This summer at Matt Paul’s soccer camp, two Irish-American soccer coaches are helping young athletes develop skills and take their game to the next level.
Ronan Higgins and Aiden Scollin have both been playing the game of soccer from a very young age.
Soccer has been present in Higgins’ life for as long as he can remember as both of his older brothers played it. “I probably had a ball on my feet when I was 3 years old,” Higgins says.
Higgins’ family has strong Irish roots, “My dad is from Galway so he grew up over there and moved to America when he was around 19 or 20 years old. He played a few different sports like basketball, soccer and Gaelic football.”
Now, the family lives in Lafayette Hill. As a kid, Higgins loved watching his older brothers play in their high school soccer games when he was younger. His long journey as a soccer player has led him to becoming a captain of Dickinson’s soccer team heading into his senior season this fall.
It’s a little like lacrosse, a bit like field hockey, and even has a smidgeon in common with baseball. It’s ancient, it’s Irish, and it’s one of the fastest-moving games—and at times incredibly physical—in all of sports.
It’s called hurling. I arrived at Mander Playground in Fairmount Park one warm spring night to learn what I could about the game.
Out on the field, about 20 members of the Philly team, Na Toraidhe—Irish Gaelic for “the pursuers”—are running back and forth in organized drills. They’re smacking a small ball called a “sliotar”—about the size of an American baseball—with flat-bladed bats called “hurleys.” They’re tossing the ball back and forth to each other. They’re almost effortlessly picking up the ball with the front edges of their hurleys.
Paddy McStravog, 26, a member of Na Toraidhe Hurling Club and the Kevin Barry Gaelic Football Club, is awaiting a third surgery on his badly injured left leg following a motor vehicle accident on Kelly Drive near Falls Bridge on December 30. McStravog, who resides in Manayunk, is from Dungannon, County Tyrone. He arrived in the United States in March 2019.
Driver Paul Young, 35, of Mitchelstown, County Cork, and passenger Scott Ball, 36, did not survive the crash.
McStravog, a bricklayer by trade, is in Penn Presbyterian Hospital. He underwent 10 hours of surgery to repair injuries to his ankle and lower leg immediately following the accident. “He had gone in for a second surgery, but they didn’t complete that because his leg was too swollen,” says Katrina Terry, club secretary for Na Toraidhe.
You couldn’t have asked for a better day for Philadelphia Gaelic Athletic Association action.
Sunday, in the shadow of the Limerick cooling towers, with bright sun, a gentle breeze and temperatures in the mid-80s, eight teams went at it for guts and glory in football and hurling. The crowd along the sidelines was big and enthusiastic.
We were there for a few of the games and shot a ton of photos. We also have scores:
In hurling, it was Allentown 5-22 over Philly’s NaToraidhe 3-14, and Jersey Shore 4-07 over the South Jersey Rebels 4-06—an exciting, hard-fought matchup.
In the junior football finals, it was Donegal 3-16 over the Delco Gaels 1-12. And in the senior finals, the Young Irelands topped Donegal 3-18 to 2-16.
Check out the pics!
Carl “The Jackal” Frampton visited the Philadelphia Irish Center to talk about his August 10, 2019, fight against Emmanuel Dominguez at Temple University’s Liacouras Center. “The Pride of Belfast” held forth on a range of subjects, too, from fatherhood and family to career highlights to his legacy. And he talked about how the next fight could be his last. (Although he expects to win.)
Yes, there are kilts—in at least one case, obligatory. Sure, there’s ax throwing, bagpipes, a kilted fun run, and highland games. But Kilt Fest, coming to Bucks County June 7 and 8, is really a mishmash of all Celtic culture.
Kilt Fest on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware is an offshoot of a festival by the same name held in New Jersey. This will be the first year here in the Philadelphia suburbs, at the Trifecta Sporting Club, 4666 East Bristol Road, Feasterville-Trevose.
“Ours is more of a Celtic festival. We have Irish and Scots,” says organizer Chris Beyer, owner of American Highlander Kilts. “A lot of it is Irish. It’s easier to get Irish involved in these things. We try to keep it where it’s a little more all-inclusive.”
A long rain delay meant a late start to last weekend’s Liam Hegarty Liberty Bell Tournament, sponsored by the Philadelphia Gaelic Athletic Association’s Youth Board. But a little rain couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the hundreds of young athletes from several states who converged on the playing fields in Malvern to face off against each other for trophies and bragging rights.
Among the winners according to local GAA and team officials:
In football, the U14 A and B Delco Gaels; the U14 Shannon Gaels; the U12 girls A, Rockland; the U10, Rangers, the U8, Glenside. In U10 camogie the honors went to the Delco Gaels. The U12 camogie trophy went to the combined Shamrocks, Glenside.
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).”