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Burren Food Trail Wins EDEN Award

POSTED ON August 13th  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure

Recipes/ By Margaret M. Johnson



Foodie friends in County Clare just alerted me to a major honor recently bestowed on the Burren Food Trail, a group of 22 establishments and producers who are committed to building a sustainable future for the region. The Food Trail was honored as the Irish winner of the 2015 EDEN (European Destination of Excellence) Award for developing a tourism offering based on local gastronomy and one that balances sustaining the local environment with the promotion of tourism. Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring TD, officially presented the EDEN award on July 22 at a ceremony at Hotel Doolin.

Ring said, “Only in its third year, the Burren Food Trail is still relatively new, but they impressed the judges with the importance they placed on making the Burren region synonymous with great food and great food experiences for visitors and the local community.”

The EDEN awards, an EU-wide competition, is themed differently every two years, and is designed to encourage and promote a more sustainable form of tourism development. The Burren Food Trail was one of four Irish destinations shortlisted under this year’s “Tourism and Local Gastronomy” theme, and as winners, they will represent Ireland at a showcase exhibition of the EDEN winners from all participating European countries in Brussels later this year.

Accepting the award, Tina O’Dwyer, coordinator of the Burren Food Trail said,

“What really distinguishes us is the relationship between the Burren Food Trail and the wider tourism offering in the Geopark region. Through the Burren Ecotourism Network, food is integrated with outdoor activity and adventure, visitor centers and accommodation.  It’s a truly integrated local gastronomy experience.”

It happens that two of my favorite foodie stops in Clare are members of the Burren Food Trail — Burren Smokehouse and St. Tola Goat Cheese — so it’s the perfect time to celebrate with great recipes featuring their fare.



Serves 4

Save this recipe for all your entertaining needs throughout the fall and winter. The chutney can also be served with cold meats and on a cheese board.


Apple-Pear Chutney

1 small onion, chopped

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1 tsp. chopped fresh ginger

1 cup (packed) brown sugar

1 cup golden raisins

1 small apple, cored and diced

1 small pear, cored and diced

2 tbsp. chopped walnuts

Goat Cheese Toasts

1 baguette

2-3 tbsp. olive oil

4 ounces St. Tola goat’s cheese

Mixed salad greens

4 tbsp. chopped pecans

1.To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients, except the walnuts, in a large nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, or until thickened.

  1. Remove from the heat and stir in the walnuts. Let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Return to room temperature for serving. (Makes 1 1/2 cups)
  2. To make the toasts, heat the broiler. Slice bread diagonally into 12 slices and brush one side of each with the olive oil. Arrange the bread, oil side up, on a baking sheet and toast, about 4 in. from the heat source, for about 1 minute, or until lightly browned. Turn the bread over and spread with the cheese. Return to the broiler and grill for about 1 minute longer, or until the cheese is warm and lightly browned.
  3. Arrange the salad on six plates and top each with two toasts. Put a spoonful of chutney on top and sprinkle with pecans.





Makes 12 small cakes

Salmon from the Burren Smokehouse is one of the most well known in Ireland. It’s simply delicious served on brown bread with a squeeze of lemon, but it’s really delicious on a potato pancake with a dollop of sour cream or crème frâiche.

Potato Pancakes

2 large potatoes, cooked and mashed

1 large egg, beaten

1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4-1/2 cup milk

2-3 tbsp. canola oil for frying

8 oz. Burren smoked salmon, cut into 24 (1/2-in.wide) strips

1/2 cup sour cream or crème frâiche

Fresh chives for garnish

Caviar or salmon roe for garnish

  1. To make the pancakes, put the potatoes, egg, flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Pulse 4-5 times to blend, and then gradually add enough of the milk to make a thick, smooth batter.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Heat some of the oil. Drop spoonfuls of batter into the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until browned and heated through. Repeat with additional oil and remaining batter. Cakes can be served immediately or refrigerated, covered, overnight; reheat in a hot oven.
  3. To serve, put a spoonful of sour cream or crème frâiche on top of each cake. Put a piece of rolled salmon on top, sprinkle with pepper, and garnish with chives and caviar or roe.


