New York City, 16th March 2016.
On a balmy Wednesday evening in mid July 2015, a group of Ballybrack Seagulls gathered at Wesley College for what was to be the start of a weekly get together for a 7 a side Football game. As that first night of Football got under way, nobody there could have expect that in almost 8 months’ time, the Ballybrack Seagulls would be on international duty for the first time. The location for this opening adventure, New York City during St. Patricks Day Celebrations of 2016!
Its 16th of March 2016, at the check in desks of Dublin Airport, a group begins to gather in numbers. This group stands out among the crowd, in the distinctive grey track tops and black track bottoms, one or two are parading their green and black polo shirts. People around the Airport began to ask questions, who are you lads?? The answer: We are the Ballybrack Seagulls, on route to New York City to play Manhattan Celtic in an international football challenge for the Annie Moore Cup! What was the brainchild of Mr Wayne O’Sullivan, and began as 7 aside kick about on Wednesday evenings, was now on the verge of a full 11 aside match with an international element, playing a group of Irish Americans / ex-pats on the eve of St. Patricks Day with Manhattan as the back drop.
So on the morning of the 16th of March 2016, the Ballybrack Seagulls, its management team of Jimmy Moulds and Davy “Says Hello” Keogh and a hardy group Shegull supporters boarded IE351, destination the Big Apple. The toughest task the management team had before we even left Dublin was the enforcement of the pre-match “drinking ban”. The thing about the imposing a drink ban on an amateur football outfit with professional drinking capabilities, is the ingenuity that players will produce to disguise what their drinking and what volume proof that drink is. It is fair to say that the flight to New York saw a number of the Seagulls get quite jovial, not ideal prep ahead of kick off but that’s what makes the Seagulls, The Seagulls.
We arrived Safely at JFK Airport and Mr. Cyril O’Sullivan, the Seagulls logistics and Entertainment Manager sprang into action ensuring the Seagulls boarded their luxury team bus. Next stop The Roosevelt Hotel on 45th Street to quickly check in, get a bite to eat (pre-match meal). With kick off a little over 3hrs away, it was time to get our game face on. Once again we boarded the Seagulls team bus to head off to the match day venue and what a spectacular setting it was. Just under the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, with the Manhattan skyline flickering in the darkening night sky as the back drop, the Ballybrack Seagulls set about their pre-match warm up, led by match day skipper Georgie “Skiddely” Downer. An interesting note about that night, as we lined up against our American opposition, this was the first time the Ballybrack Seagulls lined out as an 11 aside outfit, apart from the infamous Oscar Traynor training session ran by the tactical genius that is Mr. Jimmy Moulds aka The Gaffer. That night at the Oscar Traynor Complex, we worked intensively on set plays, defensive set ups and counter attacking football in preparation for our trip to NYC, so it’s hard see how it all went so badly wrong on the night in New York.
Some say it was Davy “Says Hello” Keogh’s cavalier Alex Ferguson influenced attitude to attacking football that exposed the Seagulls defence and undermined Jimmy’s conservative safety first approach to Football but those in the bleachers on that cold March New York evening will tell you, it was a lot to do with the drink! Both the lack of it and the abuse of it! As the game developed the Seagulls fell behind 15 minutes into first half, this was quickly added to some 10 minutes later. Davy “Says Hello” Keogh clearly wasn’t getting his message across to his chargers from the side lines and made the bold move of entering the fray himself. Dawning his Ireland bobble hat and Seagulls tracksuit bottoms, Davy lined out on the left wing, in an old fashioned outside left position. Davy’s endeavour to turn the Seagull tide came to an end 10 minutes later after he failed to follow a simple instruction from the Gaffer Jimmy’s Moulds. In a scene similar to Clough and Bremner, a heated exchange ensued but it ended quickly as Davy ran out of breath!
Halftime arrived and the score line read Manhattan Celtic 2 Ballybrack Seagulls 0. In a first half which saw some flash points of brilliance by the Seagulls which just weren’t capitalised on plus a combination of sloppy defending and lack of concentration at set plays, had seen our hosts take a commanding lead. As the saying goes, cometh the hour cometh the man (well a young fella to be honest) and that man was Tadhg Henderson. Probably Jimmy and Davy’s masterstroke on the night was the introduction of a young Tadhg Henderson, who’s fearless running and dribbling (with the ball of course) was causing all sorts of anxiety in the oppositions defence. Finally the Seagulls had an outlet for the counter attacking football we had work so hard at perfecting at the Oscar Trainer Complex and as a result history was made, when Tadhg Henderson became the leading goal scorer for the Ballybrack Seagulls FC. Granted it was our first game but for one brief moment, Tadhg had the world at his feet!
Alas, the Seagulls failed to turn the result around and unfortunately the jet lag began to kick in and we conceded a third goal. Final score Manhattan Celtic 3 Ballybrack Seagulls 1 and like its name sake the Annie Moore International Cup would remain in New York City. Once again we boarded the team bus and enjoyed some light refreshments on our trip back to Roosevelt Hotel were the Seagulls and Shegulls glammed up before joining our hosts for an official trophy presentation and awards ceremony. As part of the awards ceremony the coveted “Man of the Match” award was up for grabs. This award was shortlisted down to two players, both of whom dawned the green of the Ballybrack Seagulls. The nominees were, Georgie “Skiddely” Downer and Carl “The Brack Pearl” Breen. Unfortunately, like most award ceremonies in the USA, diversity never wins, so the Man of the Match award went to Georgie “Skiddely” Downer.
Fun times had only begun for the Seagulls. Our Logistics and Entertainment manager Cyril O’Sullivan handed every Seagull a bunch of Ballybrack Seagulls stickers, with the mission of tagging every bar, wash room, restaurant and fast food stand you visited with a Ballybrack Seagulls sticker, and boy did we tag. The Mean Fiddler proved a popular spot the night but the best was yet to come! March the 17th in New York City, oh boy did we prove to be popular people that day! 100% Irish from the “old sod” and the yanks bloody loved us and we loved them. From watching the parade march down 5th Avenue, drinking pints with New York’s finest in Doran’s to having a tumbling competition with a group of Mexicans in the residence bar of the Roosevelt Hotel, it’s a Seagulls trip that will live long in the memory, but best thing about it?
It was only the beginning!