When Liam Hegarty passed away December 3 of last year, he left behind a treasured legacy: The Liberty Bell Tournament, drawing youth Gaelic athletes from several states to the Philadelphia area for a day of hurling, football and camogie.
When more than 700 of those athletes from Philadelphia, New York and Boston converge on the playing fields in Malvern this Saturday, they’ll be honoring his memory in more ways than one. Yes, the tournament, which started several years ago, is this year named in his memory. But it’s also a way to perpetuate an idea that was his to begin with.
“It was his brainchild,” says Aidan Corr, Delco Gaels chairperson and Philadelphia Youth Board tournament organizer. “Liam was one of the founding members of the Delco Gaels 20 years ago. His four sons played for us all the way through, from when they were able to walk. His idea for the Liberty Bell Tournament on a Philadelphia Youth Board level, not a club level, was part of an East Coast league, with Boston and New York. It was essentially to get the East Coast teams ready to play in the main tournament at the end of every year (the Continental Youth Championships).”
This year, the championships will be held July 25-28, and Philadelphia is the host. The Liberty Bell Tournament is also generally held toward the end of the July. Because it wasn’t feasible for the local Gaelic Athletic Association to host two big tourneys within a couple of weeks of each other, the date of the Liberty Bell Tournament was pushed back to the spring. Another potential complicating factor: local youth GAA games generally don’t start until May.
However, says Corr, “We felt that if we let the Liberty Bell go for a year, we might not get it back. These discussions all took place before Liam passed away.”
Three local clubs will be hosting the events: the Gaels, the Glenside Gaelic Club and the Shamrocks. Teams run from under 6 to under 14.
So far, more than 80 teams are scheduled to compete in the event, says Corr. There will be 15 individual tournaments within the overall event. “So, for example, there will be 15 little Liam Hegarty Liberty Bell Memorial cups played for that day. Each team is seven a side.”
At the end of the day, the Delco Gaels adult team and Donegal Philadelphia will square off in a seniors’ match, with a Liam Hegarty memorial trophy awarded to the winner.
Filling Hegarty’s shoes is impossible, Corr says, but the local clubs are going to do their best to make this tournament memorable. “We decided to make it the biggest and best tournament yet, in honor of Liam.”
The games begin at 9 a.m. at Line Road Fields, 137 Line Road, in Malvern.