By Patricia Sheridan
The New York Ladies GAA All-Star is off for Ireland this week for their Sept. 19 debut in the Junior All-Ireland Championship in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. Should the team be successful, they will play in the final in Croke Park on Oct. 4, a game that will be televised live for the first time in Ireland. Since the New York women affiliated with Central Council in January 1995, they have made three trips to Ireland to compete in this championship. Their first trip was in 1995, when they lost to Tyrone by a point. In 1997, they lost to Longford by 5 points.
"The sponsorship of Budweiser in 1998 has made it possible to bring an All-Star team back to Ireland again so soon," said the league president, Terry Connaughton, a Roscommon native who owns Riverdale Steak House in the Bronx. "They have really helped us promote our games here in New York and we feel the sponsorship has been very successful."
Currently there are seven teams in the New York league: Cavan, Ciarrai, Leitrim, Mayo, Monaghan, NaFianna and Rockland. The women’s season starts in April and finishes in August, with teams competing for the Sean Faherty Championship Cup, the Annie Kearney Knock Out Cup and the Shield Competition.
Traveling with the All Stars will be Connaughton, Tour Chairperson Mary P. Toolan, a native of Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo, and PRO Patricia Sheridan, a native of Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan. Manager of the team for the third year is Philip Sheridan, a native of Kilnaleck, Co. Cavan. Sheridan has been involved with the women’s league since its inception in 1991 and managed the Cavan women to their sixth Sean Faherty Championship title in 1998.
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"The players have put a huge commitment into training these past few months and with the experience of playing in Ballinasloe last year, I think we have every chance of getting to Croke Park," he said. "It would be a great honor for the players and for ladies’ football in New York."
Assisting as selector is Stephen O’Donnell, a native of Donegal who manages Ciarrai, winners of the Shield Competition for the second time in 1998. This will be O’Donnell’s first time traveling as a selector with the All-Stars.
Olive Wilson has been named captain of this year’s squad and brings to the team her experience as full-back with Cavan. (Her uncle John Wilson played on the famous 1947 Cavan team). She was named MVP of the Sean Faherty Championship final in 1996.
"I’ve really enjoyed training and getting to know the girls I normally compete against," she said. "It’s great to see everyone come together to represent New York."
Mary Kearney-Cooney has been named vice captain. She plays in the back-line position with Ciarrai and is known for her great defensive play and speed. She was named Outstanding Player of the Season in 1994.
"I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to play in Croke Park for anything — I know these long evenings in Van Cortlandt Park will pay off," she said.
New York is represented by natives Justine Clifford, Kerry AnnGalvin, Alison Lineen, Ellen McGrail, Siobhan Neville and Caroline O’Sullivan.
Clifford, a physical education teacher, plays football with Cavan and has two Sean Faherty Championship and two Annie Kearney Knock Out Cup medals to her name.
Galvin plays for Rockland and was named MVP for Rockland in 1995. She holds a Shield Medal won in 1996.
A history teacher, Alison Lineen plays for Na Fianna and was widely known as the best goalkeeper in women’s football until the 1998 season, when she moved to centerfield and has shown that she is a very versatile player with great speed and catching ability. NaFianna were winners of the Sean Faherty Championship and Annie Kearney Knock Out Cup in 1994. Lineen was named Budweiser Player of the Month for June in 1998.
McGrail a student at Manhattan College plays centerfield for Mayo. She comes from a large sporting family who are behind her all the way and would love to see her play in Croke Park. She was named MVP of the 7-A-Side Football Tournament played last Saturday in Van Cortlandt Park.
Neville, also a student, plays for Ciarrai and plays in the forward line. With youth on her side, she has the speed to make a burst up the middle and put up scores. This will be her first year on the All-Star team.
Another teacher, O’Sullivan plays for Cavan and has won two Sean Faherty Championship and two Annie Kearney Knock Out Cup medals. She plays the wing half-back position and like many of her New York natives has the basketball talent that adds greatly to her game. The O’Sullivan family will be busy keeping up with all the news from home, as O’Sullivan’s brother Daniel has also made the men’s New York All-Star team.
County Cavan is represented by Rosie O’Reilly, who plays for Cavan. Playing in the right half-forward position Rosie has won six Sean Faherty Championship and four Annie Kearney Knock Out Cup medals. She was named MVP of the Championship final in 1993, captain of the All-Star team in 1995 and Budweiser Player of the Month for June 1998.
Cork is represented by Norma McCarthy and Mags Dineen. McCarthy plays for Monaghan and was named Outstanding Player of the Year in 1995 and Budweiser Player of the Month for April in 1998. An excellent Gaelic player, she is also training to run the New York Marathon.
Dineen plays for Rockland and hails from a strong football background. (Her brother Stephen Dineen played with Cork). She has won MVP status for basketball in the Cork Championship to her name.
Down is represented by Tracey Rice. Recently immigrated to New York and playing for Leitrim, she lines out in the forward line. She is a dangerous forward who knows how to take her scores. She is a member of the All-Star committee and was organizer of the very successful 7-A-Side Tournament.
Donegal is represented by Sharon Gallagher, Fiona Ward and twin sisters Joanne and Cathy McKenna and Fiona Ward. All four players play with the Mayo club who won the 7-a-Side Football tournament and were runners up in the Annie Kearney Knock-Out Cup in 1998. Gallagher was named Player of the Year for Mayo in 1996 and captained the team to the Annie Kearney Cup final in 1998.
Ward, a registered nurse, is the key link to the Mayo defense. This is no surprise, as she comes from a strong Gaelic football family back in Glennfinn.
Joanne and Cathy McKenna are recent newcomers to New York and have had the opportunity already of playing in Croke Park when they played Meath in the All-Ireland final in 1994.
Dublin is represented by Joanna Hoenninger, who plays for Rockland. She holds a Shield Medal for 1996. A woman of great speed, she competed in the Dublin 100 meters Championship.
Kerry is represented by AnnMarie McMunn and Colette McElligott, both of whom play for Leitrim. McMunn was named MVP of the Sean Faherty Championship in 1994 and won Annie Kearney Knock Out Cup Medals in 1995 and 1996. She was named Budweiser Player of the Month for May in 1998. She would have been on the All Star team in 1997 only for the fact that her twin daughters, Laura and Kelly, were born that year.
McElligott plays in the backline for Leitrim and also has Annie Kearney medals for 1995 and 1996.
Kilkenny is represented by Mary McEvoy, who plays for Na Fianna. McEvoy has only being playing football for about two years, taking the sport up under pressure from camogie and soccer playing friends. She is more known for camogie and plays for the Young Ireland’s camogie club.
"Believe it or not, hockey was my main sport," McEvoy said. "Now I find myself on the All-Star team. It’s going to be a great trip with lots of memories for the future"
Louth is represented by Mary Touhey, from Drogheda, and Catherine Russell, from Tullyallen. Touhey, a physical education teacher, has been instrumental in getting the team in top fitness form. She started playing with Na Fianna and won Sean Faherty and Annie Kearney medals in 1994. Currently she plays with 1998 Shield winners Ciarrai.
Russell plays with Cavan and has three Sean Faherty Championship and two Annie Kearney Knock Out Cup medals. She also captained the Cavan team to winning the double in 1998.
Mayo is represented by Mary P. Toolan, who is one of the Mayo club’s longest-serving members. An all-around athlete, she loves the sport and was delighted to win a 7-a-Side Football tournament medal with Mayo. This will be her third appearance on the All-Star team. Along with training for the team, she is the woman behind the organization of the trip. She is treasurer of the league, games coordinator in 1994, dinner chairperson in 1995 and guest of honor in 1996.