THE St Colum’s U15 football team certainly took a bite out of the Big Apple on their recent trip to the east coast of the USA.
The gargantuan task of organising a New York trip was the brainchild of Noel ‘Con Thade’ Cronin, a native of Borlin, who has resided in New York since emigrating back in 1998.
Those years in New York have not diminished his love and affection for home and his native St Colum’s. Noel has always returned home regularly and his holidays have always coincided with the Colum’s Cúl Camp, so that his young family could mix with friends and relations at home.
Noel had previously organised a trip with his New York Celtics U12 boys’ and girls’ teams to Kealkill in 2016 and plans were in place for this return trip before the pandemic occurred in early 2020. Noel was in charge of the New York Féile team this year, so it was the perfect opportunity to do it
It was a busy time for the Colum’s U15s. First, they won the West Cork Féile in Clonakilty, defeating O’Donovan Rossa in the final. They did lose out to eventual county winners Carrigtwohill at the semi-final stage in Mahon but that defeat was softened by the small fact that they had to pack their bags for a New York trip the following day!
This was a special week for all who travelled. The three valleys of Kealkill, Mealagh and Borlin have long had strong links to New York with many emigrating from the area to the New World. Placenames such as Woodlawn, Yonkers and Pearl River have long been as familiar to locals as any local townland. Many local families have long-established links on both sides of the Atlantic and it was an opportunity for all who travelled to meet up with ‘neighbours’ who just happen to be living a couple of thousand miles away.
The team, under the management of Tim O’Brien, Michael O’Connell and Anthony Murnane, had a very demanding schedule of games throughout the week.
The team played New York’s Féile teams in both codes in Gaelic Park in the Bronx on the Tuesday night after they arrived. These were very competitive games against two teams that will be travelling to Mayo in June for the All Ireland Féile.
On the Sunday, the team travelled upstate to the hamlet of Pearl River and Rockland GAA in the appropriately named Orangetown of Rockland County for a football and hurling blitz with Rockland, New York and the Boston Féile teams.
Again, everyone enjoyed the state-of-the-art facilities in Rockland, with a fabulous day of games, food and musical entertainment.
This trip was about much more than Gaelic Games, however. The players got the opportunity to attend a New York Rangers v Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey game in Madison Square Garden before venturing down to Times Square for late-night street entertainment.
On day excursions, players got the opportunity of taking the Staten Island Ferry around Ellis Island, viewing the city from the observatory of the Edge, shopping on Fifth Avenue, exploring Central Park and visiting the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
There is little doubt that it was a week which will live long in the memory of this group of young players. Friendships were strengthened and forged which will endure into the future.