Jamie Boyle: The American Football Player Who’s Now the Captain of the New York GAA Team | GAA News

Jamie Boyle has excelled in various codes

Jamie Boyle has excelled in various codes

Jamie Boyle has not taken a traditional route into intercounty Gaelic football.

The grandson of Donegal expats is captain of the New York GAA flagship team in his freshman year with the Panel.

In fact, it has historically been uncommon for American-born players to skip the team. But Boyle is part of a growing “native” presence on the panel, which currently numbers 10.

Although he played Gaelic football at St Brendan’s Club from a young age, his sporting career took a different turn.

“Growing up I played football and then the American football coach in high school, they were looking for a foosball and I was like, ‘How hard can that be?’

“So I started kicking American football in my sophomore year of high school,” he said.

“I was having a really good year and starting to get interested in college. So I quit soccer and continued playing American football. I actually went to college to play soccer, so I did that further down in Florida (with the University of Central Florida). I was decent at that.”

Boyle didn't always want to be a Gaelic intercounty footballer

Boyle didn’t always want to be a Gaelic intercounty footballer

Playing at such a high level drew him to NFL interest.

“I struggled to get onto the field in the early years (with UCF) but the competition was extremely tough,” he added.

“My final year, however, was a strong senior year. Everybody makes profit days, all the NFL coaches came to your school and you do 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 player to kick field goals, only 32 spots for punters, so it’s extremely competitive.

“I had some of their scouts come down and email me, but to be honest I’d say almost every Division 1 kid gets those looks and those kinds of correspondence, so nothing serious to be honest. “

After graduating, he returned to the Big Apple and GAA.

“I stopped playing at St. Brendan’s at U-16. I went away every weekend to practice and go to camps and go to scouting combinations for American football kicks. So I quit U-16 and didn’t play all college,” he said

“I moved back to New York and got a job and played, but didn’t really push myself. I played for Donegal New York for a year and a half when I was 22/23. I didn’t play at all until I was 28 when I came back with St. Barnabas.”

Interestingly, Boyle almost played at Croke Park, but in gridiron rather than Gaelic games. The UCF Knights traveled to Dublin for a meetup with the Penn State Nittany Lions in 2014, but it came after his graduation.

“I joined UCF in 2009 and graduated in 2012. I just missed this trip,” he said.

“The whole time I was there they kept talking about how we were going to Croke Park next year but it kept getting pushed back so I just missed that. Because of UCF, I haven’t been able to play on any of the collegiate (GAA) teams here that have declined. UCF is to blame for my never being able to play at Croke Park!”

He finally has a chance to grace the field at Jones’ Road. If New York defeats Offaly, they return to Ireland two weeks later for the Tailteann Cup semi-finals at Croker.

After a long and winding road in his sporting career, Boyle is fully focused on this weekend’s meeting with Faithful County.

UCF played at Croke Park in 2014, a game that memorably forced the GAA to repeat the All-Ireland semi-final between Kerry and Mayo at the Gaelic Grounds

UCF played at Croke Park in 2014, a game that memorably forced the GAA to repeat the All-Ireland semi-final between Kerry and Mayo at the Gaelic Grounds

A different intercounty experience

As a project manager for a construction company in New York, he knows there are challenges playing football with the Exiles.

“There was snow on the ground here a lot of nights, the first few weeks we practiced, we shoveled snow off Gaelic Park the first few Sundays we had scrimmages 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.

“It was definitely like a mental battle to stay tough and not just get through it, but it was definitely a hurdle.”

The judges are energetic as they prepare for their first game outside of the United States since the 2001 Connacht Championship quarter-finals in Roscommon.

They want to build on a strong performance against Sligo last month in what was their first competitive game in three years. Waiting for Yeats County to visit Gaelic Park has been an ordeal.

“Seeing them and playing against them are two different things. But a lot of us watched the Sligo games as we played through the league,” Boyle added.

“We watched them every week. You don’t know until you throw it in. But we were confident that the training and work we’ve done since December has been second to none. If anything, we knew we would be if not inside [the same] form with them, in better form.

“We had great confidence in the training and the work that was done beforehand. As for skills, you really don’t know.

“Salthill came out of here, our starters played the first half. But it was a tough match. I don’t know if doubts crept in when I thought, ‘This is a club side we just played against’, and they ended up beating us out here it was like you don’t know what you don’t know.

“Everyone was confident going into this game.”

Boyle in action against Sligo last month

Boyle in action against Sligo last month

Ultimately, the 1-16, 0-15 loss to Sligo was another narrow miss and Johnny McGeeney’s side are looking to finally claim a first championship win.

“I think it would change the narrative,” Boyle said.

“We saw it a little 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 over there, but for us at least it felt like we and they were the underdogs… it was nice to see them win.

“Teams now have to respect them when they come in. We hope to do that. We hope to change it that everyone who pulls us and needs to get out of here they think it’s just a vacation and it’s a trip to Go to New York and have a good time so we’re trying to make that happen change, so it’s like, ‘We’ve got a serious game here if we go to New York’.”

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