Sixteen nations will compete in Queens for the Mayor’s Cup over the last weekend in July and the first weekend in August.
“It has united the clubs,” said Ireland team manager Paul Doherty. “We hadn’t done anything collectively for 11 years.”
Players drawn from Doherty’s own Lansdowne Bhoys, which plays in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League’s Div. 1 and is based in the Bronx and Yonkers, Shamrock FC in Sunnyside, the Irish Rovers on Long Island, Manhattan Celtic and Central Park Rangers have joined forces for the Big Apple’s own home-town version of the World Cup.
“It’s good for us and it’s good for the community,” he said.
Doherty has been very pleased with the response from the Irish-owned businesses his team has approached for sponsorship.
“They’ve all been fantastic,” said the Falcarragh, Co. Donegal native. “Not one has hesitated.”
This is the first year of the competition, which is tag-lined “The World’s Sport in the World’s City.” Its organizers contacted Irish Echo writer Jay Mwamba, who in turn put them in touch with Doherty and Robbie Walsh, the Shamrock first-team coach.
The team now must prepare for what pundits, such as those on Fox Sports, are calling the “Group of Death.”
It contains Trinidad & Tobago, Colombia and France. The latter two nations are said to be awash with former professionals and reportedly have an ex-international star or two.
But Doherty and coaches Walsh and the Rovers’ Willie Dempsey have leads of their own. “We’ve been chasing some down,” he said, but wouldn’t elaborate further.
Additionally, the competition allows some flexibility with regard to non-nationals. Squads are allowed five out of a squad of 25. Doherty, unfortunately, couldn’t fall back on the English players who’ve helped keep the Bhoys in Div. 1 of what is one of America’s top amateur leagues. “I had to give them over [to the England team],” he said, laughing.
The effects of return migration were less kind to Shamrock, which slipped down from Div. 1 to the third level for a couple of years. However the club that will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year was recently promoted back to Div. 2.
The Irish clearly believe that their core squad is good enough to compete with the other 15.
Monday’s New York Times reported: “Ireland and Greece formed an unlikely partnership, pushing for tight regulation, while the Ghanaian delegate advocated a more laissez-faire approach.”
Doherty and his colleagues can rely on rising college prospect Alan O’Hara, who has USL (Major League Soccer’s 2nd division) experience, as well as former Finn Harps star Austin Friel, and Kevin Grogan, who had a stint with Manchester United in his youth and played for several other clubs, including UCD. Grogan will also help with the coaching.
The team manager believes that if his team can get out of the Group of Death, it could go far.
“I’m quietly confident,” Doherty said.
Weekend 1, July 25-26, will take place in Flushing Meadows Corona Park starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The Metropolitan Oval, on 60th Street, Maspeth, will host evening games on Weekend 2, Aug. 1-2.
For more on Copa NYC go to http://copanyc.us. To talk with Paul Doherty about sponsoring the Irish team call: 646-372-0988.