Around the World in 80 Clubs: Windy City Gaels, Chicago, USA (#42)
“Isn’t everybody from Mayo?”
Throughout the Around the World in 80 Clubs series on JOE, it’s been encouraging to discover the effort being made to ensure that GAA will be a lasting presence in countries outside of Ireland.
The vast majority of the clubs featured in the series so far have put structures in place to make sure that Gaelic Football and hurling will be played around the world for generations by people who have no connection with Ireland and play both codes purely for the love of the game.
In Chicago, a city with a huge GAA tradition, Windy City Gaels in the northwest of the city are making huge strides to develop the sport amongst younger generations.
Established in 2008, the club already have 70 members and have ambitious plans for the future, including the installation of a practise pitch at the nearby Irish American Heritage Center, a push for girls’ games and the development of an all-American men's team as a feeder for players aging out of the youth programme.
Windy City Gaels took part in the 2016 Continental Youth Championships (CYC) In Gaelic Park in Chicago and are looking forward to travelling to the 2017 edition in Buffalo, New York in July.
We caught up with club members Eileen Ryan and Peter O’Malley to tell us a little more about the people within a club that is going places in a hurry.
Focus on Windy City Gaels
Club: Windy City Gaels Youth Irish Football
Year established: 2008
Number of members: 70
Biggest rivals: Chicago Celtics and St. Jarlath’s, Chicago
Biggest representation from a club/county in Ireland: Mayo! Isn’t everybody from Mayo?
Most famous ever member: Still waiting on this one!
Most memorable moment in the club’s history: Our tour of Ireland in 2013. We took a club trip back to Ireland to play our coaches’ home clubs. We played against Portmarnock in Dublin, Tourmakeady in Mayo, Clarinbridge in Galway and Killarney in Kerry.
Most eye-catching scoreline in the club’s history: Beating New York’s U-16 Shannon Gaels in a one-point nail-biter in the 2016 Philadelphia Liberty Cup and then having the exact same result a month later in the 2016 Continental Youth Championships – A Division (the North American Finals in Chicago).
Looking forward to 2017 in Buffalo!
Player who makes the longest commute to training: Brendan and Keira Kayat
Most dedicated club person: Ray Swan
Player who could have made it big if love/career/drink didn’t get in the way: We are a youth football team so are still waiting to see who gets that distinction!
Biggest character: Coach Liam O’Connor, only surpassed by every Under-6 player that ever showed for training.
Loudest in the dressing room: Sean O’Farrell
Number of romances that started in the GAA club (feel free to name names): Niamh Ryan and Ruari O’Connor
Duck to water award – Best new player who had never played GAA before: Rodrigo Cano
Most annoying person in the club WhatsApp group: We think our kids are all on Snapchat and have the parents completely locked out.
Best story involving a club member that’s fit for print: During one of our annual trips to the CYC, we were having lunch in San Francisco. The kids were making comments regarding the ever-changing sleeping arrangements in the hotels like who snored, who kicked, etc.
Player Mackenzie O’Malley, aged seven, casually asks Coach Jerry’s wife: “So Eileen, what’s it like sleeping with Jerry?”
While you're here.
Watch the second episode of SportsJOE Live with Ronan O'Gara, Andy Reid, Dion Fanning and Colm Parkinson here.
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