Old friends from Ballinskelligs find a common goal in New York
Your columnist’s GAA adventures in the US never happened in New York.
The next one I ever got was Hartford, an unfortunate late draw and a sad wave goodbye to the Worcester Fenians bus heading north. Great days.
All of that came to my mind when a buddy forwarded pictures of the New York GAA jersey launch. Among the players and officers were the two sponsors: What I noticed wasn’t the fact that they were both from the same county, but from the same little village in that county.
John Fitzpatrick took a call during the week: his company Gotham Drywall Inc is the name on the back of the New York jersey. Navillus is the name on the front, the Society of the O’Sullivan Brothers. ..
“Donal is the largest union concrete contractor in New York City for the past eight or ten years,” says John Fitzpatrick.
“He’s always very generous to the Irish community here. As my father always said, the O’Sullivans are people who have never forgotten where they come from. “
Where exactly that is is one of the most remote corners of South Kerry.
“The O’Sullivans are from Ballinskelligs. If you know where the intersection is near the beach, you can find the new cemetery and their house will be close enough.”
Fitzpatrick knows the area well: his family home is close enough at the same intersection.
In New York, his drywall company has nearly 500 employees on their books when there is no lockdown.
How did a few guys from a few mornings on the West Coast come to sponsor the New York GAA team?
“It’s always nice to get involved with an Intercounty team. Donal has been with us for five or six years, and I got involved this year – we were interested in sponsoring the team for a couple of years, and then it came out for this year.
“The connections between us go all the way back. I remember Donal educating us as minors in 1983. “
Fitzpatrick extended the summer in New York: The shortage of J-1 students, for example, shouldn’t have too much of an impact on the games in the Big Apple.
The old cowboy days of county gamblers jumping in under a supposed name for a lucrative weekend are also long gone: “We’ve always had the J-1 kids outside in the past, but people have been shy in recent years enough to come here for the summer with the regime.
“To be fair, New York has spent a lot of time developing Irish-American players over the past few years. There has been a lot of focus on the minor board and we have a solid development team that gets the players through.
“For years we have been known to rely on summer players and weekend players. Once the county teams were eliminated from the championship, there were five or six guys per team. Now social media can help the police with this. Videos can be recorded so easily and sent so quickly that no one wants to risk illegal gamers. “
Mind you, third tier education isn’t always of great help to them in keeping players.
“We have a hurling, soccer, camogie and women’s soccer development plan that is going well.
“We’re sending a team to the UK for the university’s Gaelic soccer tournament. We have teams that play against Féile. All of this helps keep the numbers high.
“But we would have a particular problem with kids going to college here – they do well up to 16 or 17, then they go to college for a couple of years and they probably don’t play soccer or hurl.
“When they come back and play again, it’s like starting over and getting their skills back.”
Because of me. As always, the toughest question I asked to the end.
When Normal People’s Connell lands in New York to take his college course, who will he be playing with?
“Well, we always welcome you,” laughs Fitzpatrick. “But we have to take care of his transfer.”
Adaptation to changed times
I see (the new) (now) is picking a Mount Rushmore from your county’s great athletes. Nominations, discussions, votes: Just like a general election, but less of the by-election that stings in the back.
The lockdown does weird things to people, but one point is worth talking about that evolution.
If you look around, statues and similes are being thrown into rivers, torn down with cables, splattered with bleach and covered with boxes all over the world.
The last thing I would do figuratively, too, is create more statues, with all due respect to the sculptors and stonemasons out there. Why put something on a pedestal when it could land at the bottom of a river in no time?
On a vaguely allied point, I was on a score the other night (bowl plays jargon, take it with me). Coming back to a live sporting event was great, and it is thanks to Ból Chumann na hÉireann that getting back to the competition night experience is a fair feat.
But a word of warning to all slavers who have the prospect of seeing the sport again.
It is different. That may not seem like a breathtaking insight to you, but if the topicality lies ahead of you, then it is the broken handshakes, the presence of surgical gloves, the wide berths given by people. . . it takes getting used to.
The idea that nothing will be the same is not just a lazy filler on a radio panel show – you’ll see it for yourself in time.
The shot seen around the world
Claudell Washington died last Wednesday at the age of 65. He was a respected professional baseball player who won a World Series in his first season with the Oakland Athletics but spent much of his career with other teams without ever reaching those high heights again.
Why is he here?
On June 5, 1985, Washington was playing a game in Chicago, specifically hitting a ball down the left side of the field.
The producers of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off used footage of this swing for the sequence in the film when Ferris catches a baseball at a game at Wrigley Field.
It was Claudell Washington who took the shot. Now you know.
Larwood biography is an award winner
I mentioned a while ago that I came across Bodyline on Youtube, the great 1980s TV series about the cricket controversy between Australia and England in the 1930s.
Yes, I know you’ve probably come across more enticing descriptions, but as a whippersnapper, I found this series a gripping watch regardless of my complete ignorance of the game of cricket.
English bowler Harold Larwood was a key figure in the drama – on and off screen – and I was delighted to recently collect a biography of Larwood from a buddy.
The details of Larwood’s early life and his escape from coal mining, the thicket of snobbery around international cricket in the twenties and thirties, the challenges of professional sport almost a century ago. ..
No wonder Duncan Hamilton won Sports Book of the Year when it was published in 2009. Outstanding.