When the question is asked as to which Clare GAA team were the first to get back training in 2021, the answer might be something of a surprise.
That is because the answer is the newly reformed Clare hurling club in New York, who saw 22 players out training under the watchful eye of management last week.
That management team is made up of former Clare ladies football manager and dual county star Noelle Comyn, with the Tubber native joined by Galway All Ireland winner Jonathan Glynn as the coach of the side. East Clare is also represented, with Feakle’s Barney Breen involved in the backroom team.
The rebirth of the Clare hurling club came about when Noelle approached one of the stalwarts of Clare GAA in New York, Lissycasey native Pat Scanlan, about reviving the club after a 17 year absence. Scanlan, who runs Ned Divine’s Saloon in Yonkers along with his business partner Kevin McMahon (Eire Óg Ínis), is also the sponsor of the team jersey. He explained how the project got up and running.
“Noelle approached me in Gaelic Park last October and she asked if it was possible to look into having a Clare team here again. She was very driven to go ahead with it and it was around Christmas time that we decided to go for it. We have gotten a good few people involved since and everything seems to be going pretty good. The hurling club was dormant since 2004 and there has been great interest in it since we got back up and running” he outlined.
That Clare support is clear to see, with areas in all corners of the county represented in the club. Paddy Kelly (Doonbeg) is the Honorary President, with secretary Kathy Hogan (Kilkee) and treasurer Anne Murray (O’Curry’s) also vital cogs in the committee. John Ryan (Tulla), Joan Vaughan (Miltown), Micky Reidy (Coolmeen), Seanie Dilger (Clarecastle), Paul Mulcaire (Kilrush) and Matty Chambers (Cooraclare) are also involved in the running of the club.
Another man who is part of the committee is the vice chairman Michael Kennedy. The Connolly native, who represented Clare at both minor and U-21 level, was also part of Kilmaley’s 1985 championship winning squad before making the move across the Atlantic shortly after that success. He feels having a team back up and running for Clare emigrants in New York to be able to identify with is a really positive development.
“There are a lot of Clare lads hurling here for the last few years with other county teams because their own county didn’t have a team, but now we have that. I would know a lot of the lads at home who are still hurling away, and it is just a pity that Covid-19 has shut things down so they can’t avail of that chance to come over and play. We would have been expecting to see lads coming in previous years and knowing that you would have them for your panel but that is gone now. We are allowed to have two transfers per year of players over here from our native county, so hopefully over the next few years we will be able to build it up” he noted.
For Noelle Comyn, the role of manager is nothing new with the former All Ireland winner with Dublin and All Star having managed the Clare ladies footballers in the early part of the last decade. She had plenty success during her own playing days in Clare, racking up nine senior championships with Fergus Rovers as well as Division 1, 2, and 3 National League medals, an All-Ireland junior title in 1991, two All-Ireland B championships and a Munster Senior Championship title in 2001.
She made the move to Dublin in 2004, where she won four Dublin Senior Club Championships, three Leinster Senior Club titles and two All-Ireland Senior Club titles with Ballyboden St Enda’s.
She said seeing players from other counties having a club to represent was a big factor in getting the Clare club going once more.
“I am over here three years now and I saw teams from places like Kerry and Tipperary, you had the Ulster hurling teams, and people were telling me that Clare had a great hurling team going back the years, and that a lot of legends of Clare had passed through Gaelic Park in both codes. People started going back home 10 or 15 years ago and that seemed to be when some of the teams started folding. I have been in San Diego and other smaller cities where you could see teams being built by a few strong Irish people, and they brought in some of the American players who played the likes of lacrosse. I always feel that where there is a will, there’s a way and New York is a big place with plenty bodies around to get involved. It is in our ethos to get the American boys involved who may not have tried out hurling before and it would be great to get them involved in the GAA” she said.
It has already been a positive start with 22 players attending the first training session last week. Pat outlined he is hopeful that will continue.
“I have no doubt but that this will be a success. There is great interest there and we have got great support for it from Clare people to have it back again. That support has come from all over the county which is great to see. We are hoping that the games will start in June and we can push on from there” the former New York football manager concluded.