The talent, skill and heart displayed by 25 lads from Ireland last weekend earned the New York Irish soccer team a place in the semifinals of the prestigious Copa soccer tournament this coming Saturday.
After four challenging games, knocking out early favorites Columbia, then Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, the Irish lads were elated to have booked their place in the final four on Saturday. They will play Cyprus for a place in the finals.
On Saturday, July 25, the Irish team beat Columbia 3-2. Kurt Smith of Lansdowne Bhoys, scored two of the three goals and Sean Purcell, direct from Ireland, was the other scorer.
The boys then lost 3-2 to France. Alan O’Hara, Clemson University, scored one of the goals and Gary Tierney another.
The last game on Saturday evening was against Trinidad and Tobago. The Irish again won 3-2 with Conor Hunter, Lansdowne Bhoys, getting a hat trick for the team.
On Sunday, Ireland handily defeated the Jamaicans with a 5-2 win. Hunter scoring one goal, Declan Reilly, Lansdowne Bhoys, one and Smith stealing the show with three wonderful goals sealing a place in the Copa semi-finals this weekend.
Proud of his team, manager and trainer, Paul Doherty from Donegal told the Irish Voice on Sunday that he was delighted with the skill and heart his players, most whom were born in Ireland, displayed on the pitch over the course of the weekend.
Said Doherty, “I’m very proud of my squad. They have all given me 110 % and more. Kurt Smith, Conor Hunter and the lads upfront really chased and worked and finished everything that came their way. Alan O’Hara and Gary Tierney, the center of defense, were outstanding, composed, brilliant play from the back and Sean Purcell and Declan Reilly in the middle have been outstanding.”
Now that the Irish team has made it to the semifinals, Doherty said it gives those who were injured this past weekend an opportunity to show their skills at a high level against Cyprus next weekend.
“We had a few injuries so far. We are hoping to have Damien Mescall back for next weekend. He was a big loss this weekend. He will hopefully be back for Saturday though. He is our set piece specialist and we need to get him back. We also lost Croaker with a knee injury who was a big loss for us so we hope he will be back too.”
Doherty said the team that proved most difficult for the Irish lads was Trinidad and Tobago.
“That was probably the most difficult game because it was the game we needed to win to qualify. The lads didn’t leave us down. They had to dig deep and we had to use everybody on the 25 men panel to get this far,” said Doherty.
Doherty, who said it would be great if all the promised sponsors came through, urges all Irish and Irish Americans to come out to support the Irish team on Saturday.
“We’d love a bit of backing from our community. So many of the lads on the team are from all different counties in Ireland including Dublin, Galway, Wexford, Cork, Belfast, Tyrone to name but a few.
“It’s good to have people in New York come out and support their own lads,” said Doherty.
The Copa tournament is an annual multi-national soccer tournament consisting of 16 national teams chosen from a selection of participating communities around the New York area, each representing their own culture and heritage.
From the Irish community 25 players were chosen, as well as selectors, coaches and a team president. ESPN soccer commentator and Co. Louth native Tommy Smyth is president of the Irish team.
Next weekend Ireland will face tournament favorites Cyprus at the Metropolitan Oval, 60-58 60th Street, Maspeth, Queens. Games start at 7 pm on Saturday. Ireland and Cyprus are due to take the field at 8pm. For more information about the tournament and directions to the Metropolitan Oval, log onto www.copanyc.us.