Irish players show their support for hurricane families
THE Irish football team took time out from their preparations for tomorrow's friendly with Spain in New York to show solidarity with the residents of Breezy Point in Queens – one of the areas that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
Giovanni Trapattoni and his squad visited the Irish-dominated community to inspect the damage from the storm and hear about the ongoing efforts to rebuild homes so displaced citizens can return.
In the last census, 63pc of the Breezy Point population said they were of Irish origin.
Some of the players had a kickabout with local children and the FAI, whose chief executive John Delaney was present, handed out 20 tickets for the game with world champions Spain at Yankee Stadium in addition to donating signed jerseys for auction towards the relief fund.
About three-quarters of the Breezy Point population are scattered elsewhere around the state of New York as their houses were either destroyed or require serious renovation.
Seven months after the storm, 350 of the 2,837 homes in the community have still to be rebuilt and 2,000 are currently undergoing repairs.
The damage also affected the quality of flood protection, with local residents admitting they are fearful that further heavy storms will follow this year.
Noel Kilkenny, the Irish Consulate General for New York, said that the storm was particularly distressing for the residents as the area is dominated by police and fire officers – 30 residents died in 9/11 – who were powerless to prevent the spread of a fire that accompanied the extensive flooding and burned 111 houses to the ground.
Trapattoni said it was important for his players to realise how fortunate they are compared to their hosts.
"They have to see this situation and realise that in one day your whole life can change," said Trapattoni.
"We live one life and we do not have time to think about these situations. We have to reflect on what happened here and in other places."
The visit from the FAI followed on from a GAA fundraiser on Saturday that was organised by the Gaelic Players' Association.
Ex-Donegal footballer Kevin Cassidy and recently retired Sligo star and 'Sunday Game' pundit Eamonn O'Hara were present at the competition.