Sporty Billy! 

Sporty Billy! 

Taking another trip down memory lane and today it’s all about Sport. OK so now I am nearing 50 but still enjoy playing football (soccer) especially since I made my return to playing a little over a year ago after 20 years away from playing regularly. So where did I get this love for playing football. 

Well it started in my backyard back in Ireland playing with a tennis ball or a football and just kicking it against the wall. As a kid I played football, rugby and hurling. I was kinda small for rugby but I was lucky enough to be fast, it helped stopped the big guys flattening me. Hurling I found a great leveler, the little guy with a. Stick can hit just as hard as the big guy but again it was a little bit of speed thst kept me out of getting hit to hard. See a trend in both of those sport? And so I got really good at football and I wouldnt get hit, at least not to often. 

My football playing days ended really when I suffered a broken femur just after I turned 20. I just couldn’t face a hard tackle again so I stepped away from the game for a good few years, just playing occasionally. But that did not stop me watching football as often as I could. My earliest memories of watching football was the 1976 FA Cup Final in England, followed by the 1977 FA and European Cup finals and the 1978 World Cup Finals in Argentina. I think it was the 1977 Euro Cup Final that really got me hooked. Liverpool had lost to Man Utd the previous weekend in the FA Cup Final but bounced back on the Wednesday to won the European Cup.  I then started to follow English football and became a Liverpool supporter. 

The World Cup in 1978 was memorable as it was the first time I remember seeing international football, Scotland beating Holland but still going out after 2 previous disastrous games, the ticker tape final which seen a Mario Kempes inspired Argentina hand Holland their second successive final defeat and Archie Gemmils goal in the aforementioned Holland Scotland game are just some memories I have of that world cup. 

As this is a trip down memory lane I won’t go into what I follow today, but I still watch for Liverpool results, watch football most weekends and play most Sundays. But some of my best memories have been watching St Patrick’s Athletic back home in Ireland. I have seen them win leagues, cups and play away in Europe. I have also suffered heartbreak as I have seen them lose more Cup finals than I care to mention. But in 2014 that ghost was laid to rest as St Patrick’s Athletic finally got their hands on the FAI Cup and I was the road to record the whole thing on camera. 

I will come back to memories with St Patrick’s Athletic as they are so numerous that a single post wouldnt do them justice. Being a fan of St Patrick’s Athletic is a privilege I am glad to have, I have met some wonderful people, made live long friends, lost some good people, had some great experiences at games and some heart breaking ones too. 

I suppose now as I live in the USA I have to adopt a few local teams in various sports. So now I have Atlanta Falcons (NFL), Atlanta Braves (MLB), Atlanta Hawks (MBA) and now Atlanta United in the MLS. Add them to St Pats and Liverpool as well as Michigan Spartans for college sports and I have a busy schedule just keeping up with results. 

I hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane and I hope to add more over the coming week as the big 50 birthday looms. 

Superbowl Sunday

Superbowl Sunday

This time last year I wrote about my first Superbowl Sunday here in America. It consisted of a group of friends getting together and enjoying the game and the adverts! Yes, the adverts during the Superbowl along with the half time show can be the highlight of the Superbowl. This year though I think will be slightly different as the Atlanta Falcons have made it to only their 2nd Superbowl and it is a well deserved appearance. 

They will come up against the New England Patriots, and they are the team I followed when I lived in Ireland but my allegiances have switched to my new home town, so I will be cheering on the Falcons. 

Superbowl 51 pitches the best defence (Patriots) going up against the best offense (Falcons) so it will be an interesting game. With possibly the 2 best QB’s playing, the legendary Tom Brady v the new league MVP Matt Ryan it could be a shootout between these two. Looking forward to a exciting game and hope Falcons manage to pull it off, but won’t be overly disappointed if the Patriots win. 
It would be fantastic for Atlanta to win and the excitement has been building for last few weeks through all the play offs and now to the final game of the season. It reminds me of home and when St Pat’s made it to the cup final and the build up would start a couple of weeks before and by game day I would be a nervous wreck. 

It was hard to know how to feel when we lost a cup final and we certainly did lose a few but the camaraderie of fellow fans who were feeling the same always helped, along with a few tasty pints of Guinness. But St Pat’s finally did win the FAI Cup and I have to say it is still and probably always will be one of the highlights of watching my local team in my life, and we have won leagues and other trophies but to finally win the cup after 53 years of waiting was just a fantastic moment.  

