Connecticut, 10th March 2019.
Having reach our “Valhalla” following our visit to Iceland, it was time for the Ballybrack Seagulls to reach out to the Irish diaspora and connect with the descendants of Irish people who live outside the island of Ireland.
Ireland has long suffered the curse of emigration from her lands with many choosing to emigrate to the United States of America. So once again the Seagulls were going transatlantic and heading to one of the largest Irish American communities in the USA.
Next up for the Ballybrack Seagulls …Connecticut!
Having enjoyed our mini European Tour it was time to refocus our efforts in aligning ourselves with our Irish heritage and culture, which has transcended the Emerald Isle and seen the greatest export any country can offer to the world but its people.
Since as far back as the mid 1800”s Ireland had been exporting its people to every corner of the world with the USA been a great recipient of Irish people who in turn made the United States their home and helped turn their new found home land into one of the greatest nations in the world.
When the Ballybrack Seagulls commenced on its first transatlantic trip it was to play for the “Annie Moore Cup” the first officially registered Irish person to make their way through the Federal registration process at Ellis Island in New York City and it was with this in mind that the Seagulls sounded out our next suitable opposition and a location that fitted the bill and recognised the impact that the Irish Diaspora has made.
Our founder and Logistical manager Mr Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan struck gold when he received contact from Glastonbury Celtic, a football team based in the town of Glastonbury just outside the City of Hartford, Connecticut.
Glastonbury Celtic were established in 1972 with a strong Irish lineage and when Wayne received contact from Mr Dan Rooney the Glastonbury Celtic treasurer who had picked up on the Ballybrack Seagulls through our name, in a small world connection, it turned out that Dan originally reigned from Ballybrack himself, having emigrated state side in the early 1980”s.
This was exactly the type of contact we were looking for but what was to develop from this initial contact, we certainly couldn’t have expected.
Over the following months from the initial contact between Glastonbury Celtic and the Ballybrack Seagulls plans were but in place with a time and location of the match day build around the St. Patrick’s Celebrations held in Hartford, Connecticut.
In Connecticut they host there St. Patrick’s Parade a week ahead of St. Patrick’s day itself to allow the people of Connecticut travel to New York or Boston on the 17th of March and also to allow the many marching bands involved in the Connecticut parade participate on either of the other two parades a week later in either of the East Coast Cities.
Glastonbury Celtic were reigning State Champions and had been invited to participate in the Connecticut St. Patrick’s Parade.
Having confirmed our travel plans to Connecticut the Ballybrack Seagulls were honoured and privileged to have received an official invitations by the Connecticut parades committee to also participate in the Connecticut parade as guests of honour but little did we know how big an event this was going to be or what impact our arrival and participation in this event would have on Connecticuter’s.
So the scene was set for the Ballybrack Seagulls to embark on their biggest tour to date with a travelling party including supporters, team players along with team management exceeding 50 personal.
On Thursday the 7th of March 2019, the Ballybrack Seagulls and friends assembled in Dublin Airport to go through US pre immigration clearance before boarding our flight to Bradley Airport in Hartford, Connecticut.
The Seagulls assembled in the newly commissioned Kappa Sports back and white casual attire. The Turin based Italian company was established in 1916, (great year for the Irish) as a sock firm before moving into sports clothing in 1967.
The Seagulls had gone for a full Black playing kit with Black and White casual and leisure wear and we commonly refer to this trip as the ALL BRACKS trip.
Once again we had a large number of new arrivals travelling on their first Seagulls trip such as Jimmy “The Bell” Finnerty, “The Badger” Hughes, TG4 newsreader Siobhan Ni Mhurchu along with Daniel McDonald, Ann and Ed McDonnell, Claire O’Kelly along with Grace, Tiarnan and Alfie O’Kelly plus their grandad Christie Hussey, who was planning a visit to family homestead while in Connecticut, something he never expected he would have done in his life time.
As well as our new found travel companions we had many returning main stayers from previous Seagulls trips such as Joan McGrath, Pauline and Paul Byrne, Angela Campbell, Michelle Hewitt, Nicola Ryan, Leslie O’Sullivan plus Abaigeal and Bobby O’Sullivan, along with Feargal “Irish” Anderson returning following his last adventure with the Seagulls in the Netherlands and our very own Entertainment Manager Cyril “The Squirrel” O’Sullivan who was due to play major part of our St. Patrick’s parade participation later in the trip.