Serves 4

This easy smoked salmon pâté is lovely served on wheat crackers, oat biscuits, or brown soda bread

12 oz. Burren smoked salmon

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tbsp. heavy (whipping) cream

1 tbsp. chopped fresh chives

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp. lemon pepper

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tsp. prepared horseradish

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 tbsp. minced fresh dill

Chopped red onions for garnish (optional)

  1. In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients; process for 20-30 seconds, or until smooth. Transfer to a serving dish, cover, and refrigerate for 4-24 hours.
  2. To serve, remove the dish from the refrigerator about 1 hour before serving to soften. Serve with crackers, biscuits, or bread and garnish with the onions (if using).

Margaret M. Johnson’s latest cookbook, “Favorite Flavors of Ireland,” will be released October 8. She will also be leading her second tour to Ireland in May 2016. For details, see the ad in this week’s Irish Echo or visit


Burren Food Trail Members

Ballyvaughan Farmers’ Market; Burren Brewery; Burren Fine Wine and Foods; Burren Free Range Pork Farm; Burren Gold Cheese at Ailwee Cave; Burren Smokehouse; Burren Nature Sanctuary; Clareville House Kitchen Garden; Doolin Cave Café; Galway Bay Bakery; Gleninagh Lamb; Gregans Casatle Hotel; Gus O’Connor’s Pub; Hazel Mountain Chocolate; Hotel Doolin; Hyland’s Burren Hotel; Kieran’s Kitchen at Roadside Tavern; Kilshanny House; Kinvara Farmers’ Market; Linnalla Ice Cream Café; Linnane’s Lobster Bar; Neil Hawes Craft Butcher; Sheedy’s Hotel & Restaurant; Stonecutters Kitchen; St. Tola Goat Farm; Wild Honey Inn and Wild Kitchen.



Singer O’Hanlon’s career has taken off

POSTED ON August 13th  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure

emmett ohanlon

Juilliard graduate Emmett O’Hanlon feels at

home with the music of his parents’ native land.


By Colleen Taylor

After a lot of hard work, singer Emmett O’Hanlon is finally indulging his guilty pleasure. Having recently earned a master’s degree in voice from none other than Julliard and having established an international career as one of the five members of Celtic Thunder, it’s high time this young talent did something for himself. And that’s just what his latest tour and solo EP is: a foray into the 23-year-old’s musical interests outside his niche as a classical musician. For the first time, the young baritone is embarking on a solo tour and career, in which he will be at liberty to explore the other sides of his musical identity, his “guilty pleasure music” as he terms it, from Elvis to Motown and American pop, circumnavigating back to his core classical and Irish signatures.

Emmett O’Hanlon is a native of New York City, but his second home is Ireland. The son of Irish parents, O’Hanlon spent a lot of time in Ireland visiting family when he was growing up. “I feel very at home when I’m there,” O’Hanlon told me, “and I miss it when I’m gone.” It’s no surprise, then, that his Irish heritage informs a key facet of his musical interests. O’Hanlon says his influences involve everything from traditional music to Irish rock: “the Clancy Brothers, Black 47, growing up there was a lot of Irish music played in the household.”

The American part of his nationality has been equally informative of O’Hanlon’s musical development. Alongside the Irish music, his parents often encouraged his interest in the American songbook. Now O’Hanlon has reapplied those early interests to his solo tour. He calls his set list a “balanced hodgepodge”—one that includes classical musical theatre, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra and Elvis, all of whom he identifies as his musical heroes.

O’Hanlon has been training as a musician since the age of 6 when he first picked up the guitar and piano, and he officially began singing lessons as young as 8—a start which eventually led him to a bachelor’s degree in voice from University of Cincinnati. But it’s really the last two years that have seen his career take off. He became the newest member of Celtic Thunder in 2014. “One of the great things about Celtic Thunder,” O’Hanlon said, “is everyone has their own spot in the show, character-wise and vocally, so we’re all put in a particular style. I’m the classical style.” The tour with Celtic Thunder allowed O’Hanlon to apply skills he picked up at Julliard, where he not only learned classical vocal performance and composition, but grew some thick skin as well. “They don’t baby you [at Julliard],” he said, “They give you what you give them… They totally changed the way I thought about what it took to be a musician.” Clearly, O’Hanlon is a quick learner.

In his break from the Celtic Thunder tour, O’Hanlon decided to pursue the longtime dream of a solo career with the support of musical director David Munro. “It’s always something I’ve wanted to do, and hopefully I’ll be able to keep it up,” he told me excitedly. As opposed to the large venues and dramatic scale of the Celtic Thunder shows, O’Hanlon’s solo tour offers a more intimate, personable setting. “I’m using [the tour] to do all the music that I love. The fans get to hear a side of my voice and see a side of me you’d never see in a Celtic Thunder show,” Emmett said. The tour isn’t just about hearing O’Hanlon’s voice outside of its strict classical boundaries, it’s also about learning who Emmett is as an Irish-American music fan. He defines his “guilty pleasure” music as those genres he’s always loved since he was young: his show is an organic, personal account of what the eclectic melting pot of Irish-American culture sounds like, interpreted by a well-trained, passionate, and talented young voice.

O’Hanlon is living, audible proof that age is deceptive. You wouldn’t expect a twenty-three year old young man to have the poise, acumen, and musical intelligence this Julliard graduate has. And as for his voice: it soars well beyond his youth. I confess, I was happily flabbergasted when I first listened to O’Hanlon’s EP. His voice enraptured, captivated me to a degree I did not anticipate: its ease, velvety emotion, and depth are truly extraordinary. There are scores of great singers in this country and abroad, scores of accomplished classical vocalists—visit any university and you’ll see the numerous extent of the talent. It takes a special something for a voice to stand out from the talented crowd, to leave a lasting impression, and O’Hanlon’s does.

That Frank Sinatra is a musical hero for O’Hanlon doesn’t surprise me: when he sings, he emulates that secret, magical ingredient Sinatra did. It’s an un-nameable quality that puts the listener into an instant state of calm, that quietly moves her, so that she can listen to the same track over and over again without fatigue or boredom. I wouldn’t generally enjoy listening to the song “Cry Me a River,” for instance, but I do when O’Hanlon sings it. His rendition of “Falling in Love with You” is pure, old-time romance.

This tour is only the beginning for the young Irish-American crooner. I can promise Emmett O’Hanlon is a name worth flagging for future reference. O’Hanlon will be finishing his summer tour off with a bang in his hometown of New York City on August 24th at the Cutting Room, where he’ll be joined by original Celtic Woman member Chloe Agnew. Don’t miss O’Hanlon take the stage on his own, in the more intimate, engaging setting of the Cutting Room. He’s bound to enchant you.   Tickets at:

 Colleen Taylor writes the Music Notes column in the Irish Echo each week.


‘The course of true love never did run smooth’

POSTED ON August 12th  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure

Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott

cathy kelly

Cathy Kelly likely didn’t set out to knock J.K. Rowling and her “Harry Potter” series or Dan Brown of “The Da Vinci Code” fame off of the UK bestsellers’ list. But that’s precisely what happened about 10 years ago.

Kelly, an Irish story-teller in the tradition of the late Maeve Binchy, started on the road to success with her first book, “Woman to Woman,” in 1997. Her fourth, “Someone Like You,” won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2001.

“’It Started With Paris,’” she said of her latest, “is about what happens to everyone else in both families when one couple get engaged on top of the Eiffel Tower.   There’s the mother thrown into spending time with her ex-husband, and the cake-maker who wonders if she can have love at someone else’s expense and the teenage girl caught in the middle of an embryonic stepfamily crisis.”

Woman called it “an uplifting tale,” while said, “It’s a beautifully written book that’s filled to the brim with human emotion.” Woman Magazine added: “The course of true love never did run smooth, and Cathy Kelly takes us on a bumpy journey brimming with life lessons. Full of relatable and lovable characters, this is a heart-warming novel. Will true love prevail? Tissues at the ready!”

The UNICEF Ireland ambassador herself usually has anti-inflammatory gel at the ready, as well as caffeine. “I can’t start the day without strong coffee, 20 minutes of reading and adoration from my three small dogs,” said Kelly, whose other loves include yoga, ethnic jewelry and art.

Cathy Kelly

Place of birth: Belfast.

Spouse: John Sheehan.

Children: Twin sons, Dylan and Murray

Residence: Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow

Published works: I’ve written 16 novels, including my latest, “It Started With Paris,” as well as a collection of short stories.

book cover

What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?

