By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
March 14, 2017-March is a great time to be Irish but it’s also a great time to be a youth soccer player in New York as the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) goes from indoor soccer to outdoor soccer. When Eastern New York’s leagues kick off their Spring Season depends on the weather and field availability. Traditionally, most of the Downstate leagues kick off the Spring Season around St. Patrick’s Day while the Upstate leagues start in April.
Particularly enjoying an Irish spring is the Staten Island Youth Soccer League (SIYSL) club named St. Patrick’s, the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) club that plays at St. Patrick’s Church and two East Hudson Youth Soccer League (EHYSL) indoor tournaments, the Shamrock Cup and Shamrock Shootout.
Joe and Ann Licata, SIYSL Hall of Famers, founded the St. Patrick’s Soccer Club on Staten Island in 1976. Before that, the only youth soccer club on the island was Silver Lake of the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League (CJSL).
Word quickly spread at St. Patrick’s and 100 boys showed up to play that first year. While Joe did the coaching and training, Ann did the paperwork and for the next 13 years, this dynamic duo helped grow the club from two teams to 27 with over 300 players. So popular had soccer become at St. Patrick’s that no games could be played at 10 am on Sundays anymore as people were going to games at Miller Field rather than attending Mass.
Ann, while actively involved with St. Patrick’s School, would recruit boys for the teams and organized the girls as cheerleaders, who would root for the teams at Miller Field. Soon the cry was, “Mrs. L, we want to play too!” and by 1982, Ann was coaching the first girls team on Staten Island, the St. Patrick’s Wildcats. In 1983, the Wildcats were competing against boys teams in the SIYSL and other girls teams followed so the SIYSL Girls Division was born.
The St. Patrick’s Soccer Club became the Richmondtown Soccer Club a quarter-century ago while the St. Patrick’s Soccer Club that now plays in the SIYSL is affiliated with the school by the same name. Under the direction of Brian Jennings, the club now has 235 players––131 boys and 104 girls––and plays its games at Miller Field and the Owl Hollow Soccer Complex.
70 miles to the east in Suffolk County, Long Island, there’s another club with a strong connection to St. Patrick’s Day. The Village of the Branch (VOB) Soccer Club plays under that name in the LIJSL and its intramural program is known as VOB/St. Patrick's. The fields at St. Patrick's Church have been used since the club's inception in 1978 and they are now utilized for both intramural games and small-sided LIJSL matches. The club is completing its registration now but approximately 500 players––300 boys and 200 girls––proudly wear the green-and-white uniforms.
But these two clubs are not the only teams with an Irish influence as Eastern New York squads have the nicknames of, in order of popularity, Shamrocks, Celtics, Leprechauns and Clovers.
Then there’s the 4th Annual Shamrock Cup, organized by the EHYSL’s Washingtonville Soccer Club, and being played at the Hudson Valley Sports Dome on Saturday, March 18 and Sunday, March 19.
“We normally get around 100 teams, both boys and girls squads, which is good for this time of year as some outdoor leagues start up along with State Cup competition on that weekend,“ explained tournament director Eddie Moloney. “We named it the Shamrock Cup as it’s around St. Paddy’s Day and he’s my patron saint of Ireland. Once a team goes away happy from the tournament, win or lose, then our club is also happy and we will see them next year. And of course, we play Irish music in-between the breaks to get them in the mood to be Irish that day.“
Some of the girls who played in the Shamrock Shootout
Last but certainly not least, there's the 3rd Annual Shamrock Shootout, organized by Eastern New York's March Personality of the Month Kieran McIlvenny and his wife Donna. 23 boys teams and 26 girls teams participated, on March 3 and 4 at The Net at Gold's Gym in LaGrange, and no scores were kept plus the refs volunteered their services. The kids played to help African children in need through the McIlvenny's charity Kickin' Back and $18,000 was raised. Kalekeni Banda, founder of the Banda Bola Sports Foundation, was on hand to share his mission about his native country of Malawi, one of the poorest nations in the world.
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 Special Children. 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.
Coach Banda explaining the situation in Malawi to local players and parents