By Niall Gartland
FORMER Glenelly goalkeeper Tim Harney has hailed his St Patrick’s week visit to New York with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) as the ‘trip of a lifetime’.
Sixteen years in the making, the trip had a bit of everything – from parading in the iconic Fifth Avenue on St Patrick’s Day, to dusting down their jerseys and playing a match against their hosts, the Fire Dept New York, in a match at the Gaelic Grounds in the Bronx.
Harney, who was goalkeeper on Tyrone’s All-Ireland Minor winning team back in 2008, actually lined out at corner-forward and popped up with a couple of points as they claimed a narrow victory, but really, the result was altogether immaterial on a special week for all involved.
That said, the NIFRS had some very solid players in their ranks – including former Down footballer Peter Turley and Tyrone men Eoin Gormley (Trillick), Mark Donnelly (Fintona), Noel Mullan (Cookstown), Ciaran McKenna (Pomeroy), while Patsy Begley (Pomeroy) was part of the management team.
Reflecting on his first ever visit to the Big Apple, Harney said: “The last time the Fire Service went to New York was in 2006.
“We were supposed to go over again in 2020 but it was cancelled the day before we were supposed to fly due to the pandemic.
“The New York Firemen were brilliant, they pulled out all the stops for us, ferrying us around and getting us in the parade on Fifth Avenue on St Patrick’s Day. We were among thousands of firemen, commemorating the likes of 911, it was bucket-list stuff, the trip of a life-time.”
Reflecting on the big match, Harney says it wasn’t exactly a vintage performance (they were already ‘worse for wear’ at that stage), but they did manage to sneak a one-point win.
“There’s a lot of history behind Gaelic Park and we were led out by a Pipeband playing the national anthem.
“We actually won the game by a point, I wouldn’t want to watch it back anyway, we were a bit worse for wear after three days in New York – maybe it was planned that way!
“But it was definitely a special occasion, and as much as they didn’t have the skill-set of some of our boys, they definitely made up for it with guts. I was corner-forward of all things, out there we were possibly stuck for numbers and I was probably the youngest on the trip so that was why I played out the field.”
Deserving of special mention is NIFRS chairman Ronan O’Reilly as well as New York contingent Eddie Boles, Sean Fitzpatrick, Barry Annette and Brian Quinn.
Harney says it wasn’t all fun and games as they also had a poignant trip to Ground Zero to remember the events of 911, an event which continues to leave its mark on New York firemen.
“Eddie and Sean were at the Twin Towers that day so they gave us an insight on their own personal experiences and it really hit home for us. It was very sobering, what they went through. Firemen are still passing away all these years later due to the dust, so that put everything in perspective for us.”
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