It had been six months since Hoboken Guards Camogie was born, touching hurling sod for the first time ever on the soft forgiving grass of the Rockland GAA in Pearl River, NY. The annual Mary Cosgrove 7s Hurling & Camogie Tournament saw Jane McCooey – Hoboken Camogie Captain & Founder – lead her team past St. Brigids/Rockland, Baltimore and Washington DC, to the final. The day was October 11, 2014.
Hoboken fell by a handful of points to a talented and sturdy Toronto contingent that rainy day, but the loss didn’t matter to the St. Patrick’s Camogie-trained McCooey. (pictured, left, with her fella, Michael McGuinness).
With no adult camogie team in existence between Philadelphia and Boston for years, Jane’s mind, heading down the Palisades back home to Hoboken, was on the task of planting more seeds, recruiting and growing Hoboken Camogie’s roster beyond its founding dozen. The fastest game on grass had come to Hoboken in the 1850s, reborn in 2010, and now the Guards officially offer a women’s hurling program.
The spine of Hoboken Camogie – AKA ladies hurling – formed at basic skills hurling training for men and women in Hoboken last fall. The helping hands of McCooey’s friends and teammates included Niamh Tierney (Vice Captain), Michelle Hackett, Niamh Long, Sophie Colgan, CJ Leonard, Laura Brennan, Maria McManus, Emily Mullan Harrington and Caitlin Friel…many of whom double as Manhattan Gaels footballers. From emails and phone calls, to Facebook friend requests, and through her dual-GAA status as a Gaels footballer, girls new to hurling and others skilled with the stick made their way to 1600 Park Ave Field, Hoboken’s Hurling Field of Dreams. The enlistment of Lady Guards had begun.
Last Saturday morning, following a handful of Spring Tuesday night training sessions, Hoboken Camogie kicked off its first full season with a trek down 95 in a chartered bus to Maryland. Fifteen Hoboken Camogs made the journey, and as many couldn’t make the trip. The little lawyer from Armagh – “Wee Jane” as she is lovingly called by her inner circle – schooled at University College Dublin and Cambridge, has proved an adept harvester of the recruitment seeds she planted.
“April 18 is a very proud day for Hoboken Guards Camogie” said McCooey, who played for Eire Og in Boston a few years ago and most recently St. Mary’s of Chicago. “To think that, after training having just kicked off a few weeks ago, we had such a large squad of girls make the journey down to Baltimore to not only compete, but to heroically win against two teams that have been competing for several years in the NACB championships is exceptional!” said McCooey. “We have been encouraging as many beginners and experienced players as possible to come out and play camogie. We started training this season with our ambitions set very high.”
The Guards captured both of its first two matches of the 2015 season against a joint, talented contingent of Washington DC Gaels and host Baltimore Bohemians on a cloudless day in Baltimore. The two squads played a friendly pair of 13-a-side affairs, 30 minutes per-match, with Manhattan Gaels men’s Gaelic football team joining the excursion to face the same teams in big ball action.
Hoboken Camogie captured its first match, 3-4 (13) to 1-1 (4) despite pacy midfield play, good stick work, defensive marking and back-line ball clearance from host DC/Baltimore. As the temperature climbed to 80 in the second match, Hoboken came into its own with a 7-1 final score in the second match (all points).
Niamh Cunningham played brilliantly in goals as the keeper for Hoboken’s first match, blocking a well-struck, high-goal scoring chance before the close of the first half. Cunningham, who as a couple other Hoboken camogs hadn’t touched a hurley in a decade since U14 club play, showed a sound puckout, feeding midfielders Michelle Hackett and Laura Brennan.
Brennan put on a how-to clinic winning both low and high balls, weaving and evading through capable defenders, netting two goals and two points in the opening match, most off play. Balancing out the Guards scoring attack was McCooey, who notched 1-2 in the opener utilizing the wings, stretching defenders, creating space and proving she’s not only the organizer, but one gifted hurler.
The winning effort wouldn’t have been possible without superb marking and continual ball clearance from fullback Helena Coughlin and centerback Niamh Tierney. Brianna Ziegler, 19, in only her second match ever, played next to Coughlin in the fullback line both matches, made an immediate impression on her teammates and the opposition. The Kean University commercial recreation & sports management major contested each ball, demonstrating speed and toughness. Ziegler hurls for NJ’s lone collegiate hurling team, Kean Galloglass Hurling Club, and trains with both Kean and Hoboken.
With the above mentioned backs, Hoboken’s defenders warded off continual attacks from Casey Troy & Co of Baltimore/DC.
