Rocks return to State Cup action

  • Tough task for firsts as in-form East Hampton visit St Michaels
  • Reserves aiming to topple Zum Schneider
  • Champion Over 30s hosting Long Island’s Integral
  • Geraghty targeting advance to Division A League Cup decider

shamrocks-state-cup-schedule-graphicThe Rocks will be up for the cup this weekend with four State Cup games on Sunday combined with a League Cup showdown for the women’s team in what should be an exciting day of action.

The Manning Cup quarter-final clash between Kevin Grogan’s first team and top Long Island Soccer League outfit East Hampton is arguably the biggest game of the weekend across all competitions (St Michaels – Sunday at 1pm).

The CSL Division 1 league leaders welcome an East Hampton outfit which boasts an almost identically impressive record in their own campaign with the Long Island men having only lost one game on their way to a 7-1 record which has them out in front at the top of their conference.

Stu Colbert (left) and Cónall McGrandles are cup tied for the reserves.
Photos by Dennis Schneidler

East Hampton arrive into this one on the back of two 1-0 wins – both at home – over CSL sides, Zum Schneider and NYAC. But their trip to Queens will be a step-up in class and although Grogan won’t be able to count on cup tied duo, Cónall McGrandles and Stu Colbert, confidence in the camp is high as the winter break approaches.

“We are very excited about this big State Cup quarter-final,” said Kevin Grogan.

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Kevin Grogan

“I keep saying that game day is the best day of the week and it is. Those game day butterflies through anticipation for the kick-off and then the rollercoaster of emotion during a game.

“And of course knowing that if everyone does their best in terms of work ethic that we have a chance of winning because we have so much quality in the squad.

“We need work ethic to be our foundation. We can’t forget why we are doing well this year. It starts with hard work, discipline and concentration levels.”

RESERVES SEEKING REVENGE

The curtain raiser at the Astoria venue is the D’Arpino Cup Round of 16 clash of Shamrocks Reserves and Zum Schneider Reserves (St Michaels – 11am).

John Riordan’s men are hoping to avenge a remarkable league game between the teams back in late September when the Rocks relinquished a 3-0 lead, ultimately downed 5-4 by the top flight newcomers. However, the German side have failed to win a CSL game since with their only highlight throughout October and November being a 3-0 success over Cedar Stars in the previous round of the cup.

McGrandles and Colbert will offer the reserves a solid presence through the middle while the return of Brendan Lane, Mike Stone and Johnny Hayes all ensure this will be the most competitive reserves squad of the season.

“We’ve put together a nice run – four wins in a row – so the players are enjoying themselves,” said Riordan. “It will be a big headache picking the team on Sunday but moving on to the next round is a major target so that’s more important than anything this weekend.”

CHAMPS TAKE ON INTEGRAL

Marth Cup champions, Shamrock Over 30s, will host Long Island’s Integral at Randalls Island 70 on Sunday and the 12pm kick off is sure to produce a hard fought tussle.

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Shamrocks Over 30s pictured after June’s Marth Cup final success. Photo by Eoin Sweeney

With four wins and four losses, Integral are second from bottom in the West Conference of the Over 30s Division in Long Island but they are in a good run of form, winning three of their last five league games while also securing an impressive 3-0 victory over Lansdowne in the previous round of this competition.

In spite of all that, coach Paddy Mc Carry is confident that his cup holders can march on to the quarter-finals.

“We have an extremely strong 16-man squad to chose from,” he said.

“It’ll be great to welcome back both Johnny Keogh and Eugene Reynolds from injury. We are defending champs and we know we have a huge target on our backs – everybody wants to beat the holders. But all our boys take the State Cup very seriously and we want to be back in that final in June. Integral will have to bring their A game on Sunday. I expect a battle – they are a good side – but we are raring to go for this one.”

LEGENDS VISIT GLEN COVE

Meanwhile, Integral’s conference rivals, Glen Cove, will host the Legends in the other Marth Cup clash involving a Rocks team (Brookside Jr HS – 9.30am).

“The State Cup is a competition we are taking very seriously and we would like to continue this cup run for as long as we can,” said player-coach Emmett Harvey. “Although we are missing a few key players such as John Riordan, Tyrone Kent and Randall Friedman, we have put together a really good squad and we are looking forward to this next challenge.”

WOMEN EYEING ENTRY TO FINAL

Elsewhere, there will be a double header for the women’s teams at East 6th St on Sunday afternoon with a Metro Women’s League Division A Cup semi-final against Fuel FC (1pm) preceding a Division B league make-up game between the Rocks and NYC United (3pm).

“It’s a big game for us on Sunday,” said coach Paddy Geraghty of the first match-up.

