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Kildare’s Buckley lured back by Chicago’s Golden Mile

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Pierce O’Reilly

Kildare senior footballer Niall Buckley arrived in Chicago last Monday after an extended Christmas break in Ireland. The compromise player has once again turned his back on the Lilywhites for the upcoming championship and instead has been lured by the prospect of U.S. dollars and a more relaxed training regimen with the St. Brendan’s club in the Windy City.

Buckley was whisked away from O’Hare Airport by St. Brendan’s club officials, who claim they put no pressure on the intercounty star to return.

The Sarsfields midfielder, who played in Chicago last year as well, firmly nailed his colors to the mast recently when he said that he wasn’t prepared to do the "extreme training" associated with county team in Ireland.

The chairman of St. Brendan’s club in Chicago, Mike Murphy, said he was delighted with the news that Buckley was returning and available to help retain their North American Championship crown.

The Kildare Supporters Club had made a last-ditch effort to persuade the former All-Star to remain at home, but their best efforts fell on deaf ears as Buckley had apparently already made his mind up to return.

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Buckley, who is 29 and recognized as one of the best midfielders in the game, said earlier in the year that he enjoyed the year-long break from the rigors of champion preparations.

Murphy said that Buckley is well respected in Chicago and that the club’s players are delighted he has decided to stay. The club recently honored Buckley with the Senior Player of the Year award at its gala dinner dance to celebrate the club’s 50th anniversary.

"No pressure was put on Niall; it was his own decision, and after winning the Chicago and North American championships last year, we’re thrilled he’s going to be around again next season." Murphy said.

Buckley worked in the construction industry in Chicago for the last year. However, the qualified electrician is expected to follow his trade this year.

Reports from Ireland suggest that several Cork clubs had contacted Buckley over the Christmas period in an effort to entice the star to transfer south. The link between Kildare and Cork is well documented since the departure of Cork Manager Larry Tompkins and the arrival of Brain Murphy to Kildare.

Murphy of St. Brendan’s declined to comment on the financial reward Buckley would receive for returning, but he did say that he’d be "looked after well."

"Niall is liked by all the lads around here and we’re happy he’s on our side," Murphy said. "He rarely missed a training session last year and a lot of the younger lads looked up to him."

The Kildare star, who won a Leinster championship with the Lilywhites in 1998, represented the county for 12 years.

It is believed that the Kildare Supporters Club — the group responsible for bringing Mick O’Dwyer to the county — haven’t given up hope of persuading Buckley to return in time for the championship.

"We know how big an asset Niall can be to the county," a supporters club representative revealed. "He’s one of the best players Kildare has produced and we’d hate to see him staying in the U.S."

Buckley insists he will not be staying around to play football with either Sarsfields, his club, or the Lilywhites. He told reporters, "People have been asking me in the club what I’m doing and I’ve more or less told everyone that I’m going back to Chicago."

He said he enjoyed his time in the U.S. and claims that the absence of the intense pressure that comes with the game in Ireland was a big help.

"At least in America you can have a life outside of football," he said. "It’s a bit more laid back."

Croke Park ruled last year that if Buckley were to return to play with Kildare, he would then be illegal to return and play with his adopted club in the U.S.

It would now seem that his involvement with Kildare, the Leinster champions of 2000, is finally closed.

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