The St Eunan’s minor panel will have the honour of being the first Irish team to compete in the Continental Youth Championships when they travel to America this week.
Their contingent will join over 2,500 participants from Under 6 to Under 18 in the biggest gaelic games tournament to take place outside of Ireland.
The “CYC” tournament is an annual event, run by the North American County Board since 2004 and this year’s event will take place in Buffalo – the first time it has been hosted outside the major cities of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco.
The Letterkenny side, managed jointly by Brian McGeehin and Paul McGovern, will be competing in both hurling and football and will face teams such as the New York All-Stars and the North American All-Stars.
It is anticipated that the football contest will see full fifteen aside games while the hurling matches will be either eleven or thirteen aside.
They haven’t been made aware of their schedule of games yet but with temperatures set to rise above 30°C, there will be some adapting required for the players.
“It’s going to be a lot warmer than we’re used to certainly” said Paul McGovern.
“So we’ll be monitoring their hydration throughout. We plan to get a couple of training sessions in at a local school in the days leading up to the tournament to help the boys adapt to the heat and humidity and we’ll have recovery sessions in the hotel swimming pool after training.
Hopefully our games will be in the evening when it’s a little bit cooler!”
A number of the 28 player squad flew out yesterday to visit family while the majority will make the trip on Sunday and meet them in Buffalo. Brian McGeehin indicated that there is much excitement building about the trip.
“We hope firstly that it is a great experience for the boys and will make memories for them that will last a lifetime. Hopefully they will be talking about their trip to Buffalo for many years to come,” he said.
“They’re a great bunch of lads and we hope that they can make their town, club and families proud.
“It’s a tremendous honour for our players and club to be the first Irish team to ever travel to the CYC and hopefully the boys can give a good account of themselves and take in a little bit of sightseeing too.
“We are planning a trip up to Niagara Falls and that should be one of the highlights of our trip.”
Paul McGovern described the circumstances in which this dream trip came about.
“I was sitting watching the All-Ireland Club Final on St. Patrick’s Day when I got a text from a contact in Philadelphia asking if St. Eunan’s would be interested in coming out in July. I initially dismissed it thinking we wouldn’t have enough time to raise the money.
“Two days later, Liam Hegarty – who has connections to Donegal Town – rang me and told me a little bit about the CYC and said the organising committee would give us $5,000 towards our cost.
“We set a deadline for ourselves of one month to see if we could raise the funds and so that if we couldn’t travel they might still be able to get a team out. Luckily, we received great support and we were able to make it happen.”
“We had a bake sale in St. Eunan’s Cathedral last weekend and we’d like to thank everyone that supported us either by purchasing the goodies or helping out and baking over the weekend,” said McGeehin.
The club also paid particular thanks to Minister Joe McHugh and the Dept. of An Taoiseach, Donegal County Council, Pramerica Systems Ireland, The Mount Errigal Hotel, MICAD Security, Brian McCormick Sports, Pat the Cope Gallagher TD Leas Cheann Comhairle, Cllr. Ciaran Brogan, Cllr. Michael McBride, Cllr. James Pat McDaid, Cllr. Gerry McMonagle, Cllr. Liam Blaney, Cllr. Jimmy Kavanagh, and Fáilte Ireland.
There is also much hope that this trip will be the start of even greater things to come as they revealed that much of their time will be spent trying to convince North American clubs to come and visit Donegal annually.
They have printed a promotional brochure showing all that Donegal has to offer for in terms of gaelic games and for tourists along the Wild Atlantic Way.
They will also have a stall for the duration of the tournament with St Eunan’s members available to talk to clubs from North America about coming to Donegal next summer.
They will play their first game on Thursday July 27, and the competition will run until the following Sunday.
The St Eunan’s minor panel: Jerome Angel Atuahene, Ciaran Daffan, Aaron Deeney, Cormac Finn, Anthony Gallagher, Niall Hannigan, Louis Hasson, Ryan Hilferty, James Kelly, Shane Maguire, Ciaran McCloskey, Paddy McColgan, Peter McEniff, Oisín McGarvey, Éoin McGeehin, Ronan McGeehin, Matthew McGovern, Michael McGroary, Conor McWalters, Darragh Morrison, Eoin O’Boyle, Conor O’Donnell, John O’Donnell, Cormac O’Kane, Oisín Purdy, Sean Ryan, Paddy Tobin, James Tourish.