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Chasing his dreams

Sport

FAMILY TIES Dylan McNally (left) is pictured in Westport recently with his grandfather Tom McNally (snr) and Christopher McNally outside his cousin’s restaurant and bar, The Towers.

A Boston teenager with Westport roots is bidding to break into the Irish Lacrosse team

Feature
Michael Gallagher

Where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came.
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same.
You wanna go where everybody knows your name.

THE bar is full of chatter and laughter as rich Massachusetts accents bounce off the walls. On another day, one might expect to see Sam Malone or Woody come through the door, but this isn’t Boston, the bar isn’t Cheers and we’re not living in a TV sitcom.
Instead, it’s Sunday night, we’re in Westport, in The Towers Bar and Restaurant and we’re hearing about a young man living his Irish/American sporting dream.
The fact that Dylan McNally speaks with a voice from beyond the seas doesn’t dim his Irishness one bit. He feels at home in Westport where he’s surrounded by family and friends.
The 19-year-old from Medfield, outside Boston, has just come through the door of his cousin’s inviting hostelry after a weekend training camp with the Irish Lacrosse team in Limerick and there’s excitement in the air.
Dylan’s dad, Christopher, has travelled across the Atlantic for the monumental weekend; his uncle, Tom is beaming with pride and Dylan’s cousin Thomas Bourke is delighted to be hosting the clan in The Towers.
The best table in the house has been reserved for the young sports star and his clan. At the head of affairs sits, Dylan’s beloved grandparents Tom McNally (snr) and Margaret (nee Bourke).
It’s a very special and poignant occasion for Tom and Margaret.
Back in the day when five-star dining was far from their thoughts, they left Aughagower and Westport Quay to head for Boston and a better life. They raised five kids and worked day and night in that famous city, but never once lost their deep love of the land which kisses Clew Bay.
They’re back now, living on home soil and on Sunday night they beamed with pride as the crew arrived from Limerick with hugs to give and stories to tell.
Dylan immediately caught the eye. He was friendly, courteous and powerful – the kind of young man who would make a very good impression on prospective in-laws.
He already has a rich sporting story. On a March day in 2016 in the famed Boston Garden, he scored the goal which drove his Medfield Warriors High School team to the first state hockey title in their history.
He also powered his school to the state Lacrosse crown before signing a playing scholarship with the hugely successful Canisius College, in Buffalo.
On Sunday night, he arrived in Westport at the end of the latest chapter in his sporting story.
“Dad grew up in a very Irish family in Boston,” the teen star told The Mayo News. “If you’ve ever met my grandfather you’ll understand how Irish their upbringing was. I’ve always felt a huge love for Westport, Mayo and Ireland and I’m so proud to have got the opportunity to try-out for the Irish team.”
How did this occur? Chris, the proud father, steps into the breach.
“When he went to college, I realised his coach was the Canadian team’s assistant coach and the other guy was the Puerto Rican coach, so we decided to research how to play for the Irish team.
“There were try-outs all across the country, in Boston, New York, Philadelphia; there was a try-out here in Limerick, another one in Canada, one in England and one in the Czech Republic.
“They picked a few kids from each try-out and brought 30 to Limerick this weekend for the camp. They’ll pick 23 for the European Championships next year in Poland and we’re hoping Dylan makes the cut. He had a really good camp.”
That statement is backed up by cousin Thomas, who was pitchside in Limerick all weekend.
“A kid told me, if that Boston guy doesn’t make the team, I’ll never play Lacrosse again.”
The assertion is boosted by the impressive statistic telling the world that McNally lost just one ‘face-off’ all weekend. Face-offs are the mechanism for restarting play after each quarter and/or score. A player from each side faces off in the middle of the pitch, and they battle physically for possession of the ball.
There might be 20 face-offs in each game. Dylan lost just one all weekend. His place on the Irish team should be assured.
At the head of the table, Tom Snr watches on proudly.
He famously won a West Mayo Championship medal with Islandeady back in the fifties and also held the Connacht Welterweight boxing title in his youth before going on to win a North American League title with Galway in Boston and forming St Columcille’s in that famous city.
That competitive, physically combative streak is evident in the grandson too.
“I love face-offs. It’s my favourite thing to do. It’s just me and another guy and I like that challenge. You’re black and blue after a game, but that’s okay,” Dylan added with a smile.
Dylan’s uncle, Tom, is a well-known sportsman in Westport. He grew up in the Brighton district of Boston, but has lived by Clew Bay for many years. Tom is a proud man on Sunday night.
“We’re an exceptionally proud Irish family and this is a huge honour for us. I suppose this is completing the circle from Westport to Boston and back to Westport again.”
“Our parents left here when things weren’t so good. You met my father. We grew up in Boston and it was all Irish people around us at the time. We were always so proud of Westport and Mayo and we know how lucky we are to have such a great heritage.
“To see Dylan come back and try out for the Irish team is something we never dreamt of. It’s very special.”
Soon Dylan and his cousin Christopher are enjoying downtime and checking out the wonders of Westport, while the adults tuck in to the best food in town. The McNally clan are living through an amazing story and there are many exciting chapters yet to be written.
From Westport to Boston and back again!

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