So now it is time to get ready, put on the shirt, go to friends house, and settle down and watch the game. And may the best team win which I hope is the Atlanta Falcons. RISE UP!!! 

A little bit of sport. 

A little bit of sport. 

I haven’t mentioned my sporting likes in a while and it’s those that helped frame the title of this blog. So a quick reminder how the name came about. Firstly the St Pats part is about my home town football club back in Ireland and the Spartans part is about Michigan State here in the USA. 

I have always supported St Patrick’s Athletic FC and even now I follow the games via Twitter, TV when available and fan commentary when I can listen in. The support for Michigan State came about as it is the team and college that my wife attended, hence the title of the blog; St Pats to Spartans. 

Anyway, this season hasn’t been a great season for St Patrick’s Athletic in the league. Struggling to string a few decent results together and languishing in the lower end of the table with just a few games left it’s lookin going a season to forget. Even though they managed to reach the FAI Cup Semi Final a heavy defeat in thst game just shows how much work the manager has to do th get Pats back up the table next season. But it wasn’t all bad, retaining the League Cup me at that St Patrick’s Athletic have managed to win one of the 3 major trophies on offer in each of the last 4 seasons, starting with the League Championship in 2013, FAI Cup in 2014, League Cup in 2015 and 2016. So once this season is offer in a few weeks it will be time to rebuild and be ready to go in March next year. 

And onto Michigan State, the football season started 7 weeks ago and just like St Patrick’s Athletic, it hasn’t really gone to plan. After a relatively good season last year this season has started with just 2 wins and 4 defeats. Nothing seems to be going right this season so it’s time to make sure lessons are learnt and that MS got back to winning ways quickly and the players step up to the mark early and make a run of victories to turn this season around, even though it is probably to late to make it as successful as last year already. But there is always next year and with college football being as it is the junior players will have gained valuable experience with this seasons early difficulties. 

Being a sports fan does come with its highs and lows, sometimes more low days that good days but that’s what makes the good days so special. Seeing St Patrick’s Athletic lose so many FAI Cup finals made the victory in 2014 all the sweeter and it wiped away all those defeats and 53 years of waiting in 90 minutes. One of my favorite moments was when that second goal to clinch the cup went into the back of the net in the dying minute of the match. 

With Michigan State football team not doing to good it will be up to the basketball team to lift spirits and with St Patrick’s Athletic moving into the off season at the end of October I will continue to watch the English Premier league until the Irish soccer season starts back in March when of course it is also March Madness here for the the basketball. 

Sporting events 

Sporting events 

So far I have attended an NBA (basketball) game involving the Atlanta Hawks, an NFL (football) pre season game involving the Atlanta Falcons, a MLB (baseball) game involving the Atlanta Braves and last night I went to my first college football game as Georgia Tech played Clemson in Atlanta. 

Each of these were different in their own way, the basketball was my first major sporting event to attend with Leanne here in the USA and I was still in awe of a lot of Atlanta and the Hawks managed to win and overall it was a great event. The Braves game was equally a good night, we had Robert with us and it was fun. The Braves PR team even made it better by giving us free hats and t-shirts as it was our very first baseball game to see. Kudos to them for that gesture. The NFL game was a pre season one for the Falcons so was quite a lack luster affair but again we had fun as myself and Robert went with our Irish neighbour. 

And so last night it was time to experience College football. The fact that the stadium probably holds about 80000 and was about 3/4 full on a Thursday night absolutely astounded me. With Leanne being a Michigan State fan, and me as well by default, I knew the stadiums were big but to actually walk into one was amazing. It is a full blown production, big band, cheer leaders, fireworks etc. Unfortunately Georgia Tech lost last night bringing an end to my unbeaten event attending, the Falcons, Hawks and Braves all won when I attended.

At the Georgia Tech game

Now compare these sporting events to back in Ireland. Probably nothing can compare to the production, pre game and during game entertainment to off the pitch. But on the pitch games at home are much more exciting, less stopping and starting, play is more involved. But is one better than the other, No, not at all. I do love all sports and I do miss attending St Patrick’s Athletic matches at home with our little crowd of 1000 but I have also enjoyed all the sporting events I have gone to so far in Atlanta. 

