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Marc Maturo’s official sports column

Rockland connection helps put Ireland on lacrosse map

Ireland's national lacrosse team
Ireland’s national lacrosse team

As soccer’s World Cup moves toward its climatic quadrennial conclusion, lacrosse’s version of another global sport will be taking place in Denver, Colo., from July 10 to July 19.

Tom Prior of West Nyack will be there. Not merely as a spectator, but as head coach for the Ireland National Team, with a record 38 nations vying for the FIL World Lacrosse Championship.

Tom Riley, an asset for Ireland
Tom Riley, an asset for Ireland

Also on hand as members of the 30-man roster are Clarkstown North HS graduate and College of Mount St. Vincent standout Mike Shea; and Tom Riley, a Clarkstown South HS alum and former star at Rochester Institute of Technoloby.

Shea, who spent three seasons with the Dolphins, graduated as the program’s career leader in goals and points. He registered 100 goals and totaled 144 points, and also holds the single-season record for goals with 48 and points with 62.          “They’re good, both as middies (midfielders) and attack,” offered Prior, the current coach at Bergen Catholic HS in Oradell, N.J., who is a 1987 graduate of Clarkstown North and a former outstanding player at Springfield  (Mass.) College.

Tom — a former coach at Clarkstown South HS, Nyack HS, Yorktown HS and Tappan Zee HS, where he started the program, and at Manhattan and Dominican colleges — has a long and strong link to the ancient sport, leading to his work with the Ireland National Team in 2002 at the World Games in Perth, Australia.  He was also Ireland’s head coach at the 2004 European Championships in Prague, Czech Republic, leading the team to a 6-1 record, winning the Cyan Division, and ranking seventh out of 12 competing nations.

Mike Shea, a cog for Ireland
Mike Shea, a cog for Ireland

Tom’s twin brother Chris, for played for him at the European Championships in the Czech Republic, also played at Clarkstown North HS and later at Dartmouth College. Another brother, Dave, played at Holy Cross College following graduation from Clarkstown North.

Chris, who now resides in Wyoming, will be among the interested spectators in Colorado, along with Tom Riley’s dad Will. Also supporting the cause are Tom’s mother, Maureen, and sisters Maeve, a junior at Clarkstown South HS, Clarkstown South alumna Bridget, and Erin, a junior at RPI whom dad terms “a terror herself in lacrosse.”

Tom Prior’s finest moment, perhaps, came at the European Championships, where Ireland earned the silver medal for its best placing ever.

Tom Prior, fosters support and success
Tom Prior, fosters support and success

At the World Games in Denver, Prior said his expectation is to advance to the medal round once again.

“That’s what we hope to do,” he said. “We want to get into the medal round, and we’ll try our best to do that. This is the highest level of lacrosse; this is the Olympics of lacrosse.”

Prior, 43, whose grandparents are from County Cork, began his post-graduate lacrosse education at Trinity College in Dublin, and then branched out to Limerick and Galway, forming both men’s and women’s programs.

The Ireland team, whose roster is one-half U.S.-based and one-half Ireland-based, has year-round responsibilities, noted Coach Prior, who makes a couple of trips each year to Ireland for select clinics, tryouts and player development. The World Championships have also taken him to London, Ontario.

“Our second-place finish last year to England in Holland, that was a sure sign that we are starting to see the yield of our work,” enthuses Coach Prior. “There were 40 countries there. I think the results of our work were really apparent.”

Ireland competes every two years at the European Championships, and competes for the Celtic Cup in alternate years.

“It’s a player’s responsibility to be ready every year,” the coach repeats. “That’s how we continue to develop (world-class) players.”

Tom Riley’s dad Will, who is an avid golfer – “I love playing golf, but once in a while life gets in the way,” he laughs – is proud that his son competed at a powerful Division III level at RIT, which reached the NCAA quarterfinals, and was among the leading scorers for Ireland at the World Games last year.

Will’s love of golf stems, perhaps, from his dad, Bill, an active 85-year-old from West Nyack who plays nine holes regularly at Rockland Lake in Congers. The elder Bill said he will be in Colorado in spirit, if not in body.

Following opening ceremonies, the USA and Canada will square off in the first game, with both sides generally recognized as perennial favorites.

`       In the group stages Ireland has been placed in the Yellow Division with Uganda, France and Bermuda.  Ireland starts play on July 11 at 2:30pm against Uganda, the first African nation ever to participate in a  lacrosse world championships.  Ireland then plays France on July 12 at 11 a.m. and meets Bermuda on July 13 at 5:30 p.m.  The semifinals are scheduled July 17, and the final on July 19.

Whatever the outcome, Coach Prior’s mission remains the same: to broaden lacrosse’s reach and strength in a nation where the top sports are hurling and soccer. His efforts have already produced that second-place finish, and a meeting with Ireland Prime Minister Enda Kenny in March

“That was probably one of the highest positions the organization has ever been in,” Prior, who teaches physical education in Yonkers, said. “We’re getting more and more support and that’s helping grow the game.”

KEEP IN TOUCH: Thanks to our intrepid sports contact Tom Doherty, we now know that legendary North Rockland HS coach Ralph Cordisco has permanently moved to Rhode Island, in a new senior community only a few miles from his son, Robert. The Cordisco family, which conveyed its thanks to all of Ralph’s friends for their many visits, dinners and the like, note that Coach Cordisco can be reached at Room No. 10, South Bay Retirement Living, 1959 Kingstown Road, South Kingston, RI 02879. You can also call 401-284-0020. Cordisco’s 96th birthday party has already been set for November 14at noon at Kennelly’s in Congers.

 

QUICK HITTERS: College of New Rochelle softball and volleyball player Diana Desir of Spring Valley was named to the Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (HVIAC) all-Academic Team. … Christina Charles of New City, a soccer midfielder at Monroe College in New Rochelle, has been recognized by the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) for superior academics. … Kurt Ludwigsen, who started his career under eight-time national champion Arizona under two-time Olympic coach  Mike Candrea, will make his return to the NCAA by heading the Nyack College softball program going into the 2014-2015 season. … Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry has hired Matt Kilcullen, Jr. as director of athletics, effective July 28.