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Friday, February 12, 2016

Emerald Isle’s game sparkles in Riverdale

By Chris Mascaro
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Thomas Wyle, of Tyrone, goes down with the ball as Niall Croke, playing for St. Barnabas, stands nearby at Gaelic Park on July 10.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Joe Bell, in white, for Tyrone, keeps the ball away from Luke Barret, for St. Barnabas, at Gaelic Park. Find out how the Gaelic Football season is going,

Connor Skeffington’s hair glistened with sweat as he exited a one-room trailer that served as team Tyrone’s locker room for its Gaelic football match on July 10 against St. Barnabas.

Rushing to do an interview, the bare-chested Skeffington threw on a teammate’s jersey with a Gaelic motto translated as, “There is no strength without unity.”

Tyrone, which is in the Intermediate Football Division of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) of Greater New York, had just won its first game of the season, 17-16, with Skeffington scoring the decisive goal with 4:30 left in the second half. The team trailed by six points with less than 15 minutes to play, a usually insurmountable lead.

In Gaelic football, one point is awarded for kicking the ball above the crossbar and between the goalposts that shoot up from both ends of a soccer net. If a player kicks the ball into the net, which is guarded by a goalkeeper, it is a three-point goal. At the time of Skeffington’s three-point goal, Tyrone led 14-12 in points, but trailed 15-14 because of St. Barnabas’ goal at the 17:42 mark of the second half.

Skeffington ripped a right-footed shot that beat the keeper to the far side to give Tyrone the lead for good.

“I’ve been watching the World Cup this past month and I finally had a bit of World Cup fever, you know?” the 30-year-old construction worker said of his kick.

To the uninitiated, Gaelic football looks like rugby with a twist. It has elements of basketball, soccer, volleyball and even American football. Players can take a maximum of four steps with the ball, unless they dribble it to themselves off their foot, and then either kick, bounce or bump it to a teammate.

The GAA of Greater New York hosts its matches at Manhattan College’s Gaelic Park, just underneath the Van Cortlandt Park subway stop. Admission is $5, and while Thursday’s crowd was sparse, it was spirited, as some of the spectators enjoyed an adult beverage.

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