“We have a chance to make it to the cup final and also finish the fall season unbeaten. We have a very strong squad for the game so we have a great chance. We are starting to create more chances and be more patient in possession.”

It will also be the final match-up before the winter break for Keith Perez’s B team and the coach’s aim is to be in a solid position to fight for a share of top of the league when play resumes in the Spring.

“We are expected to be at full strength and look to continue to build off our team dynamic and hard work ethics,” said Perez. “The ladies will be prepared to put on a great performance which will hopefully lead to another victory before we break for the winter.”

‘Tenacity, enthusiasm, passion and charisma’

The following remembrance of Robbie Walsh was written by his great friend Mike Fitzpatrick who also spoke movingly at the funeral service of the former captain and coach of the Shamrocks in Woodside last week.

This piece first appeared in First Touch Online. It will also feature prominently in this week’s print edition which will be available Friday. Thank you to Mike and First Touch for allowing us to reproduce here.

Last Tuesday evening, I got chatting to a man at an ‘event’ in Sunnyside, Queens. He told me that if it weren’t for a certain young Irishman, his own son may well have ended up a casualty of New York’s so-called ‘mean streets’. This Irishman, he told me, had instilled in his son a love for football, and encouraged and nurtured that passion so much that the man’s son was now a fixture on his college team, as well as lining out for his club on a weekly basis.

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Robbie Walsh pictured recently with his old friend Mike Fitzpatrick, author of this piece.

Another gentleman I spoke with that evening, also felt indebted to that same Irishman, as he’d arranged for him to get a job, driving the local soccer team to and from matches every weekend. The rewards, not only financially, but socially, had done wonders for this chap, who felt he owed so much to the Irishman. Hundreds of others attended the same event, a solemn affair, on a rainy night in New York City. Young couples who knew the Irishman by sight, when they’d see him out walking his beloved dog, Rooney (named after the Manchester United and England captain, Wayne), around the neighborhood. Shopkeepers, bartenders, waiters, construction workers, drivers, musicians, writers and footballers, dozens and dozens of footballers, also lined out to pay their respects.

An evening, and then a subsequent morning, away from their families, to bid a sad farewell, reminisce with a story and shed more than a few tears, for an Irishman in New York. He was however, not just an Irishman, but a proud Kildare man, born and reared in Straffan, at the time a small village west of County Dublin, a New Yorker of nineteen years standing, a past pupil of Salesian College Celbridge, a Leinster rugby supporter and Manchester United fan, a son, brother, cousin, nephew, neighbor and friend. He was also a New York Shamrock, a former player and coach with the esteemed Big Apple soccer team, and the man who, as a fearless center-half, captained the club throughout its most successful period in its exceptional history. His name was Robert ‘Robbie’ Walsh.

Robbie, as he was affectionately known throughout his time in New York City, passed away suddenly, following a heart attack, on his way to work on the morning of November 10th, 2016. He managed to fight on for several hours, doing his beloved friends and teammates one final favor, allowing them the time to visit him in hospital to say farewell, before finally passing away that night, at Elmhurst Hospital, in Queens. Having graduated from Salesian College Celbridge in 1990, Robbie spent several years working in Kildare, including a stint at Intel, where he was to meet many friends whom he’d remain in contact with for the rest of his short life. He then moved to New York, in 1996, getting work in the construction industry, and immersing himself in the city’s soccer scene, joining New York Shamrocks, with whom he was to continue playing and then coaching, for most of his nineteen years in the US.

His tenacity, enthusiasm, passion and charisma were quickly noted by the club’s hierarchy, and he was appointed captain early on in his career, becoming a firm favorite with the club’s supporters, especially when he led the side to their back to back League Cup-winning seasons in 1999 and 2000, versus New York Albanians and Koha respectively. It was the first time in the colorful history of the Cosmopolitan Soccer League, that a team had retained the trophy, and Robbie was named man of the match in the Koha game, and then was awarded Player of the Year at the club’s 40th Anniversary dinner.

Fast forward several years, and during the height of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ years, Shamrocks were struggling to field a team. Many players had moved home, and very few were coming over to the US. Walsh suggested at a meeting that the club drop down several divisions, as to continue fighting with a depleted squad, versus some sides which were, to every extent, semi-professional, could well be not only soul-destroying for the players, but disastrous for the club. There were angry voices against the suggestion, but the club went with their captain’s idea, as long as he took on the coaching duties. After a number of games forfeited due to a lack of players showing up to play, Walsh’s Shamrocks began to gather steam, and wound up winning the Metro Two West (the Cosmopolitan Soccer League’s fourth division), and promotion, then in 2009 clinched the Metro One championship, earning the side a move to the CSL Second Division. It is due in no small part to Walsh’s passion and hard work, that Shamrocks, far from the days just ten years ago being unable to field one whole team, now boasts seven squads. First, second and third strings, two ladies’ sides, an over 30s squad, and a ‘legends’ panel all take their respective fields each weekend in the name of NY Shamrocks.

