough to come out victorious in years past.  With each team coincidentally looking for their first senior championship in 27 years, the Westerners had the misfortune of taking on a Tones side that made sure that this year there would be no doubt about the outcome.  The Tones had a professionalism about them that was unparalleled and despite a gallant Galway performance, the Tones victory was comprehensive in the end.  Galway hurlers won the senior hurling, and the Boston Shamrocks their first ladies senior football championship since 2012.  The most exciting final of the weekend (from a neutral perspective) was the junior A football where Donegal defeated the Connemara Gaels by a goal.  In the much expanded junior A hurling championship, new side Offaly, made their mark straight away with a win over Galway, who themselves fielded at junior level for the first time in many years. 

Boston Shamrocks had a good year, winning a haul of 3 trophies.
A team of American Born players traveled to Philadelphia to play in an All American football competition early in the year, and were unlucky to narrowly lose out to New York in the final.

At Youth level the Boston/Northeast region sent a team of U14 boys to the Feile Competition, the first team to travel in 8 years.  The team had representatives from 5 underage clubs in the region and did well, winning 2 games and losing 1 in making the quarter finals of their section.  However a strong Hertforshire team come out on top in the quarter final following a one hour trip from Tralee to Kanturk.  The team were hosted by Ballymacelligott and the visitors could not have expected more from the local club who went well beyond the call of duty in making the American visitors feel welcome.

Boston Northeast Feile Team in Kanturk before the Quarter Final.
There was much success at the CYC for local clubs.  The competition was held in Chicago Gaelic Park, which has to easily be the largest GAA facility in North America.  For four solid days acres of sun (and rain at times) soaked fields were filled with boys and girls from all over the United States playing football and hurling.  The Irish Sports Youth League, St. Brendan’s, and Trinity Milton brought 7 national championships back to the Boston area.  The West Seneca Soccer Complex in Buffalo NY is the destination for 2017’s CYC and is eagerly anticipated by the local clubs.  (Good news for parents is that there is a Dunkin Donuts 2 minutes away from the fields – or 12 if you care to walk.)

It was a year for celebrating for the Wolfe Tones with their first senior championship.
Wolfe Tones capped off the year with a victory banquet at Florian Hall in Dorchester.  It was an emotional Gerry Prior who took the stage to address the assembled crowd with a heartfelt speech after years of disappointment.  Guests included three of the Dublin All Ireland winners – Philly McMahon, James McCarthy, and Dean Rock, Sunday Game pundit and former Derry footballer, Joe Brolly, and former Meath player, Bernard Flynn.  A great night was had by all, having the chance to rub shoulders with the visitors and listen to some very entertaining stories from their playing days recounted by Brolly and Flynn.   

A trip down memory lane:  Boston GAA Schedule for the month of May, 1973 that was published in the Boston Irish News (Courtesy of Billy Kelly).
No All-Star Game or Fenway Hurling in the Fall this year, but with changes to the registration deadline and home based requirements following the North American Board Convention, clubs will have to be on their toes to get their panels of players lined up for 2017.  AGM in February, registration deadlines in March and April, and it is on to another hot GAA summer in Boston!      

By Rory O'Donnell