An Under 16 Ladies Football team from New York has touched down in Waterford this week to play football, pick up some tips and forge new transatlantic friendships.
More importantly, their presence in Waterford this week is part of an ambitious programme that New York GAA hopes will lead to the securing of All-Ireland honours within a decade.
This is the first time that the team has travelled to Ireland and for Portlaw native and New York GAA’s Eugene Brophy; the trip marks an important step in the panel’s development.
“Until now, there’s been nothing for girls beyond 14 years of age when it comes to competitive football in New York, so this team is a way of providing further games for girls that wish to keep playing the game,” he said.
“We’ve got 200 young girls playing football between the ages of eight and 16 and we started working on the underage element of the game here about six years ago, so it’s grown pretty quickly.
“Putting the under-16s in place is part of a 10-year-plan to win an intermediate or a junior All-Ireland title. We know that’s going to take a lot of hard work but we feel we’ve made a good start in that respect.”
The panel was received by the County Board on Monday and will be based at WIT for a training camp under the guidance of Eugene McKenna, whose training acumen is well-known to New York GAA.
The team will play as well as train in challenges against Limerick’s Ballylanders tonight (Wednesday) in Portlaw and face Cahir in Lismore 24 hours later.
On Friday, New York travel to Ballmacarbery for their third game but before competing in a blitz composed of the aforementioned quartet on Saturday, starting at 3.30.
“We couldn’t bring a football team to Waterford without going to Ballymac,” added Eugene Brophy.
“It’s a club which has formed the foundation of so many Munster and All-Ireland success for the county and it’s a great thrill to bring a team from New York there.”
The team is managed by Leitrim’s Paddy Gormley, while Pauline Brophy (Cork), Teresa O’Reilly-Bowden (Cavan) and Louise Fox (Tyrone) from his selectorial team.
Derek McGrath, who has coached De La Salle’s hurlers to back-to-back Harty and Croke Cup successes, will address the panel during their time in Waterford.
“Given his recent victories, Derek is sure to have some interesting pearls of wisdom to share with the girls,” added Eugene, whose daughter Ashley is a panellist.
He continued: “A lot of these girls are first generation Irish Americans whose parents emigrated from Ireland in the mid-80’s, long before the Celtic Tiger was even a cub!
“The parents never lost their love for Irish sport and they’ve passed on this passion to their children.”
Eugene Brophy was warm in his praise for all who’ve assisted in this trip, particularly the efforts of Waterford County Board and WIT in helping bring this week about.
“It should be a great week,” he said. “And while gaining skills and picking up tips and playing matches is enormously important, giving the girls a chance to meet fellow GAA members back home and making new friends and having the bit of craic is just as significant.”
The New York panel is: Roisin Clarke, Teresa Daly, Nicole DeMimo, Ann Dunleavy, Marie Dunleavy, Ciara Griffen, Margaret Moore, Kate Kirwan, Ashley Brophy, Mary Ann Gormley, Caroline McBrien, Katie McEvoy, Bridget Mulligan, Ashley Callery, Cecelia Purce, Katie Kilkenny, Molly Boyle, Kelsie Boyle, Caitlin Hynes, and Brighid Bennett.