Indeed, just last weekend, the ‘Legends’ side, the team that Robbie had most recently lined out for, retired his number 14 shirt, the very same number he wore when representing his school Salesians way back in 1990, when, against the odds, they incredibly won the Leinster Cup, as a mark of respect for their former leader.

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The Shamrocks Legends players joined with friends of Robbie Walsh on Sunday to retire his number 14 jersey from the team he used to play for. Picture: Fiona Smyth

Survived by his parents Joseph and Liz, and brothers Kevin and Glenn, Robbie Walsh, the inspirational skipper with the incredible passion, boundless enthusiasm, lion-hearted courage, dogged loyalty and wonderful positive attitude, was laid to rest in his home town of Straffan, on Thursday of last week, having been flown home the previous evening.

A packed church greeted one of the town’s favorite sons, on his final journey, as former teammates, schoolpals, neighbors and friends from all over Ireland gathered to say goodbye. He will be greatly missed on both sides of the water.

Wearing 14 for final time, Sweeney sets up dramatic Legends finale

shamrocks-sunday-schedule-graphic

  • First team victory maintains five-point lead
  • Emotional Sunday as Legends retire Robbie’s 14
  • Sweeney sets up leveler in 1-1 draw
  • One year without a loss for Rocks Women
  • Five star 1960 crush Croatia
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Shamrocks Legends players pictured with friends of Robbie Walsh and the retired Legends number 14 jersey at Bush Terminal Park on Sunday after a 1-1 draw away to Barnstonworth Veterans. Picture: Fiona Smyth 

Five wins and a dramatic draw allowed the Shamrocks honor Robbie Walsh in perfect fashion on a weekend when his number 14 Legends jersey was worn for the last time by his good friend Eoin Sweeney.

And Sweeney wore it in style, entering the fray as an impact striker and quickly setting up Eddie Gilmartin for the all-important equalizer with 10 minutes to go against Barnstonworth Veterans at Bush Terminal Piers Park, the last field Robbie played on back at the start of October.

Sweeney’s pivoting lay-off to the edge of the box and Gilmartin’s neat finish sparked wild celebrations, before players and friends of Robbie gathered after the game to retire the 14 jersey.

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Shamrocks Legends goalscorer Eddie Gilmartin pictured left with player/assistant coach Eoin Sweeney after the pair teamed up for the equalizing goal away to Barnstonworth Veterans at Bush Terminal Park on Sunday. Sweeney wore number 14 before the jersey was retired in honor of his good friend Robbie Walsh. Picture: John Riordan

“It was a testament to Robbie Walsh’s character and legacy that on a freezing cold, windy day in Brooklyn, a large crowd turned out to pay tribute to the Shamrocks legend,” Sweeney said afterwards.

“It was fitting that the team battled back from a 1-0 deficit to earn a share of the spoils. Robbie would have been proud of our never-say-die attitude We will miss you but you will never be forgotten.”

it wasn’t just the Shamrocks club that took part in moments of silence for our former coach and captain – Cosmopolitan Soccer League president Mike Fitzgerald sent out a directive to all clubs across all divisions to stand together before their games.

“I want to pay tribute to the president and the board of the CSL for this great gesture,” said club president Sean Mc Mullan. “Our gratitude to all clubs for taking part. Robbie would have been delighted to be held in such high regard by our league.”

FIRSTS KEEP ROLLING

Kevin Grogan praised what he described as “the most important win of the season” after he watched his side record their eighth league win of the campaign at St Michaels on Saturday night.

Birthday boy Alejandro Fritz (pictured below) scored a superb header midway through the second half to pave the way for a well earned 1-0 success over a plucky Doxa outfit.

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The result keeps the Rocks five points clear at the top of Division 1 although Lansdowne will play one of their two games in hand at Pancyprians on Sunday evening.

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The Shamrocks players celebrate Alejandro Frtiz’s winning goal against Doxa at St Michaels on Saturday night. Picture: Dennis Schneidler

During a game played in brutal conditions, the Rocks back line kept its fifth clean sheet of the season, with goalkeeper Frankie Tsasse solid behind center backs Zachary Gosse and Charlie O’Loughlin while full backs Stu Colbert and Dan Giorgi played superbly throughout.

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Kevin Grogan

Grogan was especially pleased with the first team debut of Cónall McGrandles, the former Cliftonville player marshaling the midfield excellently in the absence of the suspended Giuseppe Barone.

“This was the most important win of the season,” the Rocks gaffer stated.

“It wasn’t the best of performances but we had the maturity and patience to score and win.

“We were delighted to get Cónall involved for the first time and we were also very happy with Ale’s goal. He produced at the right time which was a key moment of the season so far.”

SCOTT STRIKE SEALS POINTS

Andrew Scott was the goal hero for the reserves in the curtain raiser, pouncing late for a cool headed finish to earn all three points against a talented Doxa reserves team.

John Riordan’s men had controlled most of the game but a breakthrough was a long time coming as the visitors thwarted the Rocks in a high intensity game.

This was the team’s fourth win in a row in all competitions and their fourth in five league games, consolidating their third place position behind Lansdowne and the Greek Americans.

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Shamrocks striker Alex Wasilewski taking the ball past a Doxa defender during Saturday’s 1-0 victory for the Rocks reserves. Picture: Dennis Schneidler

“We are really starting to click now and the lads are enjoying each game,” said the reserves boss.

“This was their toughest challenge of the season and they stood up to it. Two months ago we might have left this slip by but we were solid throughout and Andrew did very well to come in and take his chance.”

1960 CRUSH CROATIA

Long serving goalkeeper Robbie O’Neill kept his second clean sheet of the weekend as Rocks 1960 cruised past Metro 1 rivals Croatia, winning 5-0 on the back of a Hughie McGowan hat trick and a goal each from Larry Slaughter and Isaac Wohlsen.

O’Neill, who had lined out 24 hours previously for the reserves, was flawless again between the posts as he watched his team mates put together a display that lifted the side to fourth place.

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Shamrocks 1960 pictured after their 5-0 win over Croatia hold the number 14 jersey in honor of Robbie Walsh.

“The 1960s boys did themselves extremely proud in difficult conditions on Sunday night,” said coach Andy Connolly.

“The tone of our fighting spirit was set by our exemplary captain, Dave Harvey, who gave the team talk beforehand. Dave spoke with honesty and eloquence about Robbie Walsh and his influence on players and the club, emphasizing the need for our team to rediscover the kind of heart and bravery that Robbie instilled among his players.

“Dave’s exhortative remarks ran through the entire performance as the lads played one of their best games so far. We were blessed with the contributions of Stu Colbert and Larry Slaughter who helped us raise our game no end. Amidst a rousing display from all, Hughie McGowan rose to the top by scoring a hat-trick and battling throughout off the ball, marking one of the individual performances of the season. I hope this was a fitting tribute to Robbie, who we will continue to remember throughout the season.”

CUP WINS FOR WOMEN

Earlier on Sunday, the Shamrocks Women’s teams moved on to the next rounds of their League Cups with a couple of great wins at St Michaels on Sunday afternoon.

The Division A Cup game, which ended in a 4-0 victory over CPR White, marked one year undefeated for Paddy Geraghty’s charges, a landmark which was earned on the back of goals from Chloe Wheeler (set up by Denise Wilson), Teresa Ferraro, Sharon Odofin (penalty) and Jackie Pounder.

“We were solid today and we did what was needed,” said Geraghty. “Everyone played at least 45 mins and we got to try players in different positions. We play one more game before the winter break in the State Cup so we’ll train hard until then and hopefully finish with a win.”

In the Division B Cup, meanwhile, Cassey Esposito returned from her head injury in fine style, coming on late to score the game winner in a 2-1 result over Appletown. Colleen Cavanagh had opened the scoring for Keith Perez’s team.

“Another great team effort,” noted Perez. “The players defended and moved as a team the entire game making it difficult for Appletown to get anything going. Cassey Esposito came in clutch at the end, fighting through injury to put the Rocks up. They all rallied together then to stay resilient and secure victory. We look forward to the final game of the Fall portion of the season so we can make sure we are in a position to be at the top of the table as the winter break arrives.”

Legends set to retire No 14 jersey in honor of Robbie Walsh

  • Shamrocks return to last place legend played
  • Andy Connolly pays tribute to his assistant coach
  • First team welcome Doxa to St Michaels
  • Divisional Cup games for Rocks Women

shamrocks-sunday-schedule-graphicThe number 14 jersey will be retired by the Shamrocks Legends after their game at Barnstonworth Rovers Veterans on Sunday, a move that will honor the memory of the late, great Robbie Walsh, former club captain and inspirational coach.

The recently deceased and widely respected Kildare man was part of September’s 4-1 win over Manhattan Celtic Masters and the legendary defender played his final game for the Shamrocks on October 2, a 1-0 win over Barnstonworth Old Boys.

That latter victory took place at the venue for this weekend’s game, Bush Terminal Piers Park, adding further weight to what will be an emotional day for Emmett Harvey’s men.

robbie-walsh-001“It’s very fitting that we will be able to retire the Legends number 14 at this venue,” said Harvey.

“Robbie would be extremely proud. Eoin Sweeney will wear it during the game which is even more appropriate. It’s been a tough week for everyone but we will go into this game with the passion, belief, confidence and team spirit which the Legends are defined by. This will be a difficult game but each and every single one of our players know what they have to do.”

Meanwhile, the club team that meant just as much to Robbie, Shamrocks 1960, will honor their assistant coach and mentor before their late CSL Metro 1 game at Croatia (Randalls 70 – 9pm).

“Robbie Walsh was and still is the great inspiration behind the tremendous renaissance of the New York Shamrocks over the past 15 years,” pointed out 1960 coach Andy Connolly.

“He rescued the club when it was facing very difficult times and his tremendously generous spirit and roaring enthusiasm still emanate throughout the vibrant scene of the club today. He was a true gent and kind soul who gave a lot to others.

“He was an excellent player, demonstrating great strength in tackling and marshaling defenses. He had a great sense of humor and he made me laugh at the most unexpected times, even when the conversations got down to serious stuff about the team and organizing players.

“Myself and the old guard at the 1960s are going to miss him terribly. I’ll continue to think of him when running the team and I hope that his influence on me and the great influence that he had on the players that he knew so well can continue to help us win games. My heart goes out to Robbie’s family in Ireland and his Shamrocks family in New York.”

There will also be minutes of silence held at Saturday’s first team game and Sunday’s Over 30s game.

The CSL Division 1 clash with Doxa at St Michaels will be a renewal of an old rivalry from when the two teams met routinely in Division 2.

Newly promoted Doxa will be a dangerous proposition for Kevin Grogan’s men with the Greek side having begun life in the top flight of New York soccer with five draws in a row, including notable results against Cedar Stars and Lansdowne in September and October.

“It’s the biggest game of the season for many reasons,” insisted Grogan.

“It’s been a tough week for the club with the passing of a true Shamrocks legend. People like Robbie have made it possible for us to be where we are today. There was a tremendous turnout at the wake on Tuesday and that’s testament to the fact that the Shamrocks are more then a football club – it’s a family. People like me and the first team players are extremely lucky to be involved and accepted by the club.

“From a football point of view, we are playing an exciting style and we’re winning games. We are top of the table but our mentality all year has been that it’s all about the next game. One game at a time, literally.”

The Shamrocks reserves have won three games in a row and they’ll be looking to continue that good form against their Doxa counterparts (St Michael’s – 6pm). Joey Aronovsky and top scorer Alex Wasilewski return to action, adding pace to an attack which has scored 23 goals in three games.

“This is a good chance to improve on last week’s performance,” admitted John Riordan. “We need to lift the standard a lot if we’re going to be able to prevent Doxa cause us problems.”

Paddy Mc Carry’s champions of the Over 30s Division face a Sunday afternoon clash away to Brooklyn Gunners who currently lie at the wrong end of the East conference (Randalls Island 52 – 3pm).

Mc Carry has a full 18 man squad to chose from with his team aiming to secure their eight league win of the season.

“We’re going into Sunday’s game looking for three points,” said Mc Carry.

“We have set a goal to win our last three games because Manhattan Celtic are going to push us all the way. Lately, we are playing very well defensively. We have been excellent and the three boys up top are in great form. We are playing very well as a team and competition for a starting spot is fierce at the minute which is great to see.”

Shamrocks Women are back in action having not played since the end of November and they’ll be returning to the fray with the toughest test possible; a Division A Cup game against talented league title rivals CPR White (St Michaels – 1pm).

“We are looking forward to this weekend after a few weeks off,” said coach Paddy Geraghty.

“It gave us a chance for some injuries to clear up and we have a strong squad to choose from. Hopefully that translates to the field with a strong performance.”

And the curtain raiser at St Michaels will also be a League Cup game with the Division B showdown of the Rocks and Appletown FC offering Keith Perez’s charges a chance at silverware after last week’s unlucky State Cup exit.

“We will be looking to rebound from a hard fought, heartbreaking loss,” said coach Keith Perez.

“It will be another tough battle but the ladies have been up to all the challenges presented so far this season. I expect another strong performance at home and hopefully our continued excellent effort along with Shamrocks home support will lead us to back to our winning ways!”