WORLD CUP WINNER Rose Lavelle scored in the USA’s world cup final defeat of the Netherlands.
THE scorer of the winning goal in the FIFA Women’s World Cup is very proud of her Achill roots. Both her great-grandparents emigrated from the island to the US, where they were married in 1908.
Rose Lavelle was one of the stars of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, scoring the decisive second goal in the United States’ 2-0 victory over The Netherlands in Lyon, as they made history to retain the World Cup for the first time.
The 24-year-old centre-midfielder from Cincinnati, Ohio, is the great-grandchild of John P Lavelle from Dooagh, Achill, and Honoria ‘Nora’ Lavelle from Keel, Achill, who were wed in Cleveland, Ohio.
All in a name
Rose Lavelle’s connection to Achill was not known about when the World Cup started, but as her name became more and more familiar as the tournament played out, many people started to wonder whether, with a name like Lavelle, she had Mayo links.
Vincent English of the Achill Heritage Centre, the administrator of the Achill Diaspora Facebook page, made contact with Rose’s sister, Mary, who confirmed the family’s connection to the island.
“As soon as I saw her [Rose Lavelle], I said she has to have some Achill connection, and I tried to contact her through social media,” Vincent explained to The Mayo News. “She did not come back to me, but her sister got back to me, and she confirmed the Achill connection and that their great-grandparents came from Dooagh and Keel.
“They still know about Achill, and she explained that the family have an Achill sign in their living room and are immensely proud of their Achill connections. Mary said that Rose was inundated with media work following the World Cup, but also said that she hopes to get back in touch in a couple of weeks,” he said.
After discovering the connection, Vincent posted the news on his Achill Heritage Centre Facebook page, and word quickly spread across the island. The search for any of Rose’s relatives still living on the island began.
It soon became clear that many close relatives were indeed living on the island, including some who remembered Rose’s great-grandfather John P Lavelle when he visited his home village as an elderly man in the 1950s.
Two nieces, Ellen Fadian and Mary Elizabeth McNamara, are both alive and living in Dooagh. Ellen’s daughter, Helen, told The Mayo News that her aunt Mary Elizabeth babysat Rose’s uncles and aunts when she lived in the US – but they had not been aware that the Rose Lavelle from the World Cup was their relative.
“My mum remembers her uncle John Lavelle, who last visited Dooagh in 1950, but my aunt – who spent many years living in Cleveland, Ohio, in the 1950s – would have known him and other members of the USA branch of the family much better and has lots of photographs from her time there,” Helen explained.
“Mum and auntie are so delighted – as are all the family – to hear about Rose Lavelle’s success. That her family tree can be traced back to Dooagh, Achill, is something that we are all so proud of. I didn’t watch the World Cup, but my brother was glued to it and he commented before the connection was made that this Rose Lavelle was one of the stars of the tournament.
“We’re delighted that all of this came about as a result of the great work being done by Vincent English of Achill Heritage. We’ve had quite an exciting couple of days since this discovery was made on Tuesday, piecing all the information together and joining the dots. Hopefully we will all get to meet at some point in the future.”
In the genes
The sporting pedigree in the Lavelle family was very evident in Rose’s grandfather, Charles ‘Chuck’ Lavelle, who was an American football coach. Rose is also a distant cousin of former Manchester United and Scotland footballer Darren Fletcher. She also has family links with former RTÉ soccer commentator Gabriel Egan, and her great-great grandmother Bridget O’Malley also featured in a famous Paul Henry painting, ‘The Potato Diggers’.
Rose’s Achill Island relatives will be able to watch her in action again on August 3, when the US takes on Ireland in a friendly in the Rose Bowl, in Pasadena, California.