As the sporting world grinds to a complete halt during this COVID-19 crisis, it's hard to imagine that there was a life before this difficult month when sport played an integral role in everyday life. That was very much the case for the Boston Shamrocks; the first ladies Gaelic football team to be established in Boston. 

Founded in 1993 by Joan O'Connor-McDevitt, the Boston Shamrocks are by far the most successful women's team in Massachusetts. 

O'Connor-McDevitt hatched the idea to set up a ladies Gaelic football team while watching the North American Gaelic football finals in 1992.

As she watched San Francisco take on Chicago in the ladies' final, O'Connor-McDevitt realized that there was no women's team in Boston despite a large community of Irish immigrants. 

She believed that a Boston team could not only compete with the likes of Chicago and San Francisco in the North American finals but win the competition outright. 

And so, the Boston Shamrocks were born the following year. 

With a pool of just 15 players and no other Boston ladies teams, life at the beginning wasn't easy. There was little by way of competitive fixtures in Boston, so the Shamrocks had to look further afield. 

"We traveled to New York on a regular basis. We also traveled to Florida a couple of times for St. Patrick’s Day tournaments. These tournaments are where long-lasting friendships were formed, and, as they say in Ireland, 'The craic was mighty'", O'Connor-McDevitt said.

"In the meantime, the Shamrocks were growing and we were able to split the club into two teams to continue to keep our competitive edge going when not traveling." 

Now, the Shamrocks boast more than 50 active players and they currently field both a senior and junior team.

The club's foundation precipitated a growth in ladies football in Boston and there are now five adult women's teams in the city. In fact, former members of the Boston Shamrocks actually left the club on good terms in order to set up in new clubs in Boston and boost competitiveness. 

O'Connor-McDevitt said that the clubs' importance to the Irish diaspora is "beyond huge." 

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"It encapsulates our culture and our way of life," she said.

"We have created lifelong friendships with people from all over the world. We have basically become a family.

"I brought a piece of home with me to Boston, by continuing the tradition of the GAA and forming the Boston Shamrocks."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Boston Shamrocks have dominated the ladies Gaelic football scene in Boston. 

They have won 18 Boston Ladies Senior Championships and 14 Boston Ladies Junior Championships, in addition to two North American Ladies Senior Championships, which O'Connor-McDevitt coveted some 28 years ago when the Boston Shamrocks were born.

In February, O'Connor-McDevitt was honored at the inaugural Boston Northeast GAA awards night for her efforts in establishing a ladies football scene in Boston. 

"I was very humbled to be presented an award for being the founder of the Boston Shamrocks ladies’ football club.

"I feel this award belongs to every single person who has continued to collaborate and be the heartbeat of this club every day since its founding."

While the Boston Shamrocks (and all GAA affairs) have been placed on the back-burner in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, you can rest assured that they will back as strong as ever when things return to normal. 

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