Last weekend witnessed the debut of New York’s minor hurlers in Connacht, and the results demonstrated that the Big Apple youngsters can compete confidently there.

The matches were a great test for these young players who have developed as a team over the last 12 weeks, but concomitantly a great testament to the effectiveness of New York’s hurling development unit. 

The young hurlers played against county teams that have been in existence for a few years, plus who also had the added advantage of training and playing consistently in various competitions throughout Ireland. The results from the competition at Cranmore may not show young Yanks winning at Ireland’s most native game, but they came mighty close. 

Sligo had two points to spare, Roscommon just one, and they drew with Mayo. Overall the players played with great skill, heart, and determination, and their mentors and managers were very proud of their efforts. 

NY U17 Hurling Development Trip: Sunday saw our debut in Inter-County Hurling matches and the results demonstrated that...

Posted by New York Minor Board on Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Wearing the New York colors on this historic occasion were John Carroll, Kieran Carbin, Jimmy Carmody, Oliver Connolly, Michael Dermody, Ethan Flanagan, Donovan Gallagher, Pat Green, Thomas Kelly, Eoin Kennedy, Jack Lyons, James Lyons, Fintan McGourty, Ronan Melly, Cody Murphy, Cormac Murphy, Daithi O’Connor, Ronan O’Leary, Kealan O’Meara, Tadgh O’Neill, Cormac O’Reilly, Quinn Russo, Colm Ryan, and Liam Spillane. 

The team and their management are extremely grateful to the New York Minor Board and the Hurling Board for their support as well as Eamon Fitzgerald’s expertise and also to Richie Hartnett for his exceptional training and mentoring skills. 

This certainly was a weekend of engaging and intense hurling for these youngsters. Not only did they get a great opportunity to display their skills, but they also got the opportunity to see some of Ireland’s currently greatest hurlers in action. 

The New York minor team was invited to the double-header at Limerick: Clare vs. Dublin and Galway vs. Tipperary. Well as chance would have it, the well-decorated New York coach entered the parking lot at the same time as a former young Yank, namely Marty Morrissey

Of course, the American flags and bunting caught the attention of Ireland’s greatest Gaelic sports broadcaster, and the former Bronx boy came to investigate. Once photos and autographs were secured, Morrissey promised the young hurlers that they would be recognized during one of the games.

Upon entering the Eastern Terrace of Limerick Stadium, the New York under-17 hurlers were a very visible presence with their US-colored jerseys and of course, the Star Spangled Banner fluttering in the warm breeze. Morrissey was true to his word and just before halftime in the Galway vs. Tipperary match, the youngsters went from match attendees to guests of the GAA.

The players came down from the terrace and were led through the tunnel to the Dublin dressing room, where they were accorded treats and snacks, to get ready for their field debut. The young hurlers then paraded onto the field and lined up as each had their names read out. 

After their moments in the spotlight, the young hurlers were relocated to the premium section where they mingled with GAA brass, players, and their families. What an incredible experience for these minor hurlers, and perhaps it will be a while before they fully realize the magnitude and the authenticity of the experience. 

A very eventful sporting day was then finished with dinner at the Hungry Lion, Supermac’s, or Apache Pizza. The nightcap was apparently more hurling among themselves at the University of Limerick’s main field.

Though there was plenty of fun and excitement on the playing fields, both as players and spectators, there was plenty of fun and good craic off the field too. On the second day of the trip, the entourage headed to the Aqua Dome in Tralee. Here the limits of the jacuzzi were tested before security cast an admonishing eye on the antics. 

Next it was on to Kerry’s coastal town of Ballyheigue, which happens to be the home place of trainer Richie Hartnett. What better place to stop for 99s than at the Hartnett shop? 

Then it was time for a round of sand hurling, with Cormac Murphy leading the way into the ocean followed by Ronan O’Leary and Ethan Flanagan. What a brrrr. 

The main event of the day was a trip to the Causeway GAA grounds. Here there was a royal battle between the natives and the visitors, as the lead swung back and forth, but the Causeway boys emerged victorious after an action-packed hour liberally sprinkled with some great vignettes of skill. 

Then there was a presentation by the Causeway GAA of a trophy to Eoin Kennedy and two hurleys to James Lyons and Daithi O’Connor for exceptional play. Mike Kennedy responded by presenting a plaque and three New York medals to three outstanding Causeway players as well as a New York jersey to the club. 

The Big Apple young hurlers, along with their management, were extremely grateful to Eamon Fitzgerald, a legend here, the Causeway GAA, and of course, the Forge for refreshments. The general consensus at the conclusion of this hurling odyssey was that future of this Gaelic game is in good hands.

*This column first appeared in the July 6 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication.