Chicago's Wolfe mone

December 10, 2003
Rory Mone played senior football for Monaghan when still only 18. The Clontibret attacker had a long intercounty career ahead of him but instead emigrated to the USA at a young age. There he has become one of the principal driving forces behind the Wolfe Tones club in Chicago ... arguably the strongest GAA entity in North America today. The Mone name is synonymous with football in Clontibret and - by extension - Monaghan. Though he departed for the United States almost eight years ago, former county footballer Rory Mone has gone on to make a big name for himself in gaelic football circles in Chicago. Rory was the Wolfe Tones club's youngest-ever chairman during the year just ended and is certainly flying the Monaghan flag with distinction on the other side of the Atlantic. In recent years, Wolfe Tones Chicago have emerged as the strongest gaelic football club in North America. Indeed, the 'cold windy city' has become the stronghold of club football Stateside and Wolfe Tones have led the way these past three seasons. In 2001, the Tones won the Chicago championship and went on to add the North American Board title. In '02, they successfully defended both crowns. This year [2003] they were in the process of doing likewise when an unfortunate ruling essentially banned the Chicago champions from the national competition. Indeed Wolfe Tones were bidding for their second three-in-a-row of North American titles, having worked the oracle in 1995, '96 and '97. They have won twelve national titles in total, including six of the last nine! True to form, Tones had ruled the roost in Chicago in '03. However, they were then disqualified from defending their North American title - a decision that angered the club greatly. Rory felt so strongly over the whole affair that he resigned as club chairman - a decision he did not take lightly. The Wolfe Tones half forward notes: "We were delighted to win the Chicago championship again but due to circumstances beyond our control we weren't allowed to enter the North American finals in Boston. We travelled up for the finals, but they wouldn't let us play. It was a real pity and I was very disappointed, especially as I was in my first year as chairman." That was quite an achievement for one so young. Though he's been in the States for eight years, Rory's only 26 and is the youngest chairman in the history of the Wolfe Tones club (which was established in 1958). How did his election come about? "I'd been playing with the club since I was 19 and I was nominated and voted in at the AGM, so I agreed to accept the position for the year." The controversy over the club's non-participation in the national championship finals should in no way detract from what was a thoroughly successful year with the young Clontibret man in the chair. Wolfe Tones DID succeed in making it three-in-a-row in Chicago and they remain unbeaten in the North American championship these past three years! Of course, heading up a club in America is no picnic. In Rory's own words, there's "tons of work to be done". Endless phones calls are made; players have to be contacted; work must be arranged; accommodation agreed. In many ways, it's a full-time job. The chairman organises training as well - and even looks after flights for matches taking place outside the city! And remember, there's nowhere to hide when your club is regarded as the strongest in all of America - and is fully intent on retaining that reputation! To this end, one of Rory's most pressing tasks was to secure the services of as many big-name players as possible. Like Rory, John Kerley from Scotstown is a Wolfe Tones regular at this stage. However, the Clontibret native also flew over Gary McQuaid from Tyholland in '03, as well as the mercurial Rory Woods (who, of course, is now back training with the Monaghan seniors). Mayo's David Brady and Paddy Bradley of Derry were also out in Chicago with the Tones for the summer of 2003. In the past, Rory has also had the honour of lining out in the company of such greats as Jack Sheedy (Dublin), Kevin O'Brien (Wicklow), Graham Geraghty (Meath), Nigel Dineen (Roscommon) and Gregory McCartan (Down). And let us not forget that Rory Mone has intercounty experience himself. The then Clontibret prodigy represented the Oriel County at both minor and senior levels during the 1995/96 season, before emigrating to the States aged only 18. He went to New York originally and lined out for the Monaghan club in the Big Apple. After former St Macartan's College schoolmate John Kerley brought him on an overnight drive to Chicago, Rory never looked back. Immediately upon arriving in Chicago Rory was taken under the wing of a 'hardy, gentle' Connemara man, John Keaney. He's been in Chicago since and has made it a home from home. Of course, severing home ties is never easy and one can't help but wonder how things might have turned out had they made different choices along the way. Does Rory ever regret leaving Ireland or wonder what he might have achieved as an intercounty footballer with Monaghan? "It would have been nice to have gone on to play more football with Monaghan, but I've had a good run over here and I've enjoyed living in Chicago. You do wonder, and think about it, and there are things I've missed out on - winning championships with Clontibret and playing alongside my brothers, for example. Even seeing the brothers playing... "That's the type of thing you regret. One of my brothers, Dessie, was only twelve when I left and is 19 now ... but the first time I got to see him play was in last year's county final. I've also missed out on a great deal of John Paul, Conor and Fergal's careers, even though all three have been out here playing in Chicago too, which was great. It's a pity I missed so many of those things but, in general, Chicago has been good to me." Plans for the future? Is Rory going to spend the rest of his days in Chicago or might we one day see him back in the colours of his hometown club? "To be honest, I've always planned to come home one day ... it's just taking me longer than planned! Having the Green Card means I can keep my options open, so who knows what the future holds. I always try to get home at least once a year. I usually come home around Christmas but this year I was also home for the All-Ireland final." Needless to say, Rory retains a keen interest in Monaghan football. Proud to have brother John Paul Mone playing excellent football at centre back on the county team [JP also captained Clontibret to a senior double in '02], the Chicago exile was delighted with how Colm Coyle's new-look team performed in the 2003 championship: "We watched the Armagh game in the bar at 9 O'clock in the morning and I had a funny feeling Monaghan would beat them. The upset was always on the cards. I had spoken to John Paul, Damien Freeman and Raymond Ronaghan beforehand and they were all confident of a win. "After such an impressive victory, it was disappointing to lose to Down in the next round. Monaghan dominated that game but missed a lot of scores. It was a pity because if they'd reached an Ulster semi-final, who knows how far they might have gone." Still, Monaghan bounced back with a famous defeat of Westmeath and put in a decent second-half display against Meath, all of which leaves Rory Mone with high hopes for the coming campaign: "I think it's important that we beat Armagh again and go for an Ulster championship, rather than taking a chance on the back door. Monaghan have some wonderful players coming through and if they can get a nice run in the league it would set them up perfectly for a good shot at Ulster. "It was a great boost to see Tom Freeman out in Australia with the Ireland team and Monaghan's name is starting to figure on the national stage again. People are actually beginning to take notice of Monaghan football and all the signs are encouraging." For the time being at least, the hands of fate have taken Rory out of Monaghan. But they'll NEVER take Monaghan out of Rory!

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