BY JOHNNY CAROLAN
ON April 11th, the east coast of the USA is set to briefly become a Kealkill exclave as the St Colum’s U15 squad crosses the Atlantic Ocean.
Noel Cronin, a Colum’s emigrant and brother of club vice-chairperson Colm, is involved with the New York team that is set to travel to Ireland for the Féile na nGael competition and from that the idea of a trip to the Big Apple developed. In fact, it was initially mooted three years ago.
‘New York’s team is made up of eight or nine teams within the five boroughs,’ says Colm Cronin.
‘It’s their main underage outlet. They don’t really get any games over there, they usually come to Ireland a week before the Féile and set up camp and play a few games.
‘My brother Noel is the manager and we had this planned three years ago, only Covid scuttled it. We were doing it to mark the 50th anniversary of St Colum’s and there’s a club in New York called New York Celtic which was set up in the same year – it was founded by two fellas who left the Colum’s area and a guy from Armagh.
‘This year, we got it going again after Christmas and we said we’d try it. We’d have liked to go a bit later but we couldn’t with exams and, in any case, we’d be nearly coming back with New York on the plane for their trip here so it was a bit too tight, if anything went wrong.’
Colum’s will take 21 players and there will be three sets of first cousins playing against each other – football and hurling games are planned. In total, there is a travelling party of 54, something not without its challenges, Cronin admits.
‘To book flights to New York, it’s a tough gig with so many,’ he says.
‘It took us a month to get that sorted on its own, we’re travelling from Shannon with American Airlines.
‘Originally, we had thought that we’d have the bones of 30 going but, once people were interested, more joined in.
‘When it was 30, we had been planning on arranging accommodation over there like the Féile system, staying in people’s houses, but then it got too much and we couldn’t do it. Instead, we had to rent houses over there for the week and trying to get them all in the same area was a challenge.
‘There’s a lot of work gone into it, but in fairness an awful lot has been done from the New York side, too. It’s a big thing for them to have a team going out to them, it doesn’t happen that often.
‘Lads have been selling lines locally and there’s been a great uptake and we’ve sponsors who came on board straightaway when they heard and we’re very appreciative of that, too.’
The team is managed by Tim O’Brien, Mike O’Connell and Anthony Murnane and they certainly won’t be taking things easy once they arrive.
‘We’re going out on the Tuesday after the bank holiday weekend and we’re playing the New York Féile team in Gaelic Park,’ says Cronin.
‘We’ve a function together after that, eating with the New York team. The following Sunday then, we’re heading up to Rockland County in upstate New York, about an hour from Manhattan. We’re playing New York again and Boston are coming down, too.
‘We’re bringing the hurleys with us too and we’re going to play the New York hurling Féile team as well.
‘We’ve other things lined up, too. We’re going to Madison Square Garden on Thursday night for an ice hockey game.
‘Realistically, you can’t go to New York without having things planned, especially if you’re trying to get 50 or so people into a place.
‘We’ve very little downtime – we’re on the go once we hit there.’