By Peter McDermott
Hurling, Gaelic football, golf, soccer, rugby...lacrosse?
If you think that the famous Native American game isn't on the Irish sports agenda, well, think again.
The heroics of the current national men's team is certainly putting it there, with lots of help from people born on this side of the Atlantic
The team has just emerged from the FIL World Championships in Manchester, England, with a 9th place out of 29 teams that competed. It won six of its seven games and outscored its opponents by an average of almost 10 goals per game.
"You have to have an Irish passport to play for Ireland," said Mike Prior, whose son Kristian, a fellow New York City firefighter, joined the team this year.
In fact, exactly half of the 24 squad members were eligible because they had an Irish-born parent or grandparent.
"Kris is so proud," said the elder Prior, whose parents were from Leitrim and Donegal. "He played very well and he's very happy with the team's performance overall."
"It's a commitment as far as the expense goes," said Mike Prior, who is with Ladder 138 in Corona, Queens, and lives with his wife Judith in Merrick, N.Y.
His son, who is with Ladder 132 in Crown Heights in Brooklyn, took up lacrosse at age 9. A graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he currently plays for the FDNY team. The Irish goal-scoring star lives in the Rockaways with his older brother Matt, who is a firefighter with Ladder 155 in South Jamaica, Queens.
Kristian Prior was with the Irish team for a month in January and then traveled to Ireland again in early July to train for the World Championships. "They began to mesh after a couple of days and then they headed to Manchester," his father said.
"We have a very happy group here" said Ireland National Team Director John Cavanaugh after their last game, a 15-8 win over Sweden. "They are a special group, a team with great character, and they played together on the field and worked together off the field. This was a great trip, and it's great for our younger players to be part of this experience for the first time."
The team left Manchester last weekend after seeing the U.S. beat Canada for the title.
For more information go to www.irishlacrossefoundation.org.