The Boys in Blue had an action packed few days in the Big Apple last weekend. No, not the ones who protect and serve the streets of New York -- the ones who served up a trifecta of championship GAA wins, culminating with a Sam Maguire Cup victory over Mayo in Croke Park in September.
The Dublin Gaelic Football team had quite the impressive year. Achieving the title of 2013 National Football League champions, Leinster champions and All-Ireland champions, Dublin wanted to celebrate their year's success in style -- and they did.
After kicking off their trip to the U.S. in Chicago, the team arrived in Manhattan on Saturday evening. Among the visitors were CEO of the Dublin GAA County Board John Costello, team manager Jim Gavin, team captain Stephen Cluxton, players Bernard Brogan, Jonny Cooper, Paul Flynn, Kevin McMamamon, Eoghan O’Gara and Cian O’Sullivan, selector Declan Darcy, media manager Seamus McCormack and 1976 and ’77 All-Ireland winner with Dublin Bernard Brogan Senior.
The champs were welcomed by the local Dublin Gaelic Football Club and the Dublin Society at Desmond's Steakhouse. With entertainment provided by Fergus Begley as well as Derek Warfield and the Young Wolfetones, a great night was had by all and Sam Maguire smiled proudly for his countless photo ops.
Among the many hosts was Jimmy Campbell, treasurer of the local Dublin Gaelic club.
“We were delighted to be able to host the Dublin team. We were happy to invite them over and give New York Dubs fans a chance to meet them and get a chance to hold the Sam Maguire Cup,” Campbell told the Irish Voice.
It was a two way street according to Dublin forward Bernard Brogan, who expressed how much being here meant to the team.
“People over here are so proud of their Irish culture and heritage. Us bringing over the cup is like bringing over a bit of Ireland to ones so far from home. To see the joy it brings to them, it’s like winning all over again,” he said.
Both in Chicago at Gaelic Park and in New York with the Shannon Gaels, the team had the opportunity to meet and greet during a coaching session with some of their younger fans who, with some practice and dedication, may just give them a run for their money one day. Brogan – son of Bernard Brogan Senior -- was pleasantly surprised by the talent.
“To hear the American accents and see them running around, hand passing and playing Gaelic football, that’s what means the most to us. We get to see the game that we play and love at home being played 3,000 miles away. A few weeks ago I was in Asia watching a GAA tournament, this week I witnessed it Chicago and New York. It’s amazing.”
One of the most memorable parts of the trip for many squad members was their private tour of One World Trade Center.
“It’s still under construction but we got to go out on the ledge and take in the whole island of Manhattan. It’s been incredible to come over to one of the best cities in the world,” said Dublin midfielder Cian O’Sullivan.
“It’s been a very humbling experience. In our minds anyway, football is confined to the island of Ireland but coming over here to the states, we see it has a much father reach.”
With last weekend having marked an anniversary for the GAA, it was the perfect time to celebrate its far-reaching impacts. On November 1, 129 years ago, the Gaelic Athletic Association was founded by Michael Cusack and six other men in Thurles, Co. Tipperary. According to Dublin manager Jim Gavin, its success has been the result of a concerted effort.
“We’ve really come a long way since 1884 and it’s a credit to everyone, not only back home in Ireland, but abroad as well. It’s the glue the binds us all together,” Gavin told the Irish Voice.
For Gavin, this trip was, simply put, a pleasure. “We’re absolutely delighted to be in New York. We’ve got a real great welcome. The games at home are all vibrant at the minute,” he said.
“The GAA is having a boom in all the cities and counties in Ireland. It’s great to see all the clubs abroad. We have over 400 GAA clubs from New York to New Delhi, and from Manchester to Melbourne. There’s a huge diaspora of Irish out there, and we’re just happy to share some the Dublin football team’s success with them. “
After completing a jam-packed itinerary including a few early mornings and more than a few late nights, it’s safe to say the team may need a holiday after their holiday. Brogan, for one, will be looking forward to some down time.
“We have a few weeks to enjoy some rest. In December we’ll put the heads back down, put the plans together for next year and start tippin’ away with training,” he said.
“Once January hits, it’s full steam ahead to try and have another go at the cup.”
They have set their own bar for 2014. It's a high one!