By Frank Craig
Shane Boyle doesn’t regret departing for America and he certainly doesn’t think of what might have been had he’s stuck around home in Donegal.
The Killybegs clubman was this week named Brooklyn Shamrocks GFC’s Player of the Year. ‘Baker’ is a former county Under 16, minor and Under 21 star. He also got a run for the Donegal seniors back in 2010 but by the following season, he was off to the States.
Chicago was his initial destination of choice where he spent two seasons with the Parnells club in the Windy City. In 2012, he departed for New York and has resided there ever since.
He told the Donegal News: “My first taste of America was actually a trip with the Sligo IT team in 2007 for an FBD league final against New York.
I was only in college a few months at that stage, but it was a great experience even being in the same room as some of the players on that team.
“Mooner (Christopher Murrin) and myself then landed out for a summer in 2008 to play a bit of football with Parnells in Chicago. We won a Chicago championship with a great bunch of lads who I still keep in contact with today.
“Both of us went back out again in 2009 with Brendan Faherty, who is still there today, and we won another championship that summer. We had Enda Varley (Mayo) and Kevin McManamon (Dublin) as our inside forward line. I then decided moved to New York, full time, in 2012.
“I’m working in real estate with a company called Compass. I’m really enjoying it. I’m self employed but I make my own hours and I’m my own boss which is the best part.”
As a youngster growing up at Fintra, both he and his friends were used to landing the big silverware. With the likes of Everton star Seamie Coleman for company, the side won championships at Under 13/15/16 and two at minor level.
Indeed, in his final season at minor the team just missed out on landing the Ulster crown.
He was stationed at full-back in 2006 as the Donegal minor side went on to win the Ulster title and reach the All-Ireland semi-finals where they were just about squeezed out by Kerry.
That team also included Michael Murphy, Leo McLoone and Martin McElhinney.
Ironically enough, another two Killybegs men in exile, Brendan Faherty and Paul McGinley, were also starters in that fine XV.
“I represented Donegal at all levels but I don’t think emigrating cost me any medals there,” he modestly admitted. “Playing Gaelic really turned into a chore, more than something I enjoyed actually doing.
“Looking back on it, I was never really interested in giving it the dedication it deserved or that was required to be at that top level. I was more interested in enjoying everything else that was going on in your 20s. That’s the honest truth.
“The past few years playing over here, I’ve really been enjoying it. Gaelic football is probably the third, fourth or fifth thing down the ladder for everyone out here.
“It’s more relaxed meeting up, going out and just playing. New York is focused so much on working long days around the clock. So when you get a chance to get to Gaelic Park, it’s just a great release. Football at home, even at club now, has got so serious. Some of the enjoyment seems like it’s definitely gone.”
The Fishermen have been hit hard over the last decade with other influential stars like Jason Noctor, Conal Molloy and Matthew Smith, all former senior Donegal panellists, also deciding to head for the US.
You can only wonder and speculate what that talented group of club underage stars might have achieved had they all stuck around. Boyle though, doesn’t dwell on the ‘what ifs’.
So many of his friends have forged the kind of lives and, indeed, lifestyles for themselves they probably never could have had they stuck around home.
“All you can do really is wonder,” he says on what Killybegs might have done with that quality cluster. “We had a really special group of lads there.
“You look back at all the winners of the Dr. Maguire over the last 10 years, match our lads up against them, and I think we could have run anyone down to the wire.
“But every club from Glen to Malin has been hit with emigration as well. Really, it was about going away and trying to make a life. Of course I love to get home but I don’t have any regrets.”