On the team front the management team remained a settled ticket with “Uncle” Ray Downer and his assistant Noel “Nipper” Finn returning with the addition of Jimmy “The Bell” Finnerty adding his weight of experience into the management structure.
Playing personal once again saw the return of Mark “The Chiropractor” O’Sullivan, Rob “The Professor” Dunne, Carl “The Brack Pearl” Breen, George “Skiddely” Downer plus the Captain Martin Hewitt with Karl “The Congressman” Dorman making his Seagull come back following his last appearance in Amsterdam. Also returning, Iceland vets such as Tony “he score goals” Hughes, Rob “Camino” Murphy, Shane “Boyband” O’Kelly, Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan, Noel “Twinkle Toes” Lacey, Willie “Safe Hands” Devlin, Paul “Ozzy” Osbourne and new playing recruit Ray “Pirlo” Darcy.
Not a finer travelling party could you have the pleasure to travel with and not forgetting that we had the bonus of meeting up with three fellow Seagulls who were topping off their trip to South America via Connecticut to tog out with us and join in the St Patrick festivities, aka the “The Columbia Three” who we suspect were recently released from a hell hole prison in Medellin, Sean “Yaya” Cummins, John “Giles” Nolan and Karl “Monty” Montgomery.
Following a pleasant flight from Dublin to Bradley International Airport curtesy of Aer Lingus, who fed and watered us well on our 6hrs 40minute flight, we landed in the USA to a fanfare and media circus, the likes of which the Seagulls hadn’t seen before.
On our arrival we were met by Glastonbury Celtic’s Dan Rooney and Stephen Boucher plus FOX 61 NETWORK NEWS who hosted a live interview with the arriving Ballybrack Seagulls, with our very own George “Skiddely” Downer excelling in delivering the greatest TV interview in Seagull history, were the FOX 61 NETWORK NEWS interviewer miss interrupted the our name and mistaking referred to us as the “Bally Brick” Seagulls.
It’s fair to say the event and stoked the fire for a great week ahead.
Following our TV debut we boarded the transport laid on for us by the hosting team Glastonbury Celtic, which was a classic American style School bus that which brought us to the team HQ, the Hilton Garden Inn Hartford South/Glastonbury.
Having checked in and freshened up it was time to head into city of Hartford to meet up with our hosts in Vaughan’s Public House, on Pratt Street.
Vaughan’s is the main sponsor of Glastonbury Celtic and had kindly laid on a welcoming reception with food and drinks aplenty.
Both the Seagulls and the Celts exchanged some welcoming words with Dan Rooney, Stephen Boucher and Brian “Dougie” Douglas leading the welcoming committee from the Celts and Martin “The Captain” Hewitt delivering a thank you message on behalf of all the travelling Seagulls.
As we enjoyed the hospitality of our hosts in Vaughan’s Bar and sank there legendary “Car Bombs” and Vaughan’s Irish Cream in the company of local legends like “Bainisteoir” Dan, we were thinking what a start to our week and to top it off, who was to arrive just before last call only the “The Columbia Three” Sean “Yaya” Cummins, John “Giles” Nolan and Karl “Monty” Montgomery, finally saw the travelling party up to its full complement for the first time on the trip.
Day two of our trip saw the Seagulls with some free time so we arranged a trip up to Westfarms Shopping Mall.
The mall sits on the town line between Farmington and West Hartford, and takes its name from the two and is one of the biggest designer outlets in the region.
Once the Seagulls got themselves suited and booted in the latest designer treads, it was time to get fed and watered and were better than World of Beer, Gastropub, that proclaimed to feature 500+ global beers and lots of craft drafts!
What more could the Seagulls want, and for a group that normally end up face down in their Beer, World of Beer offered a novel feature of crafting your image on their Beer instead.
Later that night we visited the Irish American Home Society Club on Commerce Street back in Glastonbury, as special guests at the Celtics player of the season awards.
To mark our visit to Connecticut we had arranged to have a Republic of Ireland jersey signed by both the Republic and Northern Ireland International football teams from a recent International friendly framed which was presented to the Glastonbury Celtics at this event.
