Brian Cowen on the ball in the Bronx
Irish Prime Minister took time out to go to a Gaelic Park football and hurling camp
After shaking the goalkeeper’s hand, Cowen whispered, "I hope you'll be goalkeeper for New York someday," to Conor, whose mom Stephanie is from Co. Down and dad, Collie, from Co. Armagh.
Conor couldn't but hide the proud smile on his face.
Standing by watching Cowen in action were three young boys all under eight. When the Irish Voice asked if they knew who the taoiseach was they all nodded in confidence.
A young man named Evan donning a helmet said he was the leader of Ireland and was an "independent something."
His friend Patrick said he is "like the president but not the president, he is the president of sport I think," but Eoin set them straight saying he was the taoiseach of Ireland and the government.
Mary, who joined a group of smaller children all about six, told the Irish Voice her “mom said he (Cowen) is an important man from Ireland and gives her family money in Ireland.”
As all the children gathered for a picture with the taoiseach, word spread that the Secret Service was in the park.
“Can the Secret Service come into the picture,” asked a little boy with brown hair.
One young girl donning a yellow t-shirt broke away from the group to shake the hands of a Secret Service agent. She squealed with excitement as one of the tall men in a grey suit paid her some attention.
“He was a real Secret Service man,” she told her friends as she returned to the group for the photo.
New York GAA President Larry McCarthy described Cowen’s visit to Gaelic Park as “an honor.”
“We are delighted that the taoiseach has taken time to visit us here and especially during the kids camp,” said McCarthy.
“It also gives us a chance to show him the redevelopment of Gaelic Park and what we do here.”
Summer camp leader Roger Slattery, whose parents hail from Tipperary and Clare, said a visit by Cowen was a sign of the “wonderful support we get from the government in Ireland.”
“The taoiseach’s visit just shows that everyone wants to keep the tradition of Gaelic sports alive around the world,” said Slattery.
Cowen stopped by at one of the drill camps to speak with summer student Siobhan MacCourt, 20, who was recruited for the week to teach the children football skills.
As she ran them through their paces, Cowen had a few friendly words with MacCourt about her time in New York and gave her words of encouragement.
MacCourt, a student at Maynooth College, is in New York playing football for the summer with the Fermanagh team.
“I didn’t expect him (taoiseach) to come and speak with me so it was a surprise but a nice surprise. He is very nice,” said MacCourt still a little red-faced after her encounter.
As Cowen left the park, the children went back to their drills and football games. One young man ran with some friends and under his breath he could be heard saying, “I think that Irishman would be a good goalkeeper, but he’s too old to play with us.”
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