The annual pilgrimage that New York takes to Ireland for the Feile Na Nog is upon us once more, with the Big Apple again sending an under-14 squad across the pond for the competition.
The tournament consists of six divisions with 16 teams in each division, which shows the magnitude of the All-Ireland under-14 championship.
New York has been entering teams in the competition for over a decade now, and this year’s squad will be competing in Division 2. The 2008 New York squad reached the final of Division 2 before they lost in dramatic circumstances to the Mayo county champions.
The game went into double overtime and in the end was decided by sudden death. The team that scored first won. Heart-wrenching stuff for the team and its mentors.
This year’s panel is managed by Tom Bennett from St. Barnabas. He is assisted by Gerry Walsh (Rockland), Davy Guilfoyle (Rangers) with Mike Curran (St. Barnabas) the tour manager.
The team flies out next Tuesday for the trip with a 24 strong panel of players on board. The management held tryouts in April with 56 kids coming forward.
Certainly the strength of the Minor Board was on show with numbers like that considering the team is limited to 13 and 14 year olds.
With a final panel of 24 selected, five returning players from 2008 are included -- Niall Curran, Eddie Hogan, Sean McEvoy, Garvin Lee and Kieran Walsh. Even at this young age the experience the players will bring is immense.
“We have players from three states included, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. We are delighted with the effort the players have put forth and are really looking forward to the trip and the honor of representing New York,” said Bennett.
“The work the young men have done to this point has been excellent, we have children doing homework in cars as they travel to and from training, and we really want to thank the parents for all their help in getting lads to training twice a week.”
The team will also have a player representing the team in the skills competition in Ireland. The only foreign born player to ever win the skills in the Feile’s history was a New York player, Thomas McGovern from St. Barnabas, who scored a point in the Connaught Championship this year as he has now graduated to the New York senior squad.
The time in Ireland will be very busy for the young team. They arrive in Kildare where this year’s tournament is being played and will have a challenge versus Clane before the competition begins.
They have a game against their host Athy on Friday, July 3, and then play Culla from Dublin and Suncrest, Kildare on Saturday Morning.
With four groups in each division the winner of each goes forward to the semifinals on Saturday evening. Successful there and you qualify for the final on Sunday in Newbridge.
“The standard in Division One is unbelievable; you had former players like Tony Davis (Cork), Maurice Sheridan (Mayo) and Tommy Lyons (Dublin) as managers of sides last year. We are looking forward to the challenge that awaits us in our group and hope to go one better than last year but realize that it will be a very tough proposition,” remarked the New York team manager.
Parents, supporters and the New York fans will be able to keep track of all the games in Ireland as the results will be updated on the Feile website, www.feilechilldara2009.ie, which will have updates within five minutes of completion of each game.
The trip is a big endeavor for the Minor Board each year, with fundraisers organized and tickets sold to help with the enormous cost involved. Rory Dolan’s sponsored the team jerseys, with Danny Macs putting together a golf outing to help defray some of the costs.
“I really want to thank all our sponsors this year for all their help with the trip. It is a major task and we are indebted to them for their help. We hope to do New York proud again this year and follow in the proud tradition that has become our involvement in the Feile tournament,” said Bennett.