In addition the then CEO of the Football Association of Ireland, John Delaney arrived to lend his support and extend his gratitude to the Ballybrack Seagulls for the long standing support of the national team, which was a major surprise for our host Club Glastonbury Celtic.
Having enjoyed a great night in Irish American Home Society, we retired back to Maggie Mcfly’s, were Feargal Anderson, delivered a beautiful rendition of “The Streets of New York” by the Wolf Tones.
Day three was upon us and as we prepared to participate in the Hartford, St. Patrick’s parade it was time to unveil our secret weapon that would win over the hearts and minds of the Connecticuter’s and see more and more TV footage come our way.
As we all know the Americans are big into their mascots, so the Ballybrack Seagulls had commissioned its very own mascot and it was time to reveal “Cyril the Seagull”, our very own mascot, so armed with thousands of Green and White Ballybrack Seagull wristbands, which we planned to dish out to the Connecticuter’s, who lined the parade route, set off into the centre of Hartford to kick off a wild and exciting day that would live long in the memory.
So lined up behind our Ballybrack Seagulls banner, wristbands aplenty and Seagull mascot the Ballybrack Seagulls took the Hartford St Patricks parade by storm before “raving” the afternoon away back in Vaughan’s Bar, for one of the greatest St Patrick festival experience we are likely going to experience in our life time.
Later that night the whole party assemble for celebratory drinks in the lounge Bar of Hilton Garden Inn, back in Glastonbury, the Seagulls held its second awards night were the famous five of Mark “The Chiropractor” O’Sullivan, Rob “The Professor” Dunne, Carl “The Brack Pearl” Breen, George “Skiddely” Downer and the Captain Martin Hewitt received specially made framed certificates acknowledging their sixth Ballybrack Seagull cap.
Finally match day had arrived on day four.
This trip may echo some similarities with our last post St. Patrick’s celebration match in Barcelona but in so many ways it was different.
The match time was fixed as a late afternoon kick off so ample time for the Seagulls to rise and enjoy breakfast, along with sometime in the hotel pool before the Gaffer “Uncle” Ray and his management team of Noel “Nipper” Finn and Jimmy “the bell” Finnerty hosted a team meeting to run over some match day tactics.
The only change to the staging of the match was the original host venue.
The game was to take place at the Irish American Home Society Club but due to heavy overnight snowfall the match day venue was switch to the all-weather venue of the TD Bank Oakwood Soccer Park, aka the Natalie Stadium.
So as the ALL BRACK Seagulls stepped onto the pitch of the Natalie Stadium confidence was high that a result was here for the taking, with the Seagulls set up in a 4 4 2 formation with Willie Devlin net minding behind the Brack Pearl, Carl Breen and the Congressman Karl Dorman, flanked by the Chiropractor Mark O’Sullivan and the Skipper Martin Hewitt.
The midfield was been paraded Noel “twinkle toes” Lacey and John “Giles” Nolan acting as the play master general, with George “Skiddely” Downer and Rob “The Professor” Dunne offering both a defensive and attacking line from the wide channels.
Up top and leading the two man strike force was Shane “Boyband” O’Kelly and Tony “he scores goals” Hughes.
It was the management’s decision to hold Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan in reserve, which was to prove profitable for the leading Seagulls goal poacher, along with Rob “Camino” Murphy, Paul “Ozzy” Osbourne and 2 thirds of the Columbia trio Sean “Yaya” Cummins, Karl “Monty” Montgomery and Ray “Pirlo” Darcy.
On one of the coldest days I think any of the ALL BRACK Seagulls could have experienced to play a game of Football, it’s fair to say the Seagulls were applying a quality game management approach, with every ALL BRACK getting on the ball and John “Giles” Nolan dictating the patterning of the game from the midfield with great gusto and Shane O’Kelly offering himself with selfless running in and out of the channels which allowed Tony Hughes occupy the opposition centre halves high up the field.
George “Skiddely” Downer, who was playing in an unaccustomed role of right side of midfield was in fact able to play great holding role allowing his skipper offer an overlapping right full role which was pinning the Celts back on their heels.
This front footed attacking approach had the Glastonbury Celts bewildered as they expected a leggy hungover crew to turn up and certainly didn’t expect to be the battle to found themselves in but alas the ALL BRACK Seagulls couldn’t turn their playing dominance into a score and on a rare attack by our hosts which led to a corner, the ALL BRACK Seagulls fell behind to set piece corner.
