Lansdowne FC 2019 tour to Boston and New York
(This is the edited version of the tour report, the full version will appear in the forthcoming yearbook so keep an eye out for that when the season recommences.)
50 Lansdowne men assembled on the far side of US immigration in Dublin airport and prepared for a week of bonding, sight-seeing and who knew what Rugby would unfold… The tourists, alickadoos and all, gathered round as Captain Eamonn Mills, Ian Prendiville and Shane D’Alton, an early front runner for top tourist, dished out the tour roles and more importantly the tour rules which were in play with immediate effect. The kind folk of Aer Lingus may have been a little concerned when the Lansdowne brigade descended but hid it well and a smooth flight ensued.
Double header in Boston
The ‘Yellow Jersey’ was traded as challengers and challenges unfolded with veteran Paddy Gore strutting proudly off the plane bedecked in Yellow. After depositing our bags at Loews Hotel, we converged on the least Irish Irish bar in Boston ‘The Kinsale’ for a bit of grub and a few socials. Before we knew it, the long day had caught up with us, and Millsy, an experienced Bostonite was leading us to ‘Coogans’ for dollar beers and a more authentic welcome to Boston.
The troops were up and at’em early the next day, the first game day, with games against the Boston Irish Wolfhounds and newly professional outfit The New England Freejacks. Ross Farrell led the 2nd XV, renamed ‘The Shags’, to an impressive victory against the Boston Irish Wolfhounds with Barry Fitzpatrick nabbing two late tries and a conversion to seal the win. Conor Byrne and Tristram Dyer lead from the front with Jamie Barton brilliant in attack but suspect in defence, must have been saving himself for the big match in New Jersey……! Damo O’Sullivan, a virgin rugby player, made his debut on the wing and his natural Kerry footballing ability was there for all to see as he fielded a high ball and took off down the wing before chipping ahead and tackling the opposition full back into touch, what an introduction!!
As the 1st XV warmed up, the Lansdowne victory song rang out across Canton’s Irish Cultural Centre (ICC), The Shags were on the beers and the crowd was building in anticipation of The Freejacks final game of their opening season. The crowd rose as the Lansdowne men sang ‘Amhráin na bhFiann’ and the Freejacks belted out the ‘Star Spangled Banner’. Lansdowne started brightly with Willie Walsh and Jack Dinneen making early inroads, the ball was spread wide and Dan McEvoy went in for a deserved score. The Freejacks struck back with a lovely cross-field kick but the boys from HQ enjoyed territory and possession advantage to go in 17-12 in front at half time. The tables were turned thereafter, with the heat, sheer physicality and a slight hangover quashing Lansdowne’s hope of a win. Despite a late try from Nils Murphy, The Freejacks went on to record a 46-29 win to notch their first win of the season. While the loss was a disappointment to Lansdowne, there was a palpable sense that the greater good was served with the American side winning. The game, only the second ever Rugby match on the famous ICC GAA pitch, was followed up with a fantastic party that evening where the GAA brethren embraced their Rugby cousins.
Arrival in the Big Apple
Tuesday was a down day after a jam-packed schedule thus far, so many a tourist visited the sights and enjoyed the fabulous food New York has to offer before we again congregated for a few social beers and finger food at NYC’s rugby pub ‘The Pig’n’Whistle’.
The Mets & Dive Bars
No rest for the wicked on Wednesday as the boys donned their favourite USA ‘94 themed soccer apparel and headed to Queens for the Mets-vs-Giants game.
New Jersey Monmouth
A high-speed ferry blew out the cobwebs the next morning as the tour party made their way to Jersey shore to prepare for the New Jersey invitational side that would take on The Shags.
Due to a severe lack of fit Backs, James Mulligan (on his 23rd Birthday) led out a team comprised of 13 forwards and only 2 recognised backs!! Leon Downer, a flanker by trade, shone on the wing, Shane Kennedy had a barnstormer while Sean O’Driscoll did his best to coach the ‘new’ Backs in how to pass and defend in open spaces while also marshalling his opposite number expertly. New Jersey did not lack for physicality, so the game was nip & tuck for the first 40 minutes on this humid Jersey evening. John Delaney’s bad back packed it in so had to be replaced by Scott Deasy, trying his hand for the first time at 9, and further reinforcements in the shape of Ian Prendiville at no.8 and Dr Conor Murphy at 10 boosted morale into the second period. Lansdowne began to pull away as our superior skill set was not matched by our eager opposition, but the biggest surprise of the day was to come after the full-time whistle when the opposition captain informed us that there were no shower facilities available and we would be ‘Stinkin & Drinkin’ that night. The Monmouth Clubhouse and members were fantastic hosts with a BBQ and beers all laid out for us on arrival. The beers flowed and we became less concerned with the smell although the bus driver on the long journey back to NYC may not have been so agreeable….
The Finale – New York Athletic Club
Friday, our final free day, was again spent enjoying the sights and sounds of New York with groups heading to Brooklyn, Queens and all over Manhattan. Again, we decided a few drinks were in order, and so ‘Rosie O’Grady’s’ was the chosen destination. Our opposition, New York Athletic Club (NYAC), joined us for a bite resplendent in their white blazers with red piping. Several Lansdowne FC heavyweight Alickadoos arrived and were ready to party.
The bus to Travers Island was, for the first time on tour, a subdued affair as the 1st XV prepared, The Shags slept off the hangover and the Alickadoos discussed what dress code was appropriate for the clubhouse. The location and facilities did not disappoint but before we could enjoy the 50m pool and awaiting hospitality, we had to play 80 minutes in the midday sun against a pumped up NYAC side.
The artificial surface lent itself to a fast, expansive game with Mike Ruddock’s men using the full width to tire our opposition out. Before long Lansdowne had built a commanding lead with Joe O’Brien helping himself to an early brace and captain of ‘The Immortals of 2017/18’ Prendo also scoring twice. Given the outrageous heat the referee wisely opted to enforce a water break mid-way through the first half. This was the end for The Tourist whose ginger genes could take no more of the relentless sun and in came able replacement Jim O’Shea to partner the evergreen Jack Dwan in the engine room. An intercept against the run of play meant Lansdowne went in 28-10 in front at half-time and there was no let-up in the second half with NYAC enjoying the early advantage but some stout defence kept the Americans at bay. The HQ side then began to pull away with Joe O’Brien snatching his hat-trick while also body checking the post pad!! Captain Eamonn Mills sauntered over for the last try with the ensuing conversion being the last play of the game, Lansdowne running out 52-17 winners on the day.
Following the customary handshakes and tunnel, all 50 tourists invited our counterparts to sing the Lansdowne victory song together one last time on tour. Goose, Prendo and Scotty, on their final game for the club, led the celebrations and were first to the bar thereafter. The hospitality was magnificent and with NYAC keen to tour Ireland in the coming seasons, there’s no doubt Lansdowne will prove to be just as generous as hosts. After enjoying the hospitality and putting on a show at the diving boards the squad headed back to Manhattan, to a private floor at the Broadstone Bar & Grill where both sets of players shared a few more beers and a good old-fashioned sing song, exactly what touring is all about!!
Back to Reality
A few sorry, and a few relieved, heads travelled to JFK to return home to Dublin on Sunday afternoon bringing the dream tour to an end.
After 3 wins from 4, we bid our goodbyes on arrival in Dublin, safe in the knowledge that we had all made lifelong friends and memories and that the touring traditions of Lansdowne Football Club had been safely passed on to the next generation.
One hopes, with the 150th anniversary looming, that another intercontinental tour is not too distant in the future.