There are a few more on my list to attend, an ice hockey game in Detroit, a Michigan State football game, an Atlanta United soccer match when they are up and running and a USA international soccer match as well. Which one gets my vote as the most enjoyable so far? Well that’s a tough choice, the Braves looked after us and Robert was able to attend, the Hawks as it was my first game to go to with Leanne, Falcons as it was first NFL game or the College football? I will have to go with the college football and its more to do with the off the pitch stuff. The band played practically non stop for the full night, the student fans made lots of noise and they had a white out night, where everyone wore white, and it all added up to a great occasion. So Georgia Tech lost, but the night, the event, as a whole was superb. Oh and I have to mention traffic management, at home traffic basically comes to a standstill after events, here the traffic management is excellent and everyone gets away and home quickly and efficiently. 

So I look forward to lots more sporting events, enjoying this particular aspect of my new home, and maybe becoming emotionally attached to a club so I can cheer them on just like I did at home for St Patrick’s Athletic. 

Some answers to commonly asked questions about me

Some answers to commonly asked questions about me

Since I arrived in the USA last November I have been asked numerous questions about Ireland, what I miss the most and what do I like about the USA best. I felt it was unfair to try answer these questions to soon into my new life but today I am going to give some insights into some of the questions I have been asked. 

Let’s start with an easy one, What do I miss most? Well it has to be family and friends. Being away from my son, Robert, has to be the hardest thing ever, even though we did live apart in Ireland we seen each other nearly every other week or for a weekend every month. Having Robert here these last 12 days has been great and we will have some quality time together over the next 4 weeks before he heads back to Ireland and college. We will get to celebrate his 18th birthday together and that is an important milestone in his life and I am delighted he will be here for it. 

Robert joined me at my job the other day

I lived only a short distance from my parents and I dropped around quite regularly especially as my Mam is now on her own since my Dad went into an Nursing home because of advanced Alzemhiers. It’s hard being away from my parents as they get older as there is a realization that I may never see them again or that a trip home could be my last time to see them and that was something I have to be aware of all the time. 

My parents still holding hands after 56 years

I miss my friends a lot too, meeting to go to football matches together or just a drink and a chat. I had some great work colleagues in Dublin Airport and the Defence Forces and it was always great to meet up for a beer or two. Some of my closer friends were from going to the St Patrick’s Athletic matches and we always had fun when we got together. An added piece to that is missing going to the ‘local’ pub just to chill out.This is something that can’t be done here, even though there are enough bars but none fall into the ‘local’ bracket. 

The football friends

Some of the questions I have been asked about Ireland are religious or political and for now I am going to give answering them a miss even though I did enjoy some decent chats with people about Brexit and how it will effect Ireland and Europe. Other questions about a Ireland are the basic ones, like what to do amd where to go on a visit. I advise nearly everyone to go to Kilmainham Gaol, Guinness Brewery, Galway and the Western coast, Killarney and if time allows to head up North. Of course they all want to go to Temple Bar, and all I can do is advise to avoid the area as its a pricey expensive tourist trap. This is a complete edited list of what to do or where to go as there are so many wonderful places and things to do but I notice a lot of people only visit Ireland for 2-4 days and combine the trip with England, Scotland and Wales or Europe.


I am going to come back to all of this as my time in the USA lengthens. And I know I haven’t mentioned what I like most about the USA but I want to form a greater opinion before I answer that. But one thing I do like is the friendliness of most people I have met or dealt with in personal or professional matters. 

And just to add something to lighten the mood, besides family and friends, I genuinely do miss them all, I also miss a decent roast dinner, with roast beef, vegetables (carrots, broccoli and cauliflower) potatoes (mashed, roasted and chips and some lovely home made gravy poured over it and a lovely a creamy pint of Guinness to drink. 

A proper pint of Guinness, something I miss

    

Expatriate St Patrick’s Athletic Fan

Expatriate St Patrick’s Athletic Fan

And here is why. Below is an article I wrote about myself and being an expat fan following St Patrick’s Athletic from over here in the USA. It was used in the match programme a few weeks ago.

St Pats fan abroad.

Quick About Me: Billy Galligan, 48. Born and bred in Inchicore, St Pats fan all my life and will remain so from America.

Favorite St Pats moment has to be Christy Fagan scoring the second goal to clinch the FAI Cup in November 2014.