From the restart the ALL BRACK Seagulls sprung back into attack mode and came close to a leveller when Shane struck the up right.
This gave the ALL BRACK Seagulls the confidence to go on and chase down the equaliser and what and equaliser it turned out to be.
Having broken down a Glastonbury attack the Skipper Martin Hewitt sled a ball out to the right to George Downer, who played a beautifully weighed ball into the on running Tony “he scores goals” Hughes and boy does he score goals, as he unleashed a stunning right foot effort from almost 25 yards, only to see it hit the back of the net.
Half time score board read Glastonbury Celtic 1 ALL BRACK Seagulls 1.
Half time gave the Gaffer and his management team a chance to point out the weaknesses in the opposition and the areas of the field we needed to exploit more to see this result turn favourable for the ALL BRACK Seagulls.
It also gave the Gaffer the chance to made change in the makeup of the side with the skipper stepping out and introduction of Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan up top with Tony playing in the hole behind Shane and Wayne with this change reaping its rewards not long into the second half when John “Giles” Nolan picked up from where he left off in the first half and found the willing as ever runner Shane “Boyband” O’Kelly on the far left hand side of the park before he found Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan who nestled the ball in the back of the net to show the score board reading Glastonbury Celtic 1 ALL BRACK SEAGULLS 2.
The ALL BRACK Seagulls dominance at this stage was rampant and with Wayne “Trivago” O’Sullivan rattling the Celts crossbar from a spectacular half “scorpion” style overhead attempt.
In an attempt to keep the team fresh and in effort to keep the dominance in favour of the ALL BRACK Seagulls, Rob “Camino” Murphy was introduced for Mark the “The Chiropractor” O’Sullivan and Ray “Pirlo” Darcy introduced for Noel “Twinkle Toes” Lacey.
These changes at the time seemed to work, as a seamless pattern of dominance continued for the ALL BRACK Seagulls apart for one period of attacking dominance by the hosts saw them get a series of corners which the Seagulls dealt with admirably, with one of these corners been the catalyst of a lightening counter attack by Shane “Boyband” O’Kelly taking control of the ball on the edge of the Seagulls 18 yard box before running the length of the field with the shadow of the covered bleacher stand on his right hand side he found himself in the oppositions 18 yard box and as the Celts keeper converged on him he squared the ball to Rob “The Professor” Dunne, but the man who would rattle off Pythagoras’ theorem at the drop of a hat got his angles wrong a pull his strike wide.
This miss was to prove costly as the Seagulls dominance began to fade and the Celts got themselves back on level terms before a calamitous event at the back saw Willie “Safe Hands” Devlin miss read the flight of the ball, which saw the Celts winger chase down a loss cause of a ball and round our stranded goal keeper which saw the Glastonbury Celts steal for their third goal.
In an effort to relaunch the attack and in an effort to chase down an equaliser Paul “Ozzy” Osbourne and 2 thirds of the Columbia trio Sean “Yaya” Cummins and Karl “Monty” Montgomery were introduced but unfortunately it was too little too late and the Celts ran out victors 3 to 2.
This was definitely a game that we let slip and will be marked as the one that got away.
Great admiration has to go to our band of hardy supporters Joan McGrath, Pauline and Paul Byrne, Angela Campbell, Michelle Hewitt, Nicola Ryan, Leslie O’Sullivan plus Abaigeal and Bobby O’Sullivan, Feargal, Cyril “The Squirrel” O’Sullivan, “The Badger” Hughes, Siobhan Ni Mhurchu and Daniel McDonald along with Grace and Tiarnan O’Kelly who weathered the extremely cold conditions on the day and cheered on the ALL BRACK Seagulls.
Later after the match we enjoyed some post-match drinks with the host team back at the Irish American Home Society Club and later in Maggie McFly’s before finishing the night out in the lounge Bar of the Hilton Garden Inn.
Our final day in Connecticut gave the Seagulls time to wonder around the town of Glastonbury before we flew home later that night. I can only describe Glastonbury and looking like a scene out of Home Alone the movie, with its large houses and snow covered gardens it was a beautiful setting for a quite memorable moments and only wetted the appetite for further Seagull adventures.
A big thank you to all at Glastonbury Celtic, along with all the Staff at Vaughan’s and the Hilton Garden Inn, for the help and hospitality