After taking my sons to school, I foother (Irish vernacular: meander/mess around) for about half an hour,  make coffee, head into the study, try to avoid the lure of email, and then reread whatever I wrote yesterday. I edit a lot. Non-ideal conditions are when I have to write something non-book, which takes my mind in an entirely different direction. I try to write until I pick my sons up from school. Then, I decompress, hear about their days, and either help with homework or do emails. Or go on Pinterest and look at cute pictures of dogs/yoga moves/crocheted things.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Read, read and then read some more. Practice the skill of writing. Write the book that’s in you and not the book you think either the publishers or critics will like. From the heart is the way to go. Seeing dollar signs will get you one book contract but probably not two.

Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure. 

I’ll never forget the thrill of reading Colette for the first time when I was about 17: Cheri and The last of Cheri.  Same with Alexandre Dumas: I was 14 and at home from school “sick.”

‘’I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou was so memorable the first time I read it and bizarrely, I don’t know when that was. It feels like I’ve always had that book in my head.

What book are you currently reading?

Elin Hilderbrand’s “The Rumor” – I got an early reading copy.  She’s brilliant.

Is there a book you wish you had written?

Too many to mention, really. When I’m writing and I read the back of the cereal packet, the copy on the packet sounds better than what I am currently writing. The inner critic is like the Mama Alien in “Aliens.” I need Sigourney Weaver to go at her with a flame thrower.

Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.

I always start reading hopefully. I think reading with the assumption that the book will be hopeless is a wildly depressing and negative view.

If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?

Lovely Maya Angelou for her wisdom.

What book changed your life?

Probably the first one of mine I had to courage to send off. I still don’t know where I summoned that courage up and that book changed my life. I was a working journalist who’d always wanted to write and suddenly, I had a three-book deal.

What is your favorite spot in Ireland?

Apart from where I live, I love a place called Ardmore in County Waterford, which is mystical, plus has a really nice five-star hotel called The Cliffhouse. So you can be mystical in comfort and have hot stone massages while thinking about pagan holy wells.

You’re Irish if…

You simply can’t sit on a train or a bus without talking to someone, anyone. We like to talk.


IAC unveils fall-winter season

POSTED ON August 11th  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure

Maeve Higgins Comedian. Pic Bryan Meade 10/1/2012

Maeve Higgins will host “One Night in Heaven.”


Orla O’Sullivan

More laughs, more commissions and more collaborative ventures are coming from the Irish Arts Center over the next few months.

The newly released fall and winter line-up includes a monthly talk show by comedian Maeve Higgins, who made her New York debut at the IAC last year. Higgins’s show, “One Night in Heaven” (Oct. 20, Nov. 17 and Dec. 15) is in addition to the long-running monthly stand-up comedy show, “Sundays at Seven.”

The two plays coming to the IAC this fall are in on the joke, in that both are comedies. And there’s a Cobh connection, too.

The Cork port town, from which many Irish immigrants set out before air travel, is home to both Higgins and Pat Kinevane, who returns to the IAC with another one-man show, “Underneath.”

Again, marginalized people take center stage in Kinevane’s writing. This time, it’s the darkly comic tale of a disfigured woman, speaking from her grave (and Cobh) in a work described by the Irish Times as “almost a masterpiece.” Kinevane last displayed his many talents at the IAC two years ago in “Silent.”

Pat Shortt, best known to many Irish audiences for his television comedies, was last here on Broadway for.

“The Cripple of Inishmaan” with Daniel Radcliffe. He will kick off the IAC’s 22-week season on Sept. 10 with a three-week run of “Selfie,” his one-man comedy. That runs at the Center’s Hell’s Kitchen location while other events are off-site. Meantime, Shortt is currently touring Australia, where “Selfie” is said to be selling out.

The off-site events are part of a major expansion plan announced by the IAC last year that is not limited to its physical premises on West 51st Street. The center aims to be more collaborative and multi-cultural, which it projects will double its audience by the end of next year.

The new philosophy is apparently embodied in the two works the IAC commissioned this season. One by Jean Butler of “Riverdance” fame has, unusually, choreographer and composer (cellist Neil Martin) on stage together. “This is an Irish Dance” runs at Danspace in New York in November and then goes on to the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, next spring.

