Brian Cowen on the ball in the Bronx
Irish Prime Minister took time out to go to a Gaelic Park football and hurling camp
There was only one thing on the minds of young boys and girls in Gaelic Park in The Bronx on Monday morning, and that was learning to play Gaelic football and hurling at the 2010 New York Cúl 4 Kids Summer Camp.
For some of the older kids, however, a welcome distraction from the sweltering heat came just in time when Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen arrived at the GAA pitch in the Bronx to meet the children from the weeklong football camp and share some of his pitch skills with them.
Cowen, accompanied by an entourage of dignitaries both from Ireland and the U.S., took time out of his hectic schedule to visit the home of New York GAA.
It was a nostalgic time for Cowen, the first ever Irish prime minister to visit Gaelic Park in an official capacity, as he once played football in New York for the Offaly team when he was a student.
Cowen was greeted by 164 young children of Irish descent running drills, kicking footballs and balancing hurley sticks on the newly constructed astro turf at Gaelic Park.
Cowen, after a brief meet and greet with camp staff, New York GAA board members and some parents, set aside the adult talk and got stuck in with the kids. In mid 90-degree temperatures the Taoiseach spent a considerable amount of time with a young group of boys and girls who were learning the skills of hurling.
Cowen borrowed a hurley and sliotar (hurley ball) from a young man named Owen and began to show his little spectators the correct way to shoot with a stick. After several demonstrations of his former hurling skills, Cowen returned the hurley to the child and coached a few of the boys and girls to do the same.
Noticing an idle football out of the corner of his eye, Cowen marched towards it -- pausing every few seconds for pictures with some of the children -- and set it up right in front of the goals. It was clear by the way he tugged up his trousers and rolled up his sleeves that he was ready to relive his former football days at the park.
As he positioned himself for a penalty shot, 12-year-old Conor Mathers couldn't believe his eyes.
"I really didn't expect him (Cowen) to start shooting against me," Conor told the Irish Voice.
After shooting a wide the first time Cowen borrowed another football and tried again, this time missing as Conor, who plays with Shannon Gaels, dived to the ground to save the goal.
Seemingly enjoying his moment away from the headaches of politics, Cowen wasn't ready to throw in the towel, but another three superb saves from young Conor saw him give up.
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."
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