Allentown Hibernians Hurling Club 2011 Season Wrap Up

The 2011 season started and went by with one main theme; prepare the team for a victory in the North American County Board Championships. This goal was not achieved fully but along the way many highlights occurred and we wanted to record some of them here.

The season started earlier than ever before with indoor training at Saint Anne’s gymnasium. There were three sessions held in February and early March. From the start, fitness was made a part of each session and full effort was put out. Even rubber hurls and soft sliothars still produced bleeding knuckles, bruises and skinned knees. The Annual General Meeting was held on the 27th of February and Outdoor training began on March 29th. At the AGM it was decided to march in the Allentown Saint Patrick’s Day parade. About ten guys marched giving our team some exposure to the public and an early season opportunity for some socializing. This meeting also announced the formation of the Irish Sports League. The concept was to increase membership and form teams that would compete on a weekly basis.

Shortly after actual training began the team was invited to a hurling sevens blitz in Rockland county New York. 20 Players from our team made the trip to this new facility. This was the biggest contingent at the event. The other four teams were from the newly formed junior division of the New York GAA and it was a privilege to play against these teams and be invited to compete in the next county. We split into two teams and played each team once. There were no victories except our A team beating our B team but the early season effort got our juices flowing.

On April 20th the team participated in Irish Heritage night at Coca Cola Park home of the Iron Pigs Baseball team. On the 13th of May a large group got together and drafted the teams of the Irish Sports League. Three teams were drafted, Captains Tom Manion, Jay Ehritz and Dan O’Donnell were announced and some rules for play were set. In a strange twist of fate all three of these men would suffer an injury during the course of the season. It is now known as the captains curse and may be the under lying reason why Captain Pat keeps popping his shoulder out. The team visited all three of our sponsor bars Armetta’s, Ringers Roost and Callahans. On May 21st we held our second Night at the Races. The event was again a very enjoyable evening and afforded the club the ability to function for 2011.

On June 12th the team travelled to the Irish Sport’s Expo hosted by the Shillelagh Club in West Orange, NJ. The team competed in the first match of the day against the Hoboken Guards Junior team. The day was a huge success for the team as we narrowly beat the guards and came home with a nice trophy. One great aspect of the day was the lively commentary on the game from announcer Camillus. Another was the warm welcome we received from the club and its members. As Mike Friel put it, “I was proud to be part of that day.”

The team took part in Sports fest on a hot 16th of July. There were youth competitions early in the day and the team came out as the temperature soared. A group of five or so hurlers from Philadelphia made the trip up and were mixed into the selected teams along with the three Driscoll lads. Games proceeded between the three sides chosen for almost two hours. The following weekend the team hosted a hurling tournament at Haines Mill field. Included here are some excerpts from a wonderful commentary on the day that was posted on Hogan’s Stand. It was written by Diarmuid Coughlan of Baltimore, and includes the unofficial naming of the cup.

(73 hurlers, 6 games, 5 clubs, 4 teams, 1 cup -­‐ those are the basic sta:s:cs of the inaugural Allentown hurling blitz. All roads lead to Allentown, Pennsylvania on the 23rd July where the hurling clubs of Baltimore, Washington DC, Hoboken, NJ and Pittsburgh joined Allentown to contest the “Rocky Balboa” cup. Each game was 13 aside and 15 minutes each half. First game-­‐ Intensity, commitment and a burning desire-­‐to-­‐win characterized this game. From the first whistle, both teams went “hell-­‐for-­‐leather”, Allentown’s sharpshooters T.J Hirsch and Dave Mahon helped their team race into a 5 point to no score half-­time lead. Second game ‐ This local derby was full of thrills, spills and big‐hits. From the get go, this Baltimore team was fired up for what turned out to be their first ever victory. Game 3  The victors from the first round were next to do battle. Baltimore still “pumped” from the previous game started the better. Two fine scores by Diarmuid Coughlan had Baltimore ahead as half-­time approached. However, “twinkle toes” Jones (Local Police Officer) had other ideas, his opportunistic touch guided the sliothar to the back of the Baltimore net to get Allentown a slender half-­time advantage. Game 4 Hoboken took their first-­round disappointment out on DC Gaels. They powered their way to victory with an impressive display of sexy hurling. David (Daithi) Cosgrave was playing an instrumental part in the link-­up play and contributed an impressive 1-­3 in this game. Ciaran Finnegan, the youngest man on the pitch and about to bring hurling to Michigan State was getting stuck-­in and loving it. Game 5-­ The game to decide second place was a nail-­biter. Low on scores, high on drama. Both teams availing of the youthful Pittsburgh players as the heat started to take its toll on proceedings. The opening score was a thing of beauty. From way-­out on the sideline and an acute angle to boot, it was Freeman by name and free man by nature as it dissected the posts from the placed-­ball. Game 6-­ Hoboken watched anxiously as DC’s evergreen Jus:n Golden, Holian and Crowell so dominated in the first-­‐half were steamrolled by Allentown. The double act of Mahon (Mayo na:ve) & Hursch, John Driscoll and the youngest O’Donnell brother, wee Daniel, contributed to Allentown’s second half tally of 2-­‐5. The combat play of Cormac Staroselec, Maged Boules and Thomas Manion defined Allentown’s desire to win this tournament. As a squad, Allentown deserved their victory. They played a slick brand of hurling throughout the day and graciously accepted the ‘Rocky Balboa’ cup.)