The other is a play commissioned by the IAC for the Dublin Theatre Festival—a first—that is not even slated to run in New York. However, it’s a fair bet thatChekhov’s Last Play” will make it over after the fall season considering that its producers brought the multi-award winning “Lippy” from Dublin to New York last year in association with the IAC.

Another Irish theatre group returning to the U.S. with the IAC is Landmark Productions. They co-staged the hit play, “Howie the Rookie,” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last December.

The collaboration returns to Brooklyn this year, but on this occasion to St. Ann’s Warehouse, for a new opera composed by Donnacha Dennehy, written by Enda Walsh, and presented as part of the Prototype operatic theatre festival.

Musical and literary events also mark the calendar, including the family favorite “An Irish Christmas,” held annually at Symphony Space, and “Muldoon’s Picnic” the monthly evening event presided over by poet Paul Muldoon that is billed as an “omninum gatherum” of words and music. Expect work inspired by World War I from Declan O’Rourke and Myles Dungan.

On a lighter note, presumably, will be a daylong festival of children’s literature. The IAC says that the Rí Rá Children’s Festival of Literature on Sunday, Oct. 4, will be a first.

The Atlantic PoetryFest, featuring poets for grown-ups from Ireland and the U.S., returns to the IAC this season, as does the Songlives singer-songwriter series.

Full details of the Irish Arts Center’s new season, running from Sept. to February, as well as tickets for these events, can be obtained at Telesales from ovationtix, (866) 811-4111. The IAC is located at 553 West 51st St., New York, N.Y.


‘Maestro’ documents superb Bobby Casey

POSTED ON August 10th  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure

Bobby Casey

By Daniel Neely


There is scarcely a traditional musician who hasn’t been touched by the magisterial playing of the great fiddler Bobby Casey. His tone, the nuances in his phrasing, and his repertory of tunes are fabled, and the prospect of a well-curated and lovingly restored album of his work is enough to excite even the most curmudgeonly of musicians. And surely, the curiosity of many was piqued when a new album called “Maestro: The Music of Bobby Casey” was launched at the Fleadh Nua in Ennis earlier this year. Comprised mostly of solo fiddle playing, “Maestro” does not disappoint. Not only is it a deeply satisfying album to listen to, it’s historically significant; the album you hand a friend when they express a curiosity for Irish music, but say they only want to hear the “real” stuff.

Casey was born in Annagh, Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare, in 1926 and had an extraordinary musical upbringing in an extraordinarily musical place. His father, Scully Casey, was a legendary fiddler, as was his neighbor, the great Junior Crehan, from whom he also learned. But Casey was lucky, as his peer group at home included the likes of Martin Talty, Paddy Canny, P.J. Hayes and Martin Rochford (to name only a few), all of whom were also important foundational musicians. Then, when Casey moved to Dublin in the early 1950s, he went with the profoundly influential Willie Clancy (they were flatmates) and the two spent their time playing with storied individuals like concertina and fiddle player John Kelly, the fiddler Joe Ryan and the Potts family of musicians.

Shortly thereafter, Clancy and Casey moved to London. While Clancy’s visit was short, Casey hung on, started a family and stayed for over 40 years. In London, he played with the finest musicians around, people like uilleann piper Tommy McCarthy, fiddler Martin Byrnes, flute player Roger Sherlock, box player Raymond Roland, banjo driver Liam Farrell and fiddle man Brendan Mulkere (again, to name but a few) and his music became better known through albums like “Paddy in the Smoke,” “Taking Flight,” and “Casey in the Cowhouse,” all of which are considered classics.

Casey died in 2000 in Northamptonshire, central England, a profound influence on Irish music and “Maestro” documents his brilliant legacy in the most reverent and respectful of ways. Comprised of recordings housed by the Comhaltas Archive (, it was produced and released by Cois na hAbhna Archive (Comhaltas Ceoiltóirí Éireann’s regional base in Ennis) from recordings that were created over a 25 year span, from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s. All have been wonderfully restored and mastered to the highest possible standard and showcase Casey’s music marvelously.

It impossible to say much about the individual tracks because every single one is a five-star gem. For example, I think “Tuttles / Porthole Of The Kelp” is outrageously good, and find “Colonel Fraser” and “Miss McDonald / Up To Your Knees In Sand” (with John Kelly Sr. and Joe Ryan) similarly outstanding, but much of this comes down to personal taste. Ultimately, there’s just a lot of music to enjoy here – 18 tracks, to be exact. Casual listeners will be captivated by Casey’s energy, while those with a more musicianly ear will revel in his phrasing and ornamentation.

The liner notes that come with the CD are quite nicely written and include lovely tributes from John Kelly, Angela Casey, Brendan Mulkere, Paddy Ryan and Michael Falsey. I do wonder why Cois na hAbhna did not include archival information about where and when each track was recorded. (Three tracks, for example, sound like ones that appeared on the long out-of-print LP “Ceol An Clare.”) It’s an unfortunate oversight, but not one that will detract anyone’s overall enjoyment.

Simply put, “Maestro: The Music of Bobby Casey” is superb, brilliant and important album documenting one of the music’s superior players. Casey’s playing has never sounded better and the selection of tracks is outstanding. This is a must-have for fiddle players and people from Clare, but it is recommended very highly to anyone who loves traditional Irish music. For more information, visit Cois na hAbhna Archive,

Daniel Neely writes on traditional music every week in the Irish Echo.

Fans’ notes on the new Premiership

POSTED ON August 7th  - POSTED IN Arts & Leisure

Evertonians all

Evertonians all: Mark Taylor, holding his boy Sonny, is also pictured with, on the right, his dad Robert “Tate” Taylor and, in the center, Liverpool native and Sunnyside resident John Sweeney.


Arsenal Scott Silver, Los Angeles native, Belfast resident

Arsenal were the best team the second half of last season. They kept the throttle down, easily winning the FA Cup, and breezing through their pre-season campaign, including winning against Chelsea to win the Community Shield. Everybody is healthy and ready to make a serious run for the League title. The only thing stopping them will be dropped points in the first month of the season. If they take the points they deserve, they should be in contention next spring.

Everton Mark Taylor, painter, originally from the city of Liverpool (and married to a Connemara native)

To say last year was a disappointment is a huge understatement. The whole season was a damp squid as far as Everton were concerned.

If we can keep the same team and add a few new players, with no distractions (Thursday-night Europa games last season) and a settled pre-season.I think we could have a pretty good year. That is a big if considering the transfer window is open for the first few weeks of the season. In the first eight games we play most of the top teams, as well as a game against Liverpool  so a good start is essential. A bad start and the pressure will really be on Martinez.

Huge year for Barkley — he needs to really kick on this season. John Stones will be a huge asset if he is still there. I would think anywhere above 8th a success, given the amount of money other teams have spent.

Liverpool again have spent huge money, yet I don’t see them finishing any higher than last year. I think Rodgers scouts his players from the back of the Daily Mail or buys whoever Southampton has available. The top four will be the same, while there isn’t much difference between the rest – so it will be exciting. Chelsea look good for the title, but Arsenal could be the team to challenge them.

Liverpool Stephen Boland, Longford native, UPS worker

Brendan Rodgers is under a lot of pressure. He has until Christmas, but a lot will be decided in the first few difficult games. The players he’s brought in – Christian Benteke from Aston Villa and the Brazilian Robert Firmino – they’re good buys. He’s gotten his wish-list. The team looks good on paper, but it looked good on paper last season and it didn’t work out as planned [6th place]. It all depends on how these guys gel together. But I do believe we’ll be in contention for a top-four place and a CL place in 2016/17. There are five big teams and four into five doesn’t go.

Manchester United Ray O’Hanlon: editor, Irish Echo, a United fan since 1965

Old Trafford in the last few weeks has more resembled a bus or train station with all the comings and goings. Top teams like United are both blessed and cursed with the means to radically alter a team in the off season, and the way things are shaping up it looks like the United of the 2015-16 season will be sporting a very new look.

So what will be the result? Obviously the expectation is that under Louis Van Gaal – now in his second season – the Red Devils will be challenging for the Premiership and at least competing for a top four slot and entry again to the European Championship. This is a reasonable expectation, but given what has occurred in recent years – that being big buys not living up to the hype – we won’t really know what United are capable of until the season is at least three or four games old. So caution optimism is order of the day. Hardly a war cry but perhaps the wiser one

Newcastle United John Spinks: visual artist, born in County Clare and raised in Newcastle

Season-ticket purchases have been slow.  Life-long ticket holders are not renewing.  There’s a massive gulf between the club ownership and the  passionate culture that is North East football.  But Steve McClaren’s resume shows him to be a pragmatic manager.

“We would be happy with a 10th place finish and perhaps a good Cup run” said Ray Finnigan, ex-player and lifelong fan said, and he speaks for many.

A ripple of optimism at the new duo from Anderlecht,   Geri Wijnaldum, Dutch midfielder and 20-year old  Serbian  Alek  Mitrovic. The latter wants to be the new Shearer. He’s a swashbuckler   (a “warrior”  McClaren calls him ) with a Duncan Ferguson approach.

I’m  hoping  Sissoko  doesn’t  get  lured  away,  although  last  season  he  tended to  play  his  best  games  when  he  was  in   the  transfer  shop  window. Questionable  allegiance  but great ability  when  he’s  in  the  mood.   We need  to  beat  Sunderland  twice  to  restore  credibility.

If it was all about tattoos and haircuts we’d be in the top six!

Tottenham Hotspur Rosie Schaap, a native New Yorker, writes the “Drinks” column for the New York Times Magazine

Who are these people?  They look familiar, but spectral, like not-quite-fully-formed figures in a fairly dull dream. Wait: I didn’t mean you, Harry Kane. Nor you, Christian Eriksen. And most certainly not you, Hugo Lloris. You three, I recognize. And I give thanks that you’ve not yet abandoned ship. Walker, Dier, Vertonghen, Dembele, you’re coming into focus. Alright, you’ve had your moments.

So really: Who are you, anyway, Tottenham Hotspur? That’s the big existential question on my mind as the season begins. You’ve got some real talent, but it just didn’t quite cohere last season. Excitement and joy were in short supply. Except, you know, that time you thrashed Chelsea.

Farewell, Capoue and Holtby, Kaboul and Paulinho. Vlad, we hardly knew ye.

Alderweireld, welcome; can I please call you Toby?

I can’t quite figure out exactly what this team is about, but it’s not keeping me awake at night. I’ve felt gloomier at the beginning of seasons past. At least our manager hasn’t been sacked. I’m not worried (except about Lloris’s wrist). In truth, I feel a somewhat liberating sense of equanimity. What will happen, will happen. I just have no idea what that might be. Zen. That’s what I’m feeling here. I’m okay, Spurs, and so are you. Just be. Let things take their course. And if you feel like scoring some goals, that’d be terrific. Top four finish, for sure.

West Ham United Joe Hurley, a New York-based singer-songwriter originally from London.

We’ve got an historic and emotionally charged year ahead of us at West Ham – our last ever season at the Boleyn Ground, Upton Park, our  home, heart and soul, of more than a century. We need to honor our hallowed turf and history with a proper East End send-off – one worthy of all the great West Ham legends and sparkling football that have graced Upton Park down the years. At a sold-out Boleyn with the fans in full-song, an electric, intimidating atmosphere harking back to the ‘70s heyday would be fantastic. With the players inspired to lift their game and turn on the style, I expect us to win most of our home matches. Certainly the ones against Chelsea, Spurs, and Arsenal. That’ll do.

With new manager Slaven Bilic, an ex-Hammer well-versed in the “West Ham way,” we’re looking again to our rich tradition of free-flowing, attacking football. Some quality new signings look superb, particularly Dimitri Payet, who’s all flair and vision. Bringing back West Ham legend Julian Dicks, as first team coach, was a brilliant decision.

I reckon were looking at a fairly comfortable mid-table finish, at least. Challenging for European spot, hopefully.

And the FA Cup… I’ve got a very good feeling. Sadly, I always do.

West Ham’s last ever match at Upton Park is May 7 vs. Swansea. We’ll all be singing “Bubbles” for the final time  — the last ringing choruses will echo and chime round the stadium, forever in our hearts, round the East End… and on to Stratford.

“6 foot 2, Eyes of blue, Billy Bonds is after you, ahlalala lalalala la….”

Edited by Peter McDermott



Much more than a Fab Four knockoff

POSTED ON August 7th  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure

o emperor

Waterford’s O Emperor.


