New York manager’s love of Donegal


Connie Molloy, proud Ardara and Donegal man

When Donegal won the 1992 All-Ireland SFC final, they were captained by Anthony Molloy from Ardara. Anthony’s brother Connie is current manager of the New York senior footballers. The whole family will be back on Irish soil on September 23rd as Jim McGuinness’ charges bid for glory at Croke Park.

“I’m here 30 years; I came out in 1982,” Connie told during the course of a trans-Atlantic phone call. “I always wanted to come to America and I had an uncle here and other relations as well. I was originally brought out to play football in Boston and I came over with a good friend of mine, Brendan Dunleavy. We played for St Pat’s that summer and were beaten in the championship final. I had played for Ardara in the Donegal championship that year as well and also played for Donegal in the New York championship – three different championships in the one year.

“I had a return ticket home for Christmas but my uncle gave me some good advice – he said ‘what would you be going home to?’ – and I stayed.

“Ardara was the home club and I played all grades with them, winning the SFC in 1981 after a 59-year wait. We had lost the 1980 final to Kilcar, when Martin McHugh did the damage. My brothers Anthony and Lanty were both on that team. Lanty was quite a player and, in fact, it would have been argued around Donegal and around the parish that he was the best footballer in the Molloy house. But he was a free spirit and he liked to travel and he came to the States, too, and is also still out here.”

Connie himself represented Donegal at minor, U21 and senior levels. In 1979, he was part of the squad that reached the Ulster SFC final but missed out due to a knee injury. When he got to New York, he just kept playing … and playing … and playing (!) …

CJ Molloy continues the family tradition of lining
out at county level, this time with New York

“I played well past my sell-by date,” he concedes. “I managed to play some junior football alongside my son, CJ, when he was about to make the breakthrough. I played for a long time and was lucky enough to win six SFCs and a couple of junior titles.”

Some of the men Connie lined out alongside include Pat Spillane and Larry Tompkins as well as a host of others that reads like a Who’s Who of gaelic football back home. “In ’84, we lost two finals on the one day and half the Donegal team was out here, but then the rules changed and they tightened the thing up a bit.”

The Donegal club in New York won the IFC this year, which was a worthy achievement. Back in 2000, Connie was manager of the side that won the first of three successive SFCs, only to be beaten in the ’03 final as they went for the four-in-a-row. The likes of Anthony Lynch from Cork and Donegal’s JP Boyle were over playing on that team.

Connie took over as manager of New York last year – the first year of a two-year term: “I’ll be there again for the 2013 clash with Leitrim,” he confirms. “At this stage of the year you are trying to get to all the games and to watch as many players as possible but you have the same issues to deal with every year: it’s very hard for players to commit to the county team from January with only one game on the horizon four or five months later. You can’t get meaningful challenge games etc. out here but hopefully around Spring time we will be able to get some county teams or good club sides over for challenges. It’s all about funds then…

“Maybe we’ll invite Donegal out. St Patrick’s Day is a huge occasion in New York and it would be nice to see them on Fifth Avenue as All-Ireland champions.

“There’s no back door for New York – it’s straight in for one game and they we’re out. We need to get some teams out to play us, to let us know where we stand before we enter the Connacht championship on May 1st. The speed of the game being played by county teams at home is way ahead of us out here and that’s a big problem.”

Born in New York, Connie’s son CJ was on the county team last year and will almost certainly feature again in 2013. A prodigy of the Celtic club’s minor ranks, he has been playing senior football since he was 15. His grandfather on his mother’s side is from the Austin Stacks club in Tralee, which has over 100 All-Ireland medals to its name, something CJ is very proud of!

On September 23rd, Connie Molloy will be back in Croke Park for the 2012 All-Ireland SFC final, where Donegal will lock horns with Mayo. Twenty years ago, on the occasion of the Tir Chonail men’s only other All-Ireland final appearance, it was his brother Anthony who had the privilege of walking up the steps of the Hogan Stand to collect the Sam Maguire Cup!
“Words can’t describe what Jim McGuinness has done in two years. It’s been an unbelievable turnaround. People might have been critical of the style of play but winning matches is what it’s all about. This year he has pushed it on a bit and nobody can fault their style of play now. It’s very uplifting from a Donegal man’s point of view.

“The whole set-up is brilliant, the work rate, the management of it and the way the players are prepared to empty the tank when they go on the field.
“And kudos to Paddy McGrath, who will fly the flag for Ardara. I went to school with his mum, Marian, at Glenties Comprehensive, which was where it all began. That’s where we started to play the game. Of course, Jim McGuinness went there too.

“There’s a huge gang of us coming home for the final and we’ll stay for the week at least. My brother Frank, myself, the wife, CJ … hopefully we’ll have something to celebrate. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish Jim and the team all the best on All-Ireland final day.”