Ziegler who played boy’s football at Newton High School in Newton NJ, said immediately after the matches pointedly “I love hurling. I’m going to play this, do this forever. ”
“I’m thrilled to be a part of Hurling’s growth in America,” Ziegler added. “It’s such an amazing sport where I can learn and be a part of Irish culture, meeting fascinating people along the way.”
Field hockey converts Meg Meehan, an American-born forward, and Kerry McGinley made impressive debuts, fearlessly first to the ball on several occasions during both matches. McGinley had only dabbled in camogie as a youngster in Tyrone. After several weeks of training with her new mates, McGinley considers camogie a “faster, more skilled game requiring more focus than field hockey or football.” Her heart is still with Gaelic football, but “hurling is catching up as fast as the game itself!”
CJ Leonard ably managed the net for the second match, jumping into the forward line for the last half of the day’s competition. A couple of position changes allowed McGinley and Helen Downes a chance to explore new roles in midfield and forward, respectively.
“So many positives to take from Saturday,” commented McGinley. “I think we played well as a team and worked well from defense out. I loved the experience and can’t wait to the next game and the North American Tournament.”
Showing adeptness advancing the ball in the half forward line to Ashling O’Callahan was Downes, another pacy Manhattan Gael footballer. Coming off the reserves were total hurling newcomers Tara Brennan and Lorna Smith, both contributing handy touches and grace despite never hurling before in their competitive lives.
Forward O’Callahan won countless balls under pressure in her domain – the 35 and in range – turning and battling through tight defense. Utilizing her steps and letting loose quality strikes on the uprights, O’Callahan may have only netted a point on the day but her unlucky handful of wide attempts will prove as valuable target practice over time. The tireless forward provided non-stop pressure to DC/Baltimore’s backline, from the first throw-in till the last whistle, forcing the defense to stick tight to the handy hurler.
Troy, DC Gaels veteran captain, said that DC and Baltimore are accustomed to playing each other throughout the season. Thus, it was “a lot of fun this time around to combine forces to face Hoboken,” said Troy.
“Secondly, I am ecstatic to see a Hoboken camogie team up and running! I know how hard they’ve worked at recruiting and training, and to see them bring a squad that’s bigger than ours–well it makes me jealous, ha–but it also makes me enthusiastic for the future of camogie in the States.”
To Tierney, an underage Killimordally Camogie member growing up in Galway, educated at Mary Immaculate College (Limerick) who also these days call the Mile Square City of Hoboken her home – the “most fantastic” part of Hoboken’s Baltimore trip was “witnessing all the new players getting stuck in not a bother on them,” said Tierney. “These are girls who’ve never played before and who are just learning so fair play to them!
“In addition, Baltimore just highlighted that we have the bones of something great, the potential is unreal and it’s definitely exciting,” Tierney added.
Hoboken Camogie’s Next Competition
Hoboken’s next competition – its first ever on the friendly turf confines of Sinatra Park and in New Jersey in general – will take place May 16th as part of the 4th Annual Hoboken Irish Fest.
According to McCooey, Hoboken Camogie have lots to work ahead of them and a long way to go before competing in the NACB Championship Tournament in Chicago. As is the writer of this article, Jane is “so proud of everyone and of our camogie club.” “I am so happy with the dedication and passion that everyone exhibited on Saturday, and indeed continue to demonstrate week-on-week at training,” McCooey added.
Hoboken Camogie is registered in the 2015 North American County Board Championships, which will take place this September in Chicago and will face teams from across the country, while Manhattan Gaels are registered in the New York County Board and will play against New York-based clubs.
The Lady Guards train every Tuesday night, 8:15-9:50 pm, at 1600 Park Ave. Field in Hoboken. Complete newcomers to the game are invited to join our novices in learning the basic skills of the greatest game on earth. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Hoboken’s men’s hurling team train during the same time slot each Thursday night, 8;15-9:50 pm, 1600 Park Ave Field. First-time hurlers and converts from all sports are warmly encouraged to join us, as basic skills lessons will be offered to newcomers.
Photography by future hurler Jessica Bal.
HOBOKEN GUARDS ROSTER vs. BALTIMORE/DC
Lucy Prendeville (Balt.)
Kathleen Collins (Balt.)
Maura O’Neill (Balt.)
Kat Joyner (Balt.)
Caitlin Doolin (Balt.)
Amy Bornman (Balt.)
Becca Levetzow (DC)
Bridget McCarthy (DC)
Casey Troy (DC)
Colleen McCartney (DC)
Janet Piston (DC)
Jennifer Lehane (DC)
Stefanie Brady (DC)