Jamie Boyle has not followed a traditional path in inter-county Gaelic football.
The Donegal emigrant grandson is captain of the New York GAA flagship team in his first year with the panel.
Indeed, it was rare for American-born players to lead the team in the past. But Boyle is part of a growing “native” presence on the panel, with 10 currently involved.
If he played Gaelic football from an early age with the club of St Brendan, his sporting career then took another turn.
“I played football growing up, then coached football in high school, they were looking for a kicker and I was like, ‘How hard can this be?
“So my sophomore year in high school, I started kicking American football,” he said.
“I had a really good year and started getting interested in college. So I quit football and continued to play American football. I actually went to college. college to hit, so I kept doing it in Florida (with the University of Central Florida). I was decent at it.”
Playing at such a high level exposed him to NFL interest.
“I struggled to get on the pitch the first few years (with UCF), just the competition was extremely tough,” he added.
“My senior year, I had a good senior year. Everybody is doing pro days, all the NFL coaches were coming to your school and you were doing all the tests in front of them.
“But it’s so tough, especially for a kicker in the NFL, because there’s only 32 spots for a guy to shoot from the field, only 32 spots for bettors, so it’s extremely competitive.
“Some of their scouts have come in and emailed me, but to be honest, I’d say almost every kid in division one gets those looks and that kind of correspondence, so nothing serious to be honest. “
After graduating, he returned to the Big Apple and GAA.
“I stopped playing with St. Brendan’s at U-16. I was leaving every weekend to practice and go to camps and go to combined scouts for American football kicks. So I stopped at U-16 and didn’t play all through college,” he said.
“I went back to New York and got a job and played but I didn’t really put all my effort into it. I played with Donegal New York for a year and a half when I was 22 /23. Didn’t play at all until I was 28 when I came back with St Barnabas.”
Interestingly, Boyle came close to playing at Croke Park, but in gridiron rather than Gaelic. The UCF Knights traveled to Dublin for a meeting with the Penn State Nittany Lions in 2014, but that happened after he graduated.
“I went to UCF in 2009 and graduated in 2012. I just missed that trip,” he said.
“The whole time I was there they kept talking about how next year we were going to go to Croke Park but it kept getting pushed back so I just missed it. Because of UCF, I couldn’t play on any of the varsity (GAA) teams here that came back. UCF is to blame for the fact that I never got to play in Croke Park! “
He finally has a chance to be on the Jones’ Road pitch now. If New York defeats Offaly, they will return to Ireland two weeks later for the Tailteann Cup semi-finals at Croker.
After a long and winding road in his sports career, Boyle is fully focused on this weekend’s encounter with Faithful County.
A different intercounty experience
A project manager for a construction company in New York, he knows it’s hard to play football with exiles.
“A lot of nights we had snow on the ground here, the first few weeks we were training we were shoveling snow at Gaelic Park the first Sundays we had scrums there,” Boyle said in his American accent. – it was the first time this journalist transcribed the word ‘scrimmage’ in an interview with a Gaelic footballer.
“So it was definitely like a mental battle, staying tough through it, and not just going through it, but it was definitely an obstacle.”
There is energy in the panel, as they prepare for their first game away from the United States since the 2001 Connacht Championship quarter-final at Roscommon.
They are looking to build on a strong performance against Sligo last month, which was their first competitive game in three years. Playing the waiting game for Yeats County to visit Gaelic Park was taxing.
“Watching and playing against them are two different things. But a lot of us had been watching Sligo games, just like they were playing in the league,” Boyle added.
“We watched them every week. You don’t know until the throw-in. But we were confident that the training and work we’ve done since December was second to none. On the contrary, we knew we were going to be, if not in [the same] shape with them, in better shape.
“We had a lot of confidence in the training and the work done beforehand. As for the skills, you really don’t know.
“Salthill came here, our starters played the first half. But it was a tough game. I don’t know if doubt crept in, thinking ‘this is a club team we just played’ and they ended up beating us. It was kind of like, you don’t know what you don’t know.
“Everyone felt confident going into this game.”
In the end, the 1-16 to 0-15 loss to Sligo was another near miss, and Johnny McGeeney’s side are finally looking for a first Championship victory.
“I think it would change the narrative,” Boyle said.
“We saw it a bit from our point of view with London this year in the league. They started winning. I think they won the first three games.
“I don’t know if the narrative is the same with New York and London there, but at least for us it felt like it was us and them, the foreigners…it was good to see them win.
“Teams have to respect them now when they come in. That’s what we hope to do. We hope it changes from whoever draws us and has to come here, they think it’s just a vacation and it’s a journey to go see New York and have a good time, so we’re trying to change that, so it’s, ‘we’re here for some serious play here when we come out in New York’.”