Gaels trace their roots back to December 1991, when a group of Irish immigrants got together and decided to form a social club.
The soccer program was launched by Johnny Hunt in the wake of the euphoria that followed Ireland’s exciting 1994 World Cup appearances in New York. Hunt was a former League of Ireland player who had joined the Gaels organization in 1992.
For the first few years, Gaels toiled in the CSL Third Division. Then Dave Clear led the side to two second-place finishes before Jimmy Ralph, a self-acclaimed “Merseyside prodigy” from Liverpool steered the team to the 1998-99 Division III title, and promotion to Division II.
After two seasons though, Gaels dropped back to what had become the Metro Division, a victim of most of its players’ dual loyalty to Gaelic football. And with two cup final appearances, several semifinal showings, as well as a 7-a-side title in Florida last year, Gaels have been no slouches on the Gaelic football field.
Sixth on the table in Metro Div. I, a point behind rivals Manhattan Celtic at the start of the winter break, the club is optimistic that its fortunes will continue to improve under the veteran leadership of president Jim Corley, chairman John Beirne, and officials Eugene and Siobhain Kyne, Vivian White and James Dolan.
Other club leaders include Kevin Nee, David Browne, Ger O’Brien, Declan Horrigan and P.J. Burke. Browne, the treasurer and a former Chairman, says that one of the club’s immediate goals is to obtain their own playing field.
Modest as its soccer success has been, it’s as a social club that Gaels, whose membership ranges between 60 and 70, have proven big winners. The club takes pride in its charitable mission, donating money and time every year to various groups, including the Old Folks Home in Astoria at Christmas. Last year, more than $1,000 worth of toys were donated to the Pediatric Ward of New York Hospital of Queens, while a raffle to auction off a Roy Keane Ireland shirt and an O’Neills football autographed by the 2001 All-Ireland-winning Galway team raised about $2,400 for Croi, the West of Ireland cardiology foundation.
Gaels also takes care of its own, according to Browne.
“Out-of-work members never go long without getting a job through their fellow club members, and injured players are pleasantly surprised to find a nice little check to help them out until they can return to work,” he said. “It’s more like a family than any other in the region.”
The club’s sponsors include the Irish Rover, Bear Steel, Boom Construction, Enjay, Colgate Scaffolding, Cronin and Phelan’s, McLoughlin’s Bar, Fleming’s, and Sissy McGinty’s.
Barring a major collapse this spring, Lansdowne Bhoys should be celebrating their return to the Second Division at the end of this season.
The Bronx bombers have been in imperious form in Metro Div. 1 thus far, dropping only one match (a 3-1 loss to Astoria Gaels last September) in 11 starts and carving out a commanding 7-point lead at the top of the table.
“Our ultimate goal is to reach the First Division,” club president Eamonn Duffy said, more than confident that this year’s mission is close to completion.
Indeed, mark this as another banner season for Lansdowne, who have enjoyed a measure of success among Irish clubs in the league paralleled only by two-time League Cup winners Shamrock.
For the record, the Bhoys made a splash in their first year as a club, four and a half seasons ago, when they were crowned CSL Third Division champs without defeat and promoted to Division II.
They were relegated after two years but bounced back last season to win the newly structured Metro Div. II and promotion to Metro Div. I.
So that’s two championships in four seasons and a third almost in the bag.
Duffy attributes his Damien Dunleavy-coached squad’s success to its strength in depth.
Lansdowne have an impressive 20-man first-team panel and one that should expand considerably once they clinch promotion to Division II. This is because clubs in the CSL’s upper echelon are required to field reserve and first teams.
Duffy is adamant about not singling out individuals on his roster for kudos, saying “everyone is important.” He is, however, eager to offer props to his executive committee: Paul Doherty, Mark Adams, Gary Duggan and Mogo.
Nonetheless, some names have stood out in the Bhoys’ current campaign. These include the club’s leading scorer John O’Driscoll, midfielder C.J. Doherty, Mark Maguire and the aforementioned Mogo.
“I feel that we should be OK with the amount of talent we have,” Duffy said.
On the field, the Bhoys love to attack. They pride themselves on their ability to hold the ball and mix a passing game with long balls.
According to Duffy, Lansdowne have not been hurt by the reported dearth of fresh Irish talent that was partly to blame for the demise of St. Barnabas.
“Being the only Irish side in the Bronx playing in the Cosmopolitan League, we still see a lot of Irish lads there,” Duffy said. “There are not many coming over but there are still quite a few around.”
Sponsored by Kelly Ryan’s bar in Riverdale, Lansdowne play their home games at Van Cortland Park.
Three name changes in four years, a new kit, and an infusion of new blood have Manhattan Celtic feeling smug in Metro Division I after a horrendous 2001-2002 season.
Then called Fiona’s after the Upper East side pub whose patronage it enjoyed, the club completed their sophomore season in the CSL without a single win.
That was the cue for a makeover.
Team captain Ian Woodcock, a Bray native, helped recruit several players. Out went the yellow and black strip Fiona’s had worn during the disastrous season, and a move to the Bowery district in Lower Manhattan, where new sponsors Pioneer Pub are situated, necessitated a name change for the club.
The results have been almost dramatic. Going into the winter break, Celtic had won five of its 10 matches and were fifth in the standings on the 15-point mark, with a game in hand to the top four: Lansdowne (26), Kandia (19), Barnstonworth Rovers (18) and Krimean Turkish (17).
“It’s just been a complete rejuvenation this year,” said Martin Swift, a team official who credits Keith Doyle, Woodcock and himself for the turn around. “We have a good mix of nationalities and it seems to be working well.”
Swift is even more delighted that the Celtic players are back in green and white jerseys — in homage to the great Glasgow side of the same name — after the “yellow and black experiment.”
The club was formed in 1998 by a group of Irish soccer enthusiasts who used to meet on Roosevelt Island on Wednesday nights for a kick-about.
Bernard Donnelly, Keith Cronin, Dave Noonan and John Marron were the key personalities behind Solas, as Celtic were first known, when it joined the CSL. Solas’ first sponsor was Allied Irish Banks, for whom many of the original players worked.
After a modest rookie season, the club changed its name to Fiona’s the following year after coming under the sponsorship of the pub owned by Danny Doohan and Sean O’Neill.
It was, however, an uphill battle on the field as Fiona’s struggled mightily and finished the season without a victory.
At any rate, that is all history now from the Manhattan Celtic standpoint. Better things are expected from “old” hands Keith Doyle, a defender Swift calls the team anchor; Woodcock, a former League of Ireland performer; midfielder Sean Cunningham; Darren Pettigrew, once with Kilbarrack F.C. in Dublin, and Stefan Nyvang, who played for Brondby in Denmark. Other Celtic players of note include defenders Winston McKoy and Misha Stanford-Harris, and midfielder Rich Ellis.
Said Swift: “Our goal now is to consolidate what we did in the first half of the season and be in contention for the title.”