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Christy Fagan roles the ball into the net to clinch the 2014 cup for St Pats after a 53 year wait

Just as the 2015 Airtricity League season ended I emigrated to the USA, more specifically a city called Decatur just on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, the home of CNN, Coca Cola and Atlanta United. My choice to leave Ireland and move to the USA was an easy one, I moved here to marry my sweetheart and start a whole new life together.

For most of my life I had lived in Inchicore and within sight of Richmond Park. Over the last number of seasons, I was nearly always on the camac side touchline taking photos for ExtraTime.ie and supporting the team through a camera lens, now though I will be cheering them on via Twitter and other online media.

Following matches online, waiting on a score update or news is possibly more nerve wrecking than anything, constantly hitting refresh to see if is there is an update, dreading the beep from the football score app in case it’s a goal against Pats, cheering at the phone when it’s a goal for Pats. I am sure somewhere along the way I will be out somewhere and I will randomly cheer at the phone and my new American friends will wonder what is going on!

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Leanne happily posed in a St Pats jersey before attending a match in Ireland last season

Being overseas during a match is nothing new to most fans but to be away and not knowing when I will be home again to see a match is strange. I intend to return to Ireland next December but of course then the season will be over. When I go walking here I nearly always have my St Pats hat on and I am always getting asked ‘What team do I support?’  When I answer St Patricks Athletic from Inchicore in Dublin it raises a few eyebrows as they expect to hear Liverpool, Man Utd or some other English team.

I look forward to the 2016, and will be following the team from the USA and would like to wish Liam and all the staff, players, volunteers and fans an enjoyable, successful and safe season.

As I say in the above article, I will always be a St Patrick’s Athletic fan, even if I start going to Atlanta United games here. Once a football fan, always a football fan.

Back to radio days!

So today marked the first match of the new Airtricity League football season at home and St Patrick’s Athletic played Galway United in Richmond Park, Inchicore. The new season always starts slow, with some apprehension but mainly hope and dreams. My mission today was to figure out how to get coverage of a match taking place 5000 miles away in Dublin.

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Richmond Park, Inchicore

Luckily the Internet allows for certain luxuries and a few of the lads back in Dublin do match commentary live so I was able to tune in and listen. It brought back memories of listening to the radio coverage years ago when it was the only coverage on match evenings, in a time before the Internet. The lads do a great job, completely biased but calling it as it is. Being able to interact via messages as the match progressed was great, one fan in Spain, few in Ireland, lads in the ground and me here in Atlanta.

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Match Day Poster

The President of Ireland is a Galway man and the presidential house is in the Phoenix Park which is fairly close to Richmond park so it was no real surprise that the President attended tonight’s match, I just can’t imagine anything like that happening here without half the city getting shut down. I used to take photos at the matches for Extratime.ie, a website devoted to Irish soccer and I followed all the other matches going on tonight on their update pages as well as watching another match taking place in Cork on the TV via a mobile app. I now have a plan for each time there is a game on at home, be it TV, Internet updates or commentary.

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My View from the Touch line last season

The result tonight wasn’t the best, St Pats got beaten 3-1 by a team they would have expected to beat. The hope of the first day of the season is evaporated already and it makes the next game even more important and getting the first points of the season on the board.

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St Patrick's Athletic Crest

From now until the season ends it will be a Rollercoaster of emotions as St Patrick’s Athletic go in search of vital victories every week. Will there be a trophy at the end of the season? Will it end in absolute heartache? Will the European adventure add to the legends of years past, or will it too just fail before it gets going? Either way, I will be shouting for St Pats from Atlanta, wearing my hat and jersey and screaming at phone, tablet, or TV hoping to see Pats win.

A few photos from home (Ireland)

A few photos from home (Ireland)

Today’s post is just a few photos from Ireland, in particular Dublin and Inchicore for today, that I have taken over the years. I will do this every couple of weeks to help give a favour of Dublin and Inchicore and eventually Atlanta. I start with some photos that I have posted to Instagram or Twitter over the years.

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Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge 

The Irish National War Memorial Gardens was just across the road from where I lived in Kilmainham and it was where I spent so many hours walking my dog and relaxing. Whether it rained, snowed or the sun shines, it was always beautiful.

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Oliver St John Gogartys Pub in Temple Bar 

Gogartys Pub in Temple Bar is one of the most popular tourist pubs in Dublin and one where I have met friends from around the globe and shared a drink or two.

