Tuesday 12 December 2017

Globe-trotting Wherity simply loving life in a New York state of mind

Ross Wherity will be hoping to help New York overcome Sligo tomorrow. (Photo credit: Chris Clarke).
Ross Wherity will be hoping to help New York overcome Sligo tomorrow. (Photo credit: Chris Clarke).

Michael Verney

As he sits along New York's Park Avenue watching the world go by, Ross Wherity has very few complaints with the cards which life has dealt him. He's an Irishman living the American dream, but one decision five years ago does still gnaw away at him.

It was heading towards summer and Wherity had just completed his Law and Economics degree in DCU when his phone rang and Jim McGuinness' voice was on the other end.

An invitation to join the reigning Ulster champions and play his part in the Donegal revolution followed, but he declined.

Based in the capital at the time, it would have meant a "big sacrifice" and besides that, plans were already afoot to hit Poznan and Gdansk for Euro 2012 and follow the fortunes of Giovanni Trapattoni's Green Army.

Performances on the pitch didn't reach expectations in Poland but the escapades off it exceeded all predictions. Little did Wherity realise that on the third Sunday in September he would be a spectator on Hill 16 as McGuinness and Donegal reached the promised land.

"It was all or nothing with Jim. I had plans to go away that summer, I didn't really think they'd get to where they did but he loves proving people wrong. Unfortunately, I was in the Hill watching them when I should have been sitting in the stands with them," Wherity says.

Celtic Cross

"Considering Ireland didn't win the Euros it's one of the biggest regrets of my life, not being involved in that panel. You always want to test yourself against the best, and while I brought some good stories home from Poznan and these places, I think I'd prefer a Celtic Cross in my back pocket."

The St Eunan's Letterkenny half-forward joined the fold that winter and got plenty of action in the 2013 League and Championship, scoring a crucial goal as Donegal put Tyrone to the sword in Ulster, but it quickly became apparent that their ship had already sailed.

Wherity describes it as a "hangover year" but one he cherishes, and by the time 2014 wheeled around he had upped sticks to the Big Apple.

Having spent a couple of summers in the States, and a year in Australia, he always craved adventure and had a "lust for the American lifestyle".

Sampling everything New York had to offer excited him and after initially pulling pints and laying bricks to make ends meet, he wound up in Barclays bank before ending up with IDA Ireland, where he's "giving back to the country" from 3,000 miles away.

"I did a couple of weeks as a brickie like everyone before you find your feet.

"I went in for the Barclays interview and I was working on a building site across the road and said 'I don't want to be lifting bricks while I'm in America, any chance you'd give me a job?'," he jokes.

"Now I'm finally putting my degree to good use with the IDA, where we're responsible for inwards investment, attracting American technology companies to set up and internationalise in Ireland. We cover the east coast, from Toronto to Washington.

"It's good exposure dealing with ministers and the Taoiseach and different levels of government. Career development-wise it was always important for me to stay out here for a while.

"I had no need to leave Ireland, there was probably a few job opportunities there but the bigger wider world was appealing to me."

While cycling to work each day and negotiating rush-hour traffic is a little trickier than on Letterkenny's main street, the 28-year-old loves New York's hustle and bustle.

Football is the Irish aspect of life he misses most but even that craving is satisfied.

He still dons the green and gold, although now it's when playing for Kerry New York, and he has played with the county side since his arrival.

Catching up with old friends like Martin McElhinney, Eamonn Doherty and Conor Gibbons during Donegal's recent visit brought back all sorts of memories.

He regularly tells Donegal boss Rory Gallagher, a frequent visitor to the States, "I'll be back to him some day soon" but the most pressing issue at hand is Sligo's Connacht SFC visit to Gaelic Park tomorrow.

Donegal offered "invaluable preparation". After playing a rare challenge game, Wherity reckons Justin O'Halloran's side "have no excuses now" as they look to build on last year's one-point defeat to Roscommon and dump out the Yeats county.

Travelling to the Bronx is an hour from all panel members but they've been working diligently three times a week since January and are "up there with county set-ups" despite their unique circumstances.

"When you rock up to training on a Sunday morning, you're sitting in a dressing room and it's minus-seven degrees and the first thing you're handed isn't a football, it's shovel to go out and shovel the snow off Gaelic Park," he explains.

"That's a pretty stark reality.To go out and clear off a 20-by-20 square where we can get a bit of work done, it's an interesting concept but it shows the commitment we have.

"No-one forces us to be there, it's a choice to be involved in a county set-up some 3,000 miles from home; it's a nice benefit and it reminds you of what you miss out on back home."

His 'pranked' Wikipedia page is another reminder of home and Wherity, whose blond locks give him an uncanny resemblance to German soccer World Cup winner Andre Schurrle, is described as having "regular appointments' with American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, "who fell in love with his style of play".

Quiff tiff

It also deals with the national fallout which surrounded the cutting of his "iconic" hair with Donegal in 2013, a saga described as the 'Quiff Tiff', which resulted in "a support group being formed to aid those struggling to deal with this loss".

While Ms Wintour is unlikely to be in attendance, Wherity expects around 6,000 Irish-Americans to be on hand for a "special occasion" and acknowledges that the Yanks "know how to put on a show" with live commentary on loudspeakers during the game, barbeques on one sideline while subway trains run adjacent to the other.

It's a far cry from O'Donnell Park in Letterkenny but he'd like nothing more than to cause a shock, and with Mayo's Tom Cunniffe, Donegal All-Ireland winner Peter Witherow and All-Star hurler Danny Sutcliffe in tow, they could create serious headaches for GAA chiefs.

"The GAA don't have a plan to deal with New York winning and we'd love to be asking that question come Sunday, 'what's the story for the next round?' but we're not going to get ahead of ourselves just yet.

"It's going to come eventually, however. Hopefully it'll be this year."

Irish Independent

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