NYC Ireland wins the 2015 Cosmos Copa
This tournament brings together teams representing the countries of origin of many nations under the guidance of famous NASL club New York Cosmos.
Led by President Tommy Smyth, Vice-President Paul Doherty and Manager Austin Friel, NYC Ireland returned to the final in the 2015 edition of the Cosmos Copa and won the tournament for the first time in team history with a 3-2 victory over NYC Columbia on August 2, 2015.
NYC Ireland came into the final after a dramatic win in the semi-finals on penalty kicks over defending champion NYC Gambia after a 1-1 draw.
The Irish opened the final by conceding an early goal to Columbia. However, less than five minutes later, the Irish were able to answer. After a shot hit the crossbar, forward Conor Hunter dived in and knocked a header over the line to tie the game at one.
Later in the half, NYC Ireland took the lead on a goal from defender and team captain Sean Kelly. Kelly got a cross in the box and took a low shot past the Colombian keeper. Columbia were able to equalize at 2-2 before half-time, which set the stage for a dramatic and hard fought second half.
With time winding down, NYC Ireland was awarded a penalty kick that was hotly contested by the Columbian players and coaching staff. However, NYC Ireland now had a clear chance to win the game and the tournament.
Without hesitation, manager Austin Friel called for the team’s leading scorer Ian Sweeney to take the penalty kick. “The guy has nerves of steel. He’s ice cold in front of goal,” said Friel. “There’s no other man I’d want in that situation.”
After scoring the tying goal on a penalty kick against NYC Gambia in the semifinals, and adding one when the game went to penalty kicks, the former Athlone Town FC forward was ready for another chance. “I wasn’t nervous at all. I took two penalty kicks in the semi-final before that,” Sweeney said.
A few minutes later, the final whistle sounded and the Irish squad hoisted the Cosmos Copa trophy above their heads in celebration that will last a long time in the memory of those who were there.
NYC Ireland is a team that features several players from Ireland and Northern Ireland who’ve previously played in the SSE Airtricity League or NIFL Premiership. Other players are Irish or Northern Irish students who play college soccer in the United States. The team also features American students who play college soccer and have either a parent or grandparent born in Ireland or Northern Ireland.
Named after the legendary NASL club, the New York Cosmos, Cosmos Copa was founded in the summer of 2009. It is a soccer tournament played in New York City between local, community based, “national teams”. The tournament brings together the best men’s players in the New York City area to compete for the honor of hoisting the Cosmos Cup while celebrating the city’s rich cultural diversity and promoting local soccer talent.
Cosmos Copa has grown into one of the most prominent and prestigious adult soccer tournaments in the United States because of the professional presentation and exposure that the players receive. It has grown from 16 teams in its founding year, to 32 teams in 2015.
Over the last three years, Cosmos Copa proved an effective tool for the New York Cosmos to find the best local talent for their NASL squad. Former players Dane Murphy, Stefan Dimitrov and Alessandro Noselli have all participated in recent tournaments.
In 2009, NYC Ireland had lost to NYC Albania and came into this year’s tournament looking to capture a trophy that had eluded them since. Reflecting on the loss back in 2009 and the seven year wait to get back to the final, Friel said, “it’s been a long hard struggle. It hasn’t even sunk in yet that we’ve finally won it.”
Both Friel and Sweeney said NYC Ireland were dedicating the win to team Vice President Paul “Doc” Doherty, who was back home in Ireland. Doherty has been a major contributor to NYC Ireland since the team’s inception in 2009.
Team President and famed ESPN commentator Tommy Smyth said, “A big well done from Cobh to the Boys in Green in NY for winning the Cosmos Copa. So much hard work was done by you guys it was great that it paid off in the end. To the coaches and staff, thank you for having the team in tip top shape. To every player who pulled on a jersey, thank you for your time and dedication. To the fans who gave great support, you were the 12th man to Austie’s Green Army. Sorry I missed out on all the fun. Again well done and thank you to everybody, Tommy.”
Besides Sweeney, midfielder Ciaran McGuigan and forward Daryl Kavanagh were among the players who had played recently in the SSE Airtricity League. McGuigan’s performance resulted in him receiving the Cosmos Copa 2015 Golden Ball Award, which is awarded to the tournament’s best player.
The success of this year’s team will serve as a foundation for next year’s team and perhaps Sweeney, McGuigan, or one of the other players will get an opportunity to showcase their ability for the New York Cosmos or one of the other professional clubs in the United States.