Irish sports heroes are helping rebuild shattered Rockaways
NBC News, NY Times covering as athletes fly out from Ireland
A dedicated group of top Irish athletes this weekend are helping rebuild the shattered Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy. Their involvement is being followed by NBC Nightly News, The New York Times and many other media outlets.
They have flown out from Ireland to lend a hand and their skills to show that, while America and Ireland are an ocean apart, in the geography of the heart they remain very close as President Kennedy once said.
After an exhausting shift on the first day, GPA chairman and Cork hurling legend Donal Og Cusack was asked why the players came back after an earlier visit in November. He explained the moment he realised they had to.
"Last November we were being shown around Breezy Point by Tim Devlin when an elderly gentleman approached the group of players and asked could we help him to clear out his kitchen. We were delighted to help but when we entered the house we were met with a harrowing scene," explained Cusack.
"The gentleman's wife was sitting in tears on a chair in the kitchen; it was her first visit back to the home since the storm. The house was destroyed. As some of the players tried to console her, I noticed an old black and white photograph of a couple on the sodden ground. I picked it up and showed it to her - it was a picture of their engagement in 1948. Walking back to the bus to leave Breezy Point we made up our minds we were coming back."
Sometimes we are all guilty of taking our sports heroes for granted, even in something as grounded as the Gaelic Athletic Association, Ireland’s largest sporting organization made eup entirely of amateur players,
In the 1983 All-Ireland football final between Dublin and Galway, Dublin's Kieran Duff was one of four players sent off in a tempestuous affair; his infraction was to swing a boot at an opponent.
In the aftermath, a 12 month ban, later reduced, and relentless vilification made life very difficult for Kieran, a gifted forward and committed athlete.
This weekend, Kieran is among a 20-strong work party brought together by the Gaelic Players Association which has travelled from Ireland to help with the reconstruction effort in Breezy Point.
Duff is first up at 6am, first to make a start at the work, leading by example, good humoured, friendly, helpful and positive. When former Dublin manager Pat Gilroy was rounding up volunteers for the GPA trip, Kieran didn't hesitate to offer his skills.
One aspect about the visit of the GPA work party to Breezy Point is that it gives us the opportunity to reflect on how wonderful our GAA athletes can be off the field as well as on it.
Four-time All-Star hurler Ollie Canning from Galway, another key member of the GPA team in New York this weekend, admitted during a relentless 12-hour shift relaying a floor in the Breezy Point Youth Hall that he had grown up hearing stories about Duff and the 'Dirty Dozen' (Dublin finished with 12 players but became known as the '12 Apostles' in the capital). After spending his first shift with Kieran, who he had never met before, he could not have spoken higher about the man.
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