The Village Lions in action
By Mike Malone
The Village Lions Rugby Club, hatched by Dublin-reared Alan Whelan out of his Red Lion pub on Bleecker Street in 1989, celebrates 30 years on the pitch with a weekend celebration May 10-12.
The anniversary weekend starts with happy hour at Gramercy Ale House May 10, and continues at the Village pub Fiddlesticks, which was the Village Lions’ home base for years.
Saturday includes matches for old boys, old girls and current players, and the Anniversary Gala at Chelsea Piers restaurant “Current.”
The black-tie event includes Lions Hall of Fame induction for a men’s and women’s player, and a tribute to Alan Whelan by his nephew, Peter Cavanagh, who was raised in Dun Laoghaire before settling in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn is the setting for a club brunch Sunday, May 12, at the Douglass pub, which is owned by Lions members.
Whelan died last year after a long battle with cancer. He was 79.
He made a lasting mark on the New York rugby scene. Whelan, who had played flanker for St. Mary’s College in Dublin, went on to play for the New York Rugby Club, and was captain of the team.
He launched the St. Francis College club in Brooklyn and the St. John’s team in Queens. The Red Lion was a popular place to watch rugby matches from overseas while noshing and sipping pints with mates.
Whelan saw his Village Lions as akin to the Barbarians, the invitational team of elite ruggers based in the U.K. Some 50 different nations, including Ireland, South Africa, France and New Zealand, have been represented by Lions players over the club’s 30 years.
“Alan collected a motley, scrappy and resilient bunch of young kids and turned them into a family,” said J.P. Lindsey, Village Lions president.
“Our Barbarian black and white colors are fitting for a city as diverse as New York City. But at the end of the day, we all bleed red.
“I’m proud to have shed some of my own while wearing the Lions crest.”
The Lions’ men’s and women’s teams (women began playing in 2000) compete in the second division. The club has signed Nic Clapinson, who played for the Canadian national team, to be the men’s coach. Both the men’s and women’s teams invite new players to join. More at www.villagelions.org