By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
March 16, 2017-The Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) is very pleased to announce that longtime East Hudson Youth Soccer League (EHYSL) coach Kieran McIlvenny has been selected as our Personality of the Month for March.
“Among the many hats that Kieran has worn in our area including LaGrange’s Director of Coaching, East Hudson Academy coach, Eastern New York ODP coach and Arlington High School coach, I think one aspect about him stands out above all others,” commented EHYSL President Jim Purdy. “That is the kindness and sincerity he exudes to all those who come in contact with him. He is always approachable and has done a tremendous job developing and nurturing the lives, both in soccer and around the world of many, many young men and women over the years. His recent charitable work only adds to that resume. He is a true gentleman and a major asset to our beautiful game.”
Kieran was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, growing up during The Troubles, which spanned 30 years and during which over 3,600 people were killed.
“George Best was from Belfast and he and Jimmy Johnstone from Celtic where my idols. I remember Celtic winning the European Cup in 1967 and then Manchester United and Best the year after,” Kieran said.
Because of The Troubles, Kieran did not have the opportunity to play on an actual team until he was a teenager so he and his friends played soccer on the street as youngsters instead.
“Finally, when I was around 16 years old, a couple of men put together a team called Rathenraw, which was one of the first teams that had both Catholic and Protestant players on it,” he explained.
Kieran married his wife Donna in Rome in 1984 and he went on to play semipro soccer before emigrating to the United States in 1987.
“We didn't want to raise our children in the same environment that we had grown up in, although it was a tough decision, leaving our country for a new one,” Kieran stated. “Our son Niall was born there and our two daughters, Aislinn and Ciara, were born in the United States. They are now 29, 25 and 21 respectively.”
Once in New York, Kieran played forward and center midfielder for coach Aldo Samarcco in Bedford. The Irishman then played for Westchester United in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League, then was selected MVP of the Budweiser Over 30 National Championship Game in leading Yorktown to the national title in 1988.
Last year, at the age of 57, he retired from playing due to severe rheumatoid arthritis in his right knee.
“As much as I miss playing, I had a good run and I continue to enjoy coaching at different levels,” Kieran said.
After being inspired by instructor Nick Zlatar during US Soccer’s “D” Course, Joe Polumbo from Yorktown gave him his first coaching job. Kieran was the Director of Coaching for Rye Youth Soccer for 12 years, and also coach of the boys varsity team at Rye Counry Day school for three of those years.
“After moving to Dutchess County in the early 90's, I got involved with coaching my own children at the LaGrange Soccer Club, and have been the Director of Coaching there for the past 14 years,” he explained.
Kieran has also been the head coach of the Arlington High School girls varsity team for the last nine years, winning four Sectional titles during this time. The team was a state finalist in 2011 and last November won the state championship with a 2-1 double overtime win over powerhouse Massapequa as Kieran was tabbed as the State Coach of the Year.
If that’s not enough, he’s a Olympic Development Program (ODP) coach for Eastern New York, Co-Director of Coerver New York and his full-time job is Sports Director at the Gold's Gym Family Sports Complex in Poughkeepsie, which encompasses The Net indoor sports facility.
“I earned my US Soccer ‘A' license in 2012, and while renewing it in 2015 in Bradenton, Florida, my life was changed by two of the head instructors: Jay Hoffman, who was at that time head coach of the Men's Paralympic Soccer Team, and Timo Liekoski, a Finnish coach who started a soccer program for the homeless in his native country. I couldn't stop thinking of what they had done to positively change the lives of those they came in contact with.”
Kieran shared his ideas with his wife, a Registered Nurse, and they established Kickin' Back, a non-profit charity. They started collecting used soccer gear and, by chance, connected with Mary Beth Gallagher, a school teacher originally from Ossining, who had joined the Peace Corps and was working in Namibia, a country in southwest Africa. She had since left the Peace Corps and started her own charity there to help children in need.
Kieran has gone to Namibia for the past two years and shipped over 8,000 pieces of soccer gear and the same number of children's books there. The donations come from EHYSL clubs, local colleges as well as individuals outside those groups plus ENYYSA sponsor Score Sports.
“It has been a humbling experience. This summer, we are going to ship a container to Malawi, Africa, which is regarded as one of the poorest countries in the world. The annual salary is less than $500.”
Kieran giving a voucher for 10,000 liters of water to Namibia residents. Daughter Aislinn McIlvenny is on the far left with Kieran’s wife Donna next to him.
As for the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day, Kieran will celebrate it at home in Pleasant Valley with family and friends. Donna prepares corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, lots of spuds and trifle for dessert plus great Irish traditional music to go with that!
“It's a fun day and it's a great opportunity to share our Irish culture with those close to us,” Kieran stated.
With over 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with 11 leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Children With Special Needs. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please log on to http://www.enysoccer.com/, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.