Daryl Kavanagh, Craig Purcell and Sean Kelly celebrate.
By Jay Mwamba
As anniversaries go, Lansdowne Bhoys’ 20th in 2017 was one for the ages. It was the year the Yonkers Irish, founded in 1997, became the undisputed United States amateur soccer kings. The Bhoys won seven national and regional competitions in 10 months including the U.S. championship.
Coached by Derryman and former League of Ireland star Austin Friel, Lansdowne upset six-time national champs Bavaria SC 9-8 on penalties in Milwaukee last August to become the first Irish club crowned U.S. titlists.
They followed that up two weeks later with a 5-0 destruction of Louisiana’s State CD Montague in Pontiac, Michigan, to lift the USASA’s Werner Fricker Cup and complete a rare national cup double.
Only two other teams have ever won the national amateur, national open and a state cup in the same year, noted Bhoys’ president William McGrory. His lads had won the Manning State Cup earlier in the summer with a 3-0 romp over the Shamrocks.
Lansdowne’s other silverware in 2017 included the Walter Rapaglia Cup, both U.S. Amateur Cup and Werner Fricker Open Cup Region 1 titles; and a sixth consecutive CSL division title. They were also semi-finalists in the CSL Championship playoffs after three league championship victories in a row.
Remarkably, six years earlier, Lansdowne had been closer to relegation in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League [CSL] than any national honors. The club turned to a then 29 year-old erstwhile Irish youth international and former Manchester United player to help them avoid the drop. Kevin Grogan did his job well.
Not only did the Bhoys survive but, with the help of a new dynamic board the following season, Grogan would lead the club to the first of its six straight CSL division championships. Friel, his successor, continued Lansdowne’s renaissance.
“The hard work of the board behind the scenes was definitely a key to the success,” recalled McGrory. “The current board was put in place five years ago and with one of the best coaches in the business, it has been a trophy- laden period in the club’s history with 2017 topping it off.”
In addition to his brilliant coaching, recruitment has been one of Friel’s fortes. He’s brought in players that have fitted in seamlessly.
Ace keeper Kabo.
McGrory lauded his entire squad for their exploits in the 2017 silver hunt.
“All the players were important and all contributed greatly from September 2016 up to august 2017,” he remarked.
Among them were three Irish standouts described by McGrory as “superb throughout.” These are captain Sean Kelly from Kerry, Tipperary native Daryl Kavanagh and Wicklow’s Craig Purcell.
He expects more of the same from his stars this year.
“With the players getting their first rest in 10 month we are all looking forward to a successful 2018,” said McGrory. “In the first half of the year, we will look to win the CSL title, retain our Manning State Cup, advance to play [professional] teams in the Lamar Hunt [U.S. Open] Cup and give the Hank Steinbrecher Cup a good shot in June.”
The latter is for the U.S. Soccer National Amateur Championship and will be played in June at Veterans Memorial Stadium in New Britain, Connecticut. In addition to Lansdowne [as the USASA National Amateur Cup Champions], the other participants will be 2017 Steinbrecher Cup holders Michigan Bucks; NPSL champs Elm City Express and PDL titlists Charlotte Eagles.
“In the second half of the year, we will definitely want to get back into the regional stages of the U.S. Amateur and Fricker cups, while improving our ever growing youth system,” added McGrory.
The Bhoys’ vice-president Aiden Corr,
left, and first-team coach Austin Friel
Lansdowne’s success has not been limited to its first team.
“Our reserves have also had a fantastic few seasons under managers, Keith Murphy, Keith St. Ledger and now New York soccer legend Sean Kenny,” pointed out McGrory.
“Three D’Arpino State cups in a row and almost [back-to-back] league and cup doubles. The success of our first team has definitely had a knock-on effect and helped push all our teams from the reserves and our ever improving metro team, all the way down to our [age] teams from U-15 to U-6.”
In addition to its board and technical staff, Lansdowne enjoys generous backing from numerous sponsors – support that has been instrumental in the club’s success.
Among the backers are vice president Aiden Corr’s Emerald Tile and Marble company; Shay Furlong [Mc Electric Services], Colm Morrissey [Coyle Contracting], Cathal Kenny [Concept Mechanical], Con McCormack [Rosemont Interiors], Keith Murray [Bourbon Street Bar and Grille], Webster Bank, Mapei and The Heritage bar.
The Bhoys pose for a team photo before the game.
“There are many more that sponsor our golf, dinner dance, youth Academy and youth trips,” said McGrory. “It would not be possible without their help and I think with the success the club has had at both adult and youth level, it’s a little payback for our sponsors and the Yonkers community that come out and support us in the rain or snow.”