Kieran Manning explains why American born players are drawn to hurling

Na Fianna GAA Club captured the North American senior hurling title in Chicago recently
Kieran Manning explains why American born players are drawn to hurling

Kieran Manning with Kiaran O'Keeffe after Na Fianna defeated Windy City Gaels in the recent North American senior hurling final.

A PLAYER with strong Cork roots recently helped Na Fianna GAA Club win the prestigious North American senior hurling title in Chicago.

Kieran Manning helped the San Francisco-based club defeat Windy City Gaels an amalgamated team from Chicago to ensure Na Fianna won the national senior title for the sixth time in their history.

Kieran was thrilled to play his part in their success.

“It was a great win for the club. It has been almost 10 years since we’ve won a North American title, hopefully, the next one will come quicker. Our home base is very talented and very committed. With support from our player connections in Ireland the future is very bright for us,” he said.

Na Fianna had qualified for the national final following a semi-final win against Galway Boston before emerging victorious against Windy City Gaels.

Manning thoroughly enjoyed playing in Gaelic Park in Chicago before a huge crowd.

“The two games over the weekend were tough going, especially in that heat, but I’d say I was most sore the following day after our 12-hour celebrations.

“Our rates of scoring and defence were very high and that got us over the line in both games.

The Na Fianna senior hurling panel and their management team after winning the North American senior hurling final for the sixth time.
The Na Fianna senior hurling panel and their management team after winning the North American senior hurling final for the sixth time.

“Gaelic Park in Chicago is unreal. I’ve been there several times before for the CYC, the underage North American championships. Outside of San Francisco, it’s my favourite GAA venue.

“I usually try to forget the crowd, but I don’t think I’ve seen one like that at a Na Fianna game in years, I’ll be remembering that for a while.”

Manning a big part in their recent North American championship success from his wingback berth. He is determined to build on his strong performances this year going forward.

I did my job this summer, but I’m looking to make big improvements in the upcoming years. I’m very lucky to get training from serious hurling players and coaches and I will absolutely take advantage of it.”

Manning, who was born and raised in America, started playing football and only took up playing hurling at the age of 11 or 12. He loves the ‘uniqueness’ of hurling.

“I started playing football when I was five and I picked up hurling when I was 11 or 12. Football was easier to get into since the skills and gameplay are like soccer, but the uniqueness and chaos of hurling made it harder to dip my foot in the water.

“Once I tried hurling though I haven’t been able to stop.

“I started playing football because my parents made me play, and hurling because the San Fran youth team needed players to fill in at a CYC.”

“In terms of priority, it was initially the American sports for me, but after competing in the Féile tournament in 2013 in Derry, the GAA has held a very important place in my heart. After thay I became much more serious about improving and competing at a high level.”

ROOTS

He has strong Cork roots and GAA connections in his family. His Cork-born grandfather also won a North American championship title after he moved to San Francisco. Manning is proud to continue strong sporting legacy of his family.

“San Francisco has long been a hub of strong GAA teams. My grandfather won North American titles when he moved over from Cork. My dad’s parents are John Manning from Kinsale and Kathleen Manning (Kenneally) from Newmarket. My mom also has roots in Rockchapel.

I haven’t been back to Cork since the Féile tournament in 2013 but I get updates from my cousins when they visit.

"Once I get my Irish passport, I’m planning on making a return. I proudly tell all my friends out here that Cork is the best county. There’s no place that beats it. I can’t wait to visit again,” he said.

In a new rule, all teams competing in the various adult GAA competitions across the US must have two homegrown American players on the field. He hopes this rule will attract more American-born players to take up GAA games.

“It’s hard to say it’s a bad rule when I was brought up to the senior level, playing alongside All-Ireland winners and county legends, and have won a North American title. However, I do think that it’s unrealistic to expect the highest-level teams to pick up high schoolers and adults to play senior when they have little or no experience playing even junior.

“When we were going to the Féile tournament we recruited our schoolmates heavily. We picked up mostly Irish Americans who had some experience playing.

“I’m hoping that all levels of the GAA in America make steps to encourage American-born players to begin playing with high-level adult teams before they age out of the youth programmes, otherwise it is very hard to bridge that competitive gap.

“As an adult, I’ve tried getting Americans to play but it’s very difficult. Even when you have people who are enthusiastic to play, the coordination, time, and money that goes into management and training are taken for granted since the GAA has a culture of people who handle that while the players play.

“I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported my teams behind the scenes from the youth grade to the current Na Fianna senior team. The friendships, trophies, and memories are all owed to them."

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