THE HISTORY OF THE TWIN CITIES ROBERT EMMETS HURLING CLUB
Below is an accurate account of how TCRE was formed, as told by former club member Jim L
Back in the middle of the inaugural decade of the 21st Century, a handful of unconnected Irish expats looking for a way to connect with their countrymen began casting about for ways to continue their Gaelic sporting traditions. One new arrival, Tommy Frawley made his way down to the Irish Fair on St. Paul's Harriet Island. There on what was a postage stamp of a pitch compared to the standard-sized hurling pitches of his youth he saw two men carrying on with hurley and sliotar, one with a cast on his right leg from his ankle all the way up to his arse. "So there were these two lunatics in the middle of the field and a ball came in and the guy in the cast came up to play it and the other lunatic pulled on the ball as hard as he could", Frawley says with a laugh. And so Frawley made the acquaintance of Barry O'Hara and Liam Woodburn, the man hobbled by the cast, and the fuse was lit on Twin Cities Hurling.
O'Hara, a senior-level hurler in his native Antrim, was in possession of single-minded ferocity about hurling and an ineffable feral charisma in general, soon attracted more and more Irish expats into his orbit. A soccer team of expats, Clan na'Gael, would gather at a small, obscure park in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, Pamela Park, and O'Hara and his growing cohort of aspiring hurlers would show up and mess about. Then one day, Frawley received a call from O'Hara summoning him to a meeting of humble numbers at The Liffey in St. Paul. "Remember when we talked about a hurling club?" O'Hara reminded Frawley. "Well, there's this fella' comin' in from Akron, Ohio who had a club there." And so the first meeting of what would become the Twin Cities Robert Emmets Hurling Club was held with Barry O'Hara, Liam Woodburn, Tommy Frawley, and the man from Akron, Seamus White at the table. White had cobbled together an amalgam of Irish-born and American players into the Celtic Guards back in Akron and aspired to do the same here. O'Hara and Woodburn offered up their team name from back in Antrim, named for the famed Irish martyr, Robert Emmet, and their team colors of green and black, and the TCRE was born. (This was actually done at a later date, after the first or second official scrimmage. The name, colors, and original mission stated were officially adapted at one of the first official board meetings.)
The home grounds of the Cushendun Robert Emmets GAA in Antrim, where the Twin Cities Robert Emmets gets its name and colors.
The original Twin Cities Robert Emmets crest featured the club colors green and black. The current crest highlights more features of the club's home, such as Minneapolis's iconic Stone Arch Bridge, the Mississippi river, and a star evoking Minnesota's state motto: "L'etoile du Nord" ("Star of the North").
The two teams that played in the club's first scrimmage, even before the club had adopted the Robert Emmets name and colors of black and green. According to unofficial accounts, the white team (featuring club founders Seamus White (back row left), Barry O'Hara (back row second right), and Tommy Frawley (back row right)) emerged victorious.
Early City League teams.
So, while they had the early markings of a hurling club in spirit, they had no more than a couple of hurls between them. Frawley, in search of a local source for such an exotic sporting good, dropped in to Irish On Grand, an eventual club sponsor, in the hopes that hurleys and sliotars would be among their inventory of all things Irish. Behind the counter stood Liam O'Neill, a Cork man, who's eyes lit up at Frawley's request for hurleys. With none on hand, O'Neill referred Frawley to Steve Cerkvenik of the Irish Fair, who, as luck would have it, had a dozen idle sticks down in his basement that Frawley was free to drop by and pick up. "To be honest," Frawley said, "they were planks. But back then, when we were desperate to get something started, they were like gold dust."
The dozen hurls were brought by the unreserved patch of ground at Pamela Park and the Emmets' first ad hoc training session commenced with only the vaguest of aspirations. As word circulated through the pubs and other informal conduits of communication, new players by the name of Aiden Scanlan, Colm Geraghty, Stephen Thornhill, Pawdy O'Connor, Noel Quinn, Eamonn Byrne, Mark McDonald and others joined on. When they received their first order of fresh hurls from the Milwaukee Hurling Club on a Greyhound Bus, the motion was made and passed to collect membership dues to pay for hurleys.
Since 2004, the TCRE has matured from a rag-tag baker's dozen of Irish expats holding informal puck arounds on whatever patch of ground they could trespass on without being chased off, to: a nationally-recognized club with full match kits, portable hurling goals, an established home pitch, eight trips to National NAGAA championships, challenge matches in Milwaukee, Denver, Madison and Chicago, hosted clubs from Milwaukee and Chicago, summer and fall intra-club leagues with four teams with team jerseys, a roster that is now majority American-born players, team and league sponsors, grants to support youth development, multiple fundraising events, recognition as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, fully-developed governing by-laws, media coverage of the team including The Irish Gazette, the Star Tribune, Mpls/St. Paul Magazine, Minnesota Monthly magazine, City Pages, Highland Villager, Score Magazine, KARE-11, WCCO-TV and Minnesota Public Radio.
The club is now a featured exhibition at the Minnesota Irish Fair, a participant in the St. Paul St. Patrick's Day Parade and, in general, a recognized asset in the civic and cultural life of the Twin Cities. 2013 was a tremendous year for the development of the club. TCRE was able to, for the first time, send an all-TCRE camogie team to Nationals in Cleveland, Ohio (In 2012, the TCRE women joined forces with the Denver Gaels to win the camogie National Championships, and in 2015 the TCRE women were junior national champions on their own). In 2014 TCRE was able to send a Junior B and C mens' teams in addition to their Camogie team. The Junior B team won their first two games and made it all the way to the championships where they lost a very close match to Chicago. Junior C put up an impressive showing in their first ever National game but faced a very skilled team from Madison and eventually lost.
Like the Biblical parable of the mustard seed, TCRE started from a tiny seed planted in the mud of that tiny pitch on Harriet Island and has grown into a deep-rooted tree of many branches. It has been through the stalwart of efforts of men, some of whom are in this room and others who've moved on but continue their support of the hurling club they helped to establish here. It is on their broad shoulders we all stand as we work to keep the club growing and expanding its mission each year. And it's to them we will always be grateful.
Up the Emmets!
The first TCRE camogie players to participate in the USGAA national tournament in 2011.
Members of the TCRE Board with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak receiving an official proclamation of Twin Cities Robert Emmets Day on March 16, 2012.
Early club members, sporting Irish tricolor jerseys, returned in 2016 to play a special match against current members in commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, a crucial event in Ireland's fight for independence.