Rearcross FC to Kendall Wanderers

The sun beats down on the freckled faces of a bunch of lads from all walks of life, togged out and ready to go on a warm Saturday morning in Boston. The opposition today is a team called LaGarra FC – a feisty cohort made up of eleven Uruguayans who are not known to shy away from a tackle. The team of freckled faces, with the official name of Kendall Wanderers ‘C’ team, are a mix of Irish and Americans with a token Mexican, Ugandan, and Lebanese thrown in for good measure.

Boston is a GAA town for the Irish expat. It is a journeyman’s strongest link to home, and main outlet for his social calendar. The Boston hurling scene, as is the case with New York and Chicago, has strong links to our parish with Mike McCormack (The Cross Bar, Kilcommon) heading up Tipperary Boston’s presidency and William Kennedy, Ballina (husband of Anne McCormack and uncle of former Rearcross goalkeeper Paudie Carey) in situ as Chairman. Michael O’ Doherty, Kylegorive’s own Boston based former Rearcross FC star, played under the Tipp banner also and made quite a name for himself. However, keeping the old adage of the world being a small place in mind, it just so happens that the Kendall Wanderers soccer scene also boasts a local man in John O’ Toole, Newport, who does a fantastic job of heading its operations. John is a son of Pat O’ Toole, former principal of St. Mary’s Secondary School, who of course has strong family ties to Rearcross.

To return to the action, LaGarra’s main striker has gone to ground under a hefty tackle from Kendall Wanderers’ Phil – an enigmatic character with a strong North Dublin accent.  A war of words ensue with LaGarra’s head coach sputtering Spanish at the accused, with Phil returning a tirade of abuse which could be Spanish for all the American referee can make out. Game over, ball burst, Kendall lose 2-1 and all go home relatively happy.

The season continues like this for 6-7 months of the year, generally in the fine weather months from April – November with a month off in July to avoid the heavy heat. Fixtures are given to you months in advance so one can know when there is a free weekend and plan accordingly. Most teams do not have a ‘ground’ per se – the games usually being played on rented full-size all-weather fields that are dotted around the city. Referees are, for the most part, respected by the players and coaches. Teams are made up of different ethnicities who usually stick together as one group – the Brazilians, the Uruguayans, the Jamaicans, the Irish etc… Kendall Wanderers are unique in the sense that they are formed and (mainly) ran by a group of Irish lads, but they have a strong American influence.

There are different age levels one can play. ‘Open’ is generally what is played by most players, and usually consists of players aged 18 – 35. There are also ‘over 30’, ‘over 40’, ‘over 50’ and ‘over 57’ leagues, for those inclined to relive the glory days’ time and time again. No doubt some of Rearcross FC’s “former greats” would fit in well here.

In the ‘Open’ league, there are numerous divisions divided by what part of the city you live in – North or South. The premier league is made up of a mixture of American born players who have won ‘scholarships’ to college for their soccer prowess, or top quality emigrants who have played at a high standard in their home countries. The division in which Kendall’s C team and LaGarra play is division 3 North. This league would be most similar in standard to North Tipp’s premier division. The thing that is most surprising from an Irish point of view, and one that is shared widely by those expats living here, is the skill and fitness levels of local Americans who play soccer. Their love for the game in the long run is apathetic however, as the local sports of baseball, basketball, hockey and American football reign supreme.

Kendall Wanderers, it should be mentioned, are not the only Irish side in town. As recent as this year a group of lads from the Cork Boston Gaelic Football Club set up ‘Southie Celtic’ – an over 30s team that caters for all ability levels and plies its trade in the not-so-dizzy heights of division six. Also, on Monday nights, 7 a side indoor leagues take place on the South shore in Quincy – our run this year coming to an abrupt end at the hands of a group of Donegal boys in the semi-final. Needless to say, this was a feisty affair with little national camaraderie on show.

All said, the differences may sound stark but in reality, they are not. At the end of the day, you pull on the jersey and try to do the best for the lads around you. On a final note, congratulations to Joey Nolan, Emmet Steed, and all involved with the u14 team on what was by all accounts a noteworthy season and a great way to wrap up 50 years of soccer in Rearcross.

Written by Simon Kennedy (July 2016)