BANTRY man Donal Casey recently helped Cork win the New York 2021 Junior A football championship final following a two-point win against St Barnabas in Gaelic Park.
The team was backboned by a very strong Cork presence which propelled the club to their first championship title win at adult level in any grade since 1955.
Former Bantry Blues club man Donal Casey played a key role for Cork from his goalkeeping berth. He said the success meant a lot to many club stalwarts.
“It meant so much to old stalwarts of the Cork New York team. Tom Courtney from Boherbue, Beara men Liam Hanley and Gary Lowney, and Jerry Harrington from St Colum’s were absolutely ecstatic after the game. These are men who have stuck with Cork down through the years and kept the club going.”
Cork produced a grandstand finish to defeat St Barnabas in the final. At one stage in the second half, they trailed by nine points.
Casey was full of praise for their management team which includes former Galway senior hurler Johnny Glynn.
“Victory didn’t seem likely with six minutes to go when Barnabas got their goal but great credit is due to all the players. They never gave in and kicked the last six points of the game. We have a great set-up with our management team which includes Johnny Glynn who won a senior All-Ireland senior hurling title in 2018.
"Laurence Kennedy has worked well with him. They have brought in a huge amount of physicality and fitness work. They also instilled a winning attitude in the squad and this was highly evident with the way we kicked on in the final. Barnabas has won two senior championships in the past two seasons.
"Eight of their starting team were senior players so we were really up against it from the first whistle. I am so happy that we pulled through.”
There were a total of 11 Cork players on the victorious Cork team that won the New York junior football championship title. Casey enjoyed linking up and winning with his Cork colleagues.
"They are guys that I would have played with on school teams and against at club level. They include Bantry Blues club players Stephen and Anthony Hanley, John Lavin and Donagh O’Sullivan, and Muintir Bháire duo Darragh Whooley and Eoghan O’Dwyer.
"All six of those players had massive impacts on us getting through some games this year.
Darragh Whooley was a key figure in the final. The other four Cork players are Tom Joe O’Sullivan from Adrigole, Sean Moynihan from Cill na Martra, and Beara men Enda Lowney and Chris O’Shea.”
Cork now move up to the Intermediate grade next season and Casey is confident they can adjust to the higher grade.
“We are delighted to get out of the junior grade as it is the toughest grade to get out of in the adult ranks in New York. The future is bright for the Cork New York team.
"I would be confident we’ll be very close to more success next year if the lads put in the same effort. Hopefully, some of the older lads can stay on with us for another year and help us get back to where Cork should be amongst the senior ranks of GAA in New York.”
Casey, who works as a project manager for a flooring company in New York City, moved to the Big Apple two years ago. While he admits to missing his family and friends back home, he loves living in New York.
“I absolutely love it. New York is a fantastic city, with so much to do. I have a great group of Irish friends in the city. I do miss my family and my friends back home. Hopefully, with the borders opening up soon, I’ll be able to return home or get my family and friends out here very soon.”
Playing for the Cork junior footballers in a huge city like New York requires a big commitment as they train in Randalls Island two nights a week and play all their games in Gaelic Park which are both good journeys from his house in Brooklyn. He has enjoyed playing in the iconic Gaelic Park venue.
“It was surreal playing there the first couple of times because of the history of the place. The astroturf surface is excellent, you could play through any conditions on the surface as the drainage is that good.
"We train in Randalls Island on a soccer pitch every Tuesday and Thursday which is about a 40-minute taxi journey, while Gaelic Park is about an hour away from my house. Liam Hanley covers all our taxi bills to and from training sessions and matches. We can’t thank him enough.”
He still keeps abreast of his beloved Bantry Blues with whom he enjoyed many great days.
"I have very fond memories. There is a great young Bantry team there currently. If the younger lads on the senior team keep progressing and the exciting crop of players at U16 and minor levels keep developing, Bantry could become very successful once again.”