On a recent February night at the Irish Consulate in Midtown Manhattan, members of the New York Irish soccer community assembled in the chill for the inaugural Irish-American Soccer Hall of Fame awards. Diminutive pieces of smoked salmon on brown toast, mini shepherd’s pies, and bottles of beer flowed freely alongside conversations marked by thick Cork and Armagh accents. Peter Ryan, the Irish Deputy Consul General, spoke eloquently about the Irish immigrant community’s ambassadorial role in making New York a great soccer city while simultaneously introducing other communities to Irish culture.
The celebratory tone of the evening was buoyed by a special announcement by the President of the Football Association of Ireland, via video link from Dublin, that a pre-World Cup friendly between Ireland and Portugal was set to take place on June 10th in New York. It was a bittersweet announcement, of course, since Ireland has failed to qualify for yet another World Cup. During the actual World Cup later in June, the tens of thousands of Green Army fans who live in the Irish neighborhoods in the city—Woodlawn in the Bronx, and Sunnyside and Woodside in the Queens—will be left to root for their traditional ethnic NYC rival, Italy, against their historical occupier, England, when those teams meet in Manaus on June 14th for their opening Group D match.