The next few weeks saw a series of disappointments. Our idea of a small tournament in the emerald isle of NY, East Durham, against teams from the Northeast did not work out after a series of last minute cancellations. We travelled at full strength to Baltimore but half way through the second half of our game against Washington, DC lightning and serious down pours ended the match at a draw. The game did produce the best goal of the year for the Hib, while other struggled to keep their hurl in hand Dan O’D fired in a sideline cut goal that even Galway star Joe Canning could be proud of. We traveled to Philadelphia with 19 hurlers to try to give the city a little hurling action between football games and again were rained out. At each of these events a core of players was in attendance along with some rotating additional members. Many of these were drawn from the pool of players that were competing in the sports league. Throughout the summer three games were played on most Thursday evenings. After ten weeks of games a final was held and the Red team (Armetta’s) under Tom Manion was victorious. There was a lot of contact, effort and intensity put forth and our level of play in small groups and as a team increased each week. The trophy awarded was named in honor of Jeff Purtell’s and Dave Jone’s fathers, both who passed away during the offseason. Tuesday evenings were dedicated to skills development, fitness, strategies and the required scrimmage. Dave Mahon proved invaluable week after week in finding, explaining and running drills.

On Aug 20th the team travelled again to Rockland County to play against the Hoboken Guards. The team played a great game and Coach Paul McCarthy was very excited about our prospects of a victory in the upcoming championships. This was in spite of the fact that we lost the match by a close score of 3-11 to 3-15. The time had arrived to make the trip to San Francisco. 18 members of the team started heading out on a series of flights. By the time of our first game we were at full strength and ready to take on the team from Portland, Maine. After a slow start the team got rolling and at the end it was a 5-5 to 0-2. The following day we went up against St Louis, the same team that had defeated us on Saturday a year earlier. As opposed to last year the outcome was clear St Louis scored more than we did and their great defense was a huge part of keeping the gap. The final score was 3-11 to 0-8. Our hopes for a championship were over but the team decided to enter the All-American tournament and make one last run at a cup. The day started early and the night had been very short for some but we defeated the team from Indianapolis. Next up was the home team from San Francisco but it would be some six hours after the end of the morning match before that was to take place. As little sleep was had the night before and enough drink was consumed to take down the toughest Marine, a few Hibs sacked out on field B in preparation for our final game. Our ranks dwindled a little as personnel headed for home and we put up a good fight but lost to the high scoring Rovers. The same club that had beat us in the finals two years prior. A long depressed flight was in store for the team going home.

As is always the case another event comes along and the hurling bug resurfaces. At Celtic fest the team manned a booth. We demonstrated our sport and let others try some basic drills. A number of new names were added to our list and two clinics were held to begin indoctrinating them to the sport. The club was again invited to Rockland to participate in a sevens tournament. Teams from the four New York GAA teams, a mixed Baltimore/Washington, DC club and the newly formed University of Connecticut Huskies Hurling were in attendance. The Allentown squad consisted of 12 hurlers including a guest. Domhnall McArtle. He is a County team hurler from County Louth and it was a great experience for us to play next to such a talented player. The day started slow (as is usual for our team) with a tie to Balt/DC, we then had wins against UConn and Rockland. We were top seeded in the quarter final, were ahead 2-1 to 0-1 at the half and then faded as Rockland scored three goals to beat us 2-3 to 3-1. A one point loss ended the day for us and wrapped up competitive play for the season. Some interesting commentary was sent around by e-mail after the weekend including these two. (The best part of yesterday, from my viewpoint, was seeing UConn students, hand painted T shirts and all – the first American collegiate hurling team apparently in the Northeast states – battle teams from Maryland/DC, the mixed “Roboken” squad that picked up steam as the day went on. Fair play to them all for getting things together so quickly. What spirit and determination.) (At the NACB tournament in SF – there was 11 Junior C teams from non-Irish places like Portland Maine to Portland Oregen – Denver, St. Louis, Indy etc…and these guys (some with limited hurling ability) played as if their lives depended on it…playing for their club and their people…similar as back home.)

Three team members attended an officer development clinic in Philadelphia that was taught by members of the Muenster Council. The NACB is linked with the Province of Muenster in GAA matters. The ideas taken away should help to strengthen the club for the future. A final day of sevens matches and some team awards were held on November 5th. Almost nine months after it had all began.

The Club would like to thank all our members for their hard work, time and commitment given to the club both on and off the field. The club continues to grow in numbers and our skill level elevates every year. The past success captured here is due to your dedication to the club. We hope you enjoyed the year and look forward to seeing you all in 2012 for another chapter in the Hibs success.

Posted in Events, Hurling

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