There was celebrity and action aplenty at the Irish Cultural Center on Saturday afternoon. A crowd of around 700 hardy souls braved the cold temperatures to see the locals take on New York and the top tier players from Ireland take the field. While the All Stars produced exhibition stuff, the Boston versus New York game got heated as sparks flew in the second half with neither side willing to concede defeat. The inclusion in the proceedings of underage players from the Boston area as well as the Shannon Gaels who traveled from New York made the connection not only between the two cities in the Northeast corner of the United States, but also with the folks at the highest level of the GAA in Ireland who came in numbers.
The day started with a Boston Under 12 side facing the national champions, Shannon Gaels from Queens New York. The Boston kids were under pressure for most of the game as the Gaels exhibited some great hand passing skills and broke through for some early scores. Boston generated their share of chances but at the half there was a sizeable gap on the scoreboard. The second half saw the New Yorkers continue their dominance, but Boston had success in putting some scores in their column.
Goals were the order of the day in the All Star game as the 2013 side came out winners by a score of 5-5 to 9-7. It was a great occasion for two local players who came through the underage ranks, Kieran McDevitt and Mark Dunphy, who got their chance to share the field with the stars. The young Americans were very much involved and fitted into proceedings seamlessly. Rob Hennelley produced some fine saves to earn the man of the match award, while at the other end Bernard Brogan, Sean Kavanagh, and Aidan O’Shea fired home some bullets. The 2014 side attempted a second half comeback, but despite the efforts of Ryan McHugh and Paddy McBrearty to find the path to goal, the 2013 teams defence, and Hennelly, prevented a comeback with some scrambling rearguard action. With the final whistle the youth players who come in numbers stormed the field armed with notebooks, pens, jerseys, and footballs in search of autographs. One enterprising youngster produced a bag with several county jerseys, pulling out the relevant one based on the player doing the signing! Connections were made and restored as folks based on this side of the pond connected with players from their local areas or counties after the game. It is a testament to the association and the players that they make themselves available without question to meet and chat, take photos, and all in the best of spirits.
2013 Team: Rob Hennelly (Mayo), Bernard Brogan (Dublin), Seán Cavanagh (Tyrone), Martin Dunne (Cavan), Lee Keegan (Mayo), Drew Wylie (Monaghan), Aidan O' Shea (Kerry), Michael D. Macauley (Dublin), Colm Boyle (Mayo), Conor McManus (Monaghan), Seamus O' Shea (Mayo), Cian O' Sullivan (Dublin), Donnchadh Walsh (Kerry), Rory O' Carroll (Dublin), Paul Flynn (Dublin), Colin Walshe (Monaghan), James O'Donoghue (Kerry).
2014 Team: Keith Higgins (Mayo), ), Neil Gallagher (Donegal), Paul Murphy (Kerry), Michael Murphy (Donegal), David Moran (Kerry), Cillian O' Connor (Mayo), Paul Durcan (Donegal), Neil McGee (Donegal), Fionn Fitzgerald (Kerry), Ryan McHugh (Donegal), Colin O'Riordan (Tipperary), Shane Walsh (Galway), Paddy McBrearty (Donegal), Tony Kernan (Armagh).
Boston 1-9 New York 1-9
The senior football match between Boston and New York really showed the potential for competition between the cities. The game was keenly contested throughout, and on a number of occasions players were cautioned as things heated up down the stretch. Boston started fast and looked like they could take the spoils in the late stages, but New York outscored their opponents four points to one in final few minutes to salvage a draw. An unfortunate episode late in the second half saw Kieran O’Connor, New York’s full back, suffer an ankle injury that will require surgery.
The game opened with Cormac Joyce-Power and JJ Matthews trading points. Boston got off to the faster start and moved the ball well and at speed for the opening 10 minutes as the forward line looked lively. Noel Graham added to the lead, while a penalty following a pick-up in the square was deftly put away by Robert Croft. Gary Brilly at center back had drawn the assignment of marking Longford man, Matthews, and was a leading light in Boston’s efforts. Brilly’s anticipation and follow through when challenging for the ball was an example to his side. A Matthews goal following a solo run through the heart of Boston’s defence settled the visiting side and the New Yorkers proceeded in putting the Boston back line under heavy pressure. Boston defended well, and at times appeared to have an extra defender to help close down attacks as New York deployed the sweeper system. Corner forward Colm McGinn who dropped back to shore up the defence left Niall Gallen to shield the corner backs on the Boston side. At this stage options were scarce for Boston to move the ball past their own half forward line as it was all hands to the pump in defence. New York’s half back line held what looked like a perimeter that their opponents could not breach. Brian Connor, formerly of the Connemara Gaels, converted a free and Mike Hallissey stole forward for a point to put the visitors into the lead heading into half time. Truth be told, the gap between the teams could have been more were it not for a fine save from Connolly who tipped a ball heading for the corner around the post. Some wayward shooting from New York did not help their cause, and a rare Boston move into the opposing half saw Croft level the scores just before the break and make it 1-3 each.
The second half saw New York pick off two early points, Gary O’Driscoll and a Connor free, before Paddy Coakley was called upon to pull off a save from close range prevent a goal. Boston found their groove as the half progressed and tallied five points on the trot. Ian Whelan drew Boston level, and Dan McCabe put a well worked effort over the bar that began with his Wolfe Tones clubman Gary Brilly in the back line. McCabe pointed again and Croft put two frees over the bar to see Boston into a three point lead as the hosts who had looked tired, found life with about 15 minutes left. Things had been getting testy with referee Tadhg Lucey issuing yellow cards to try and maintain order amid flare ups on and off the ball, a few of the players wearing the result of the skirmishes after the game. With the end in sight and the game looking like it was headed in favour of the hosts, New York lifted themselves and drove forward. With the push on to restore parity, Connor put another free over the bar, and shaved the top of the crossbar shortly afterwards to reduce the gap to one. Ian Whelan won a couple of key midfield balls to relieve the pressure on his side. Joe Fitzpatrick put Boston back into a two point lead, and almost restored it to the three only to see his effort drop just short. A lengthy stoppage ensued as Kieran O’Connor suffered a bad ankle injury when in possession. After play resumed points from Ciaran Hughes and Matthews brought the teams level before the whistle for time sounded.
Boston: Eoin Connolly, Niall Gallen, Damien Doolan, Mike O’Brien, Gary Brilly, Sean Conneeley, Ian Whelan, Sean Moriarty, Joe Fitzpatrick, Noel Graham, Coleman Mulkerrins, Dan McCabe, Cormac Joyce-Power, Robert Croft. Subs: Matt Smyth, Paddy Coakley, Gareth O’Neill. New York: Gavin Joyce, Ronan McGinley, Kieran O’Connor, Ger McCartan, Keith Scally, Mike Hallissey, Keith Quinn, Brian Connor, MJ Fitzgerald, Keith O’Connor, JJ Matthews, Ross Wherity, Luke Loughlin, Gary O’Driscoll, Colm McGinley. Subs: Richie Morgan, Ciaran Hughes.