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Views of the Botanical Gardens in Dublin 

Another little gem for walking around is the National Botanical Gardens in Dublin. Plants and flowers decorate the pathways and it’s beautiful year round.

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Inchicore Village 

Inchicore Village is where I grew up and spent most of my adult life until my move to the states in November 2015. The pub on the corner was my favourite place to have Sunday roast dinner and a pint or two.

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GPO, Dublin 

The GPO is one of the most iconic buildings in Dublin and it’s place in Irish history is insured by what happened over Easter 1916. It has been the focal point of commemorations most Easters and will be again this year for the Centenary.

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Houses in Inchicore 

This is a typical row of houses around Inchicore Railway works and is nearly the same as the road I lived on for 13 years.

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Entrance to Kilmainham Gaol 

Another very historic landmark in Dublin and I was lucky enough to live beside it, Kilmainham Gaol was where the 1916 leaders were executed by the British and public opinion about the rising started to change because of these executions.

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St. James’s Gate, Home to Guinness 

Ah the home of the Black Stuff, Guinness. St. James’s Gate has been the home to Guinness since 1759 and as a child I can remember the smell of the hops being used in the brewing process coming across Inchicore.

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Richmond Park, St. Patrick’s Athletic 

The wall outside Richmond Park, home of St. Patrick’s Athletic, my football team. I have supported them all my life and now instead of attending and photographing matches every Fri from March till November, I will be relying on Twitter updates and hopefully the odd TV coverage.

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Ha’penny Bridge 

Another icon of Dublin. The Ha’penny Bridge over the River Liffey. The bridge is a pedestrian crossing over the river and is 200 years old.

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US Ambassadors Residence 

The ambassador to Ireland from the USA has a residence in the a Phoenix Park, again a stones throw from where I lived. The house is the former residence to the Chief Secretary to Ireland from Britain. The embassy itself is in Ballsbridge. The ambassadors residence is only a few hundred yards from the entrance to Áras an Uachtharn in, home to the Irish President.

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National Convention Center and Samuel Beckett Bridge 

The National Convention Center and the Samuel Beckett Bridge are two recent additions to the Dublin skyline and are great additions. Located down river near where the Liffey leaves Dublin to go into the Irish Sea since it’s erection the Samuel Beckett Bridge is becoming an icon of modern Dublin already.

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Night Images of Dublin 

A few photos of Inchicore and a restaurant in Temple Bar at night. My local bar where many a goodbye were said before I left Ireland last November start my new life here in Atlanta and pathways I have walked my whole life.

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GPO and Dublin Spire on O’Connell Street 

Dublin’s main street is O Connell Street and it’s here the GPO is located and just outside it is the Millennium Spire. Opened in 2003 and nearly 400ft tall it is visible from nearly all over the city center and is a handy landmark for tourists to help them find the center of Dublin.

I hope these photos help to give a small flavour of where I lived. I will add more over the coming weeks and months.

First Down and ten – Superbowl Sunday

So today is probably the biggest sporting event of the year in the USA or as many would lead you to believe, the World. I doubt that but you can’t deny the Superbowl 50 is massive and will have a worldwide audience in the hundreds of millions.

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I have seen many superbowls on tv back home in Ireland, especially in its heyday on Channel 4. For me though it doesn’t compete with the All Ireland finals between Dublin and Kerry or St Pats winning a cup or League but seeing as I now live here it’s to embrace NFL and their big occasion.

So who to shout for tonight at my first Stateside Superbowl Party, well my sister in law is living in Denver so maybe I should shout for them, we live close to Carolina so maybe I should shout for them. I know little or nothing about both sides so I will come down on side of family, Denver it is.
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It won’t be the same as cheering for St Patrick’s Athletic in the soccer, or Dublin in the Gaelic games, or Ireland in any sport but will allow me to have a vested interest. I am an Irishman first, a Dubliner and Inchicore man second, so they have to be my first choice always.

Sport in the USA is completely different to what I am used to, 1500 at a game of lucky, even though I have seen Richmond Park packed to the rafters for some classical games and the atmosphere there would make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, can football or soccer here do that, unlikely.
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The emotion felt as Christy Fagan scored that second goal for St Pats as the finally won the cup after 53 years will live with me forever, and nothing will ever beat that.