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.
Break out the Celtic-strength sunscreen. You’re gonna need it. Lots of Irish doings happening outdoors this weekend.
Here’s what’s on.
Saturday, July 24
It’s a full day of Gaelic athletics at the Philadelphia Gaelic Athletic Association’s field, up in the shadow of the Limerick cooling towers. (For GPS purposes, the address is 945 Longview Road, Pottstown.) The day starts with hurling at 10:30 a.m., followed by ladies’ football, developmental football and men’s games from 1:30 p.m. onward. $10 to get in.
Down the shore, Jamison Celtic Rock brings some of the Christmas spirit to Wildwood Crest’s Christmas in July Celebration, at Sunset Lake along New Jersey Avenue from Farragut to Miami Avenues. That particular gig runs from 6 to 8:45 p.m. Details of the event here.
Everyone loves a good portion of fish ‘n chips, but not everyone appreciates the added fat and calories that come with it.
Here’s where poaching comes in—a simple, healthier and flavorful way to prepare fish with no batter, no breading and no hot oil. When you return to Ireland, you’ll definitely find poached fish in restaurants there, but until then, try this recipe that comes from renowned Chef Jacques Pépin, whom I was fortunate to interview onboard an Oceania cruise where he serves as executive culinary director for the line.
If you are looking for fish and chips in the spirit of a classic Irish “chipper,” look no further than the Yankee Chipper, a fish and chip shop that just opened up in Wyndmoor, Montgomery County, recently.
The Yankee Chipper is owned by cousins Eric Connor and Shana Cox. Connor has been working in the restaurant industry for much of his life, including when he lived in Dublin for about three and a half years.
“I’ve always wanted a restaurant, and I thought of the concept a couple of years ago,” Connor says. “There weren’t really any restaurants in Philadelphia just focused on good fish and chips. And since we come from a big Irish family, it just kind of made sense for us to do an Irish-themed place.”
The name of the game at the Yankee Chipper is authenticity. These fish and chips take a lot of time and effort to prepare. It is a labor-intensive process. The way the cod is butchered, in particular, is incredibly important for Connor.
We have lots of Irish-ness to keep you happy this week, including music, dance and probably some adult beverages along the line.
Here’s what’s on:
Friday, July 16
The John Byrne Band takes the stage for a drive-in concert sponsored by People’s Light and Point Entertainment tonight at 39 Conestoga Road in Malvern, starting at 6:30 p.m. The band will be performing the music of Shane MacGowan and The Pogues.
This is one hot ticket: Which is to say you can no longer buy tickets online, but if you move fast you can still score them by phone at 610-644-3500. (Or so the ticket office told us at noon.)
Maggie’s Boots is one of the many music groups gearing up for a summer of events after not being able to play live music very much over the past year. They are a traditional Irish music ensemble made up of Hollis Payer on the fiddle, Rob Curto on the button accordion and Melissa Brun on cello.
Payer has been playing music from a very young age and played violin, piano and guitar throughout her youth. Her interest in Irish music came after hearing The Chieftains.
“I certainly played folk music, but I didn’t know Irish traditional music until I heard what The Chieftains were doing and I just thought, ‘What is this?’ and I immediately gathered up all the money I could and went to Ireland with my fiddle and just traveled around for three months,” Payer explains.
She spent those months hitchhiking and going to music sessions and began learning traditional music. Back in America, she started learning under musicians like Kevin Burke and James Kelly. “I tell people that Kevin Burke was my first fiddle teacher because when I came back from Ireland, I moved to Portland, Oregon, and that’s where he lives,” says Payer. “I didn’t even know he was famous. I just started going to him to learn more about playing the fiddle.”
She notes that there is a deep history of Irish music in Philadelphia, but there are pockets of people playing the music everywhere now. Payer also teaches tune and fiddle classes which led her to meeting one of her bandmates.
The Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center—otherwise known as the Irish Center—will hold its summer fundraiser at Tip O’Leary’s in Havertown on Sunday, July 11. This will be the Irish Center’s first big live event since COVID restrictions have been lifted. After a year that put financial strains on many, this fundraiser is vitally important for the Irish Center, located in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia.
“This time every year, we do a fundraiser,” says Lisa Maloney, vice president of the Irish Center board. “It’s for regular operating expenses and for maintaining the building. We work within a very limited budget.”
Last year, everything was shut down so an in-person event was out of the question. Instead, they sent out an appeal letter asking people for donations so that the Irish Center could make it through the year.
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.