After valiant attempts at past North American County Board Championships in 1984 and 1985, third time lucky was proved once again with the Vancouver Irish Sporting and Social Club's Harps being crowned the 2011 NACB Intermediate Football Champions as they prevailed over San Francisco's Young Irelanders in two sessions of extra-time in a ding-dong of a battle that captivated hundreds of spectators.
Winning captain Freddy Gannon (Galway) was presented the trophy from Croke Park's Vice President Sean Walsh and NACB Chairman Joe Lydon while Harps Manager Richie Jones was tossed in the air numerous times by jubilant players and supporters.
2011 was also the first time since the inception of the NACB in 1959 that two Canadian ladies football teams were participating at the Championships. Vancouver's Lady Harps and Toronto's St. Mikes participated at the intermediate grade and met each other in the Shield Final after suffering defeats to San Francisco's Saoirse and Chicago's Aisling Gaels. It was the first time that these two Canadian teams were meeting in a competition with Vancouver prevailing well over St. Mikes for the NACB Intermediate Shield.
Vancouver's Junior footballers came back from 6 points down to beat Boston WolfeTones with a late goal at the whistle in their quarter-final match. Vancouver was then narrowly defeated in a semi-final match by San Diego's Setanta who were equally matched with fine fitness on both teams.
The two Vancouver JP Ryans hurling teams were defeated in their respective semi-finals with the Seniors providing a most spirited display and never for a moment looking out of place in a 4 point loss to Boston Galway. The Junior Vancouver JP Ryans hurling team met San Francisco's Na Fianna, who were running on all cylinders firing, and were eliminated in the competition by the Baysiders.
Well done to long time ISSC members John Coughlan, Marty McCann, Paul Stack and Jimmy Speiran who travelled down to take in the games along with the 90 or so in attendance from Vancouver. It was wonderful for the players to meet two original 1974 Vancouver GAA founding members, Pat McHugh and John Smith, taking in the Vancouver celebrations as long time residents of California.
Toronto's Hurling club fielded a Senior and Junior team as first time entries for the NACB Championships. It has been nearly 30 years since Toronto last participated with the small ball game. The Seniors were beat by San Francisco's Naomh Padraic and the Juniors by Boston Wexford in their semi-finals. Evident effort and determination by the men of Toronto was noted by all.
Finally, St. Mikes GFC mens team played Senior football up against one of the best in the country, Chicago Parnells. Though they were well beat it was clear that the men of St. Mikes would not walk away without some fire in their play. Special thanks to St. Mike's alumnus Bill Flanagan who liased with all of the Canadian teams and was fully involved in the running of a successful tournament in his beloved San Francisco's Treasure Island.
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