2016 Meet the Underdogs: Lansdowne Bhoys conquer New York City, have sights set on US Open Cup

Posted by | May 10, 2016
Lansdowne Bhoys FC

Lansdowne Bhoys pose for a team photo before their US Open Cup qualifying match against Worcester FC. Photo: Lansdowne Bhoys FC

Lansdowne Bhoys are making their first appearance in the US Open Cup, but they are not a new club. The Bhoys played their first game in the 1997 in the third division of New York’s Cosmopolitan Soccer League, slowly rising in the ranks before capturing the title for the past two years running.

The Lansdowne Bhoys qualified for the US Open Cup through two qualifying rounds. On October 17 of last year, they downed Newtown Pride of Connecticut by a score of 3-0, followed by a 5-0 victory over Worcester FC of Massachusetts on November 15.

But they have bigger ambitions than winning CSL or qualifying for the US Open Cup – the Bhoys are gunning for a spot in the USL.

“It hasn’t been easy,” says the Bhoys manager and head coach Austin Friel. “Starting a club takes a lot of hard work and dedication – especially an amateur club. Six years ago, we were a mid-table club, fighting relegation in the CSL.”

Irish Roots

Lansdowne was founded by Irish immigrants in New York who frequented a bar by the same name. “Lansdowne” refers to the Lansdowne Road field that was the national stadium for Irish rugby and football until 2007. The immigrants also decided to pay homage to Celtic FC of Glasgow, Scotland, by borrowing the nickname “Bhoys.”

“The Irish community is massive,” says Friel. “Six or seven of my starters all came from Ireland. They had no friends here. They mix with all the other Irish guys. And Lansdowne gave them a base to make new friends and play their soccer at the weekend.”

“Now that Lansdowne’s getting bigger and bigger, there’s actually guys that are playing pro in Ireland that are actually approaching me now to play here.”

A Club Reborn

Lansdowne BhoysThe current gaffer arrived on the scene as a Bhoys player 10 years ago when visiting his brother in the New York area. He played a few games when he was in town, but didn’t take a full role until he moved here from the Emerald Isle five years later.

“I started playing for Lansdowne and they were gradually getting just a little bit better then. We got a new president, William McGrory, about six years ago, and we put together a new board that helped organize the club, run it better, bring in better players and better coaches. I took over as manager three years ago. It’s just gone from strength to strength since then.”

While the club started as an adult club, the management is now turning its attention to youth soccer through an affiliation with Yonkers United and their 24 teams. “I’m the director of coaching for both Lansdowne Bhoys and Yonkers United. It’s like 60-70 percent Irish-American kids.”

Friel is bullish on building the club from the roots – both locally and internationally. “The Celtic affiliation just started this year. We actually have a summer camp here from the 5th to the 9th of July in Yonkers. Celtic will send their top youth coaches out here for the week, which is massive I think. And it also means a few of our teams go over to Glasgow each year and use their facilities and play in tournaments and play in friendlies. So it’s only making our club bigger and stronger.”

And this helps to explain his hopes for the club in the future. “As I see it, Lansdowne are a sleeping giant,” says Friel.

An Athletic Style

Lansdowne Bhoys win the 2013 Eastern NY Open Cup title. Photo: Lansdowne Bhoys Facebook page

Lansdowne Bhoys win the 2013 Eastern NY Open Cup title. Photo: Lansdowne Bhoys Facebook page

Friel promises that fans can expect to see energetic soccer from his side as they face off against the Rough Riders.

“We play a high tempo, high press game, we like to dominate possession. When we don’t have possession, we try to get the ball back. We like to dominate games. We play a nice passing style. We have a lot of good skillful players on our team.”

The goals could come from anywhere on the field, according to Friel: “To be honest, our scoring is pretty divided out. My midfielders would score as many goals as my forwards would, and we actually get a lot of goals from fullback, believe it or not. But we don’t have a goal-getter, the goals are spread around.”

Friel cites several players to watch, including ex-Arsenal U-18 captain and Irish U-19 national team player Sean Kelly and Daryl Kavanagh, who won the league of Ireland title with St. Patrick’s Athletic in 2013. “Sean Kelly is an excellent defender. He’s an intelligent footballer, and as I said he scored two 25-yard free kicks the last two games. He’s a great leader also.”

Of forward Kavanagh, Friel says “He actually just scored a hat trick for us in our last league game. He’s a very good link-up player between our midfielders and our forwards, but he has an eye for goal also.”

“Then I have Craig Purcell who is another guy from Ireland, he’s a center midfielder. He’s very vital in our style of play because he forces teams into mistakes with his high work rate.”

If you think the entire team is made up of Irishmen, you’re wrong. In addition to a smattering of Gambians and a Pole, Friel cites two Jamaicans who are key to the team’s success.

“One plays up top and one plays winger. The one up top is Sikele Sylvester. I think he’s one of most talented guy I’ve ever seen playing local football. Then obviously we have the lightning pace of Jamaican Ovan Oakley. He’s a winger, and he’s been on the scoresheet recently.”

Prospects Against the Rough Riders

Manager Friel measures his words carefully in talking about the Rough Riders. “I totally respect the rough Riders. They’ve been about for years, they’ve produced some good players, some players who went on to play a good level professionally. But, as I said, I don’t fear anyone.”

But the Bhoys have two main advantages over the Long Island outfit.

“We’ve been playing since September. They’re still getting organized, and I know it’s a lot of work for them, and they’re getting their paperwork sorted, getting their college kids back, some of them are in their finals. So maybe they don’t have their full squad available.”

The game would be a difficult task, then, for any PDL team as they prepare to face an in-form local side with international talent.

But Friel may have something else up his sleeve.

“Believe it or not, we have five Rough Rider guys playing for us not them. Five starters from last year on their team are going to be starting for us.”

Whatever the outcome on May 11, it’s likely that US soccer fans will be hearing more from Austin Frield and the Lansdowne Bhoys.