The Irish community in New York are mourning the loss of a dear friend, wife and mother. Pauline Boylan Coll died last week in Ireland after a long battle with cancer. She was an amazing woman. The New York GAA family is especially saddened at the loss of such a beautiful person and today I write about her life, her contributions to football in New York and about the beautiful person she was inside and out.
Pauline, 44, was a wonderful mother, wife, friend and inspiration to many. She loved spending time with her husband, Paul, and her beautiful six-year-old son, Ethan, volunteering and getting involved in community activities. She had a contagious laugh and her good spirit was always felt by those around her. Even after she was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007, and going through months of chemotherapy, she still found a way to smile. Her smile was always a beacon of light to those around her.
Pauline, who hails from Co.Derry lived her life in New York, working and helping out in the Irish community in Yonkers and Woodlawn. She was involved in everything. Pauline had a passion for the GAA. She was the reason that these days we have so many young American girls playing on our football teams. Pauline, along with her dear friend Nollaig Cleary, pushed to start the Gaelic for Girls, and she got what she wanted. She never gave up on anything she had her mind set on. Those young girls started off playing football at 10 years of age and they have blossomed so much over the years with the help of Pauline.
I asked some of these girls what were their memories of Pauline. They all got to know her at a young age and they said she was just so nice, she always wanted them to be their best, and she gave them the drive we needed.
As well as setting up the underage girls teams, she was involved in getting a Fermanagh ladies team together. Her desire to help and her pro-active mindset left her the perfect candidate to be a development officer on the New York Ladies board for ten years. She was so strong willed, she voiced her opinions and she stood up for what she believed in. No matter what was said at meetings, she would always walk out with a charismatic smile on her face, still friends with everyone.
Even though Pauline moved back to Ireland in 2008, she always remained in contact with all her good friends in New York and kept up to date with the Gaelic football.
Last year Pauline’s son, Ethan, was the New York ladies mascot for their All Ireland final in Croke Park, Dublin. Mom could not have been prouder. The little boy who sports his mother’s amazing smile couldn't have been happier.
The girls who played on that day in Croke Park said they could hear her roaring from the stands. All positive, all motivational. It is a memory some of them will never forget.
As I walked around Gaelic Park on Saturday just gone, Pauline's second home, I was amazed at how well everybody spoke of her. Not just one or two people but everyone, of all ages, from New York and from Ireland and members from all Gaelic clubs across New York. The legacy she has left behind in that place is outstanding.
Pauline's struggle with cancer has come to an end and she is in a better place now. She fought every other battle that was thrown at her in life, but this was one that she battled for long enough and now God has blown his referee’s whistle to say "it's over".
Pauline will never be forgotten. She was always there for everyone she loved and cared for- no matter where they were in the world or no matter what directions their lives took. After her cancer took hold, that light continued to shine even on her bad days and it did not fade until she passed away on Tuesday last.
The memories of Pauline will remain with everyone who respected her forever. She would want everyone to think of the good times she's had over the years, not her struggle.
I spoke to a good mutual friend that Pauline and myself had, his words were, "Pauline was and still is one in a million. A fighter of her generation- a leader of the living generation."
She is still loved and will sorely be missed, but we can celebrate the life of this outstanding woman and take a leaf out of her book, not to take life for granted. It really is too precious.
Rest in Peace Pauline!