By Colleen Taylor

Teenage boys do more in high school than fall asleep in class: sometimes they form some pretty amazing bands. O Emperor is a five-piece rock band out of Waterford that started playing together early on in secondary school. The group is made up of musicians Alan Comerford, Brendan Fennesssy, Paul Savage, Phil Christie and Richie Walsh. They describe themselves as a collective mixing different genres and musical influences into one overarching rock sound—a self-aware estimation. What I like about this band is their soft approach to electro-rock music.

Comerford, Fennessy, Savage, Christie and Walsh burst onto the scene in Ireland in 2010 with the release of their hit debut “Hither Thither.” The album was shortlisted for Choice Music Prize’s Irish album of the year—an impressive feat for a first attempt at recording. Soon the tracks off the album were making their way east and west to BBC and NPR radio. Since their auspicious beginning in 2010, O Emperor has appeared at the leading Irish musical festivals like Longitude and Electric Picnic and opened for MGMT and Villagers.

O Emperor sound like the Beatles might if they had formed 50 years later. (They look like them too.) One of their biggest hits, “Sedalia,” a ballad-like piano track, reminisces as Lennon reincarnated with a modern twist. There is a real sense of harmonization in their tracks overall, as well as a subtle attention to guitar notes that is not overwhelming to the ears. Their music is just plain pleasing to listen to—peppy but not stressfully energetic. O Emperor offers a traditional take on rock music, but they don’t shy away from some alternative and electro ornamentation either: they seem to be grounded fully in past and present music.

Their latest work is a 2014 full-length album, “Vitreous,” which had been greatly anticipated in Ireland since their emergence on the scene five years ago. The album sounds like a cohesive sequel to their first work. There’s not much wildly inventive or different about this next edition, but it remains excellent alternative rock music: soft, easy, well-executed. One of my favorites is “Holy Fool,” a solid rock single that preceded the full album release and was popularly received across the Atlantic. A couple of the tracks on the new album, ones like “This Is It” and “Brainchild,” foray into the electro side of the band’s genealogy and identity moreso than the rock half, offering some interesting variety and demonstrating that O Emperor has—despite initial impressions—evolved and changed since their conception. It’s not just 21st Century Beatles all the way through (although that would be just fine by me as well). “Land of the Living” is a playful, easygoing track that echoes something like “All You Need Is Love.” Rather than being a tiresome reprise of one of rock music’s most beloved classics, O Emperor offer something refreshing: a return to what works what it comes to great music. Rock music doesn’t need to be all spinning disks and reverberation: a good, careful bridge, chorus, and a flourish of musical ornamentation and are sometimes all it takes, as O Emperor show. The classic sound can go a long way in music today.

The Waterford group just finished up a slew of gigs in Ireland, including a performance in Dublin at Workman’s Pub and an appearance at the Roisin Dubh for the Galway Arts Festival. They’re staying on the home turf for the forseeable future, with a festival show in Monaghan lined up in August, but perhaps the new album will bring them across the Atlantic soon.

Check out O Emperor’s album “Vitreous” for a simultaneously nostalgic and modern rock music experience. More at:

Colleen Taylor writes the “Music Notes” column in the Irish Echo each week.

Trump and the Irish

POSTED ON August 6th  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure

Between the Lines / By Peter McDermott



One of the big stories of the past few weeks has been Donald Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants in general and Jeb Bush’s wife in particular.

Someone would have to be living without electricity in the Adirondacks to not know that this brouhaha has pushed the billionaire to the front of the GOP 2016 primary field.

Naturally, we here at the Echo are hard at work looking for the Irish angle. He does own that golf course in County Clare, which is a good start. And his mother was a Scottish immigrant – so there’s that, if Pan-Celticism is your thing.

But here’s what we’re really interested in: given that political figures will bend over backwards to patronize someone’s identity, just how might The Donald himself pitch an appeal based upon a voter’s heritage? We can’t help feel it would be open to ridicule, at the very least. Because if you’re Irish, to take the example close to hand, you couldn’t be unaware that your group was the victim of Trumpism in its earlier manifestations.

The upside of this for his admirers, however, is that the targeting of an immigrant group is as American as apple pie, especially if that group is rapidly growing in numbers and can be depicted as criminally-inclined.

Inevitably, this is a theme that former Boston Globe reporter Gerard O’Neill considers in his very interesting history, “Rogues and Redeemers: When Politics Was King in Irish Boston.”

Early on in his story, the Irish population of Boston exploded from one in 50 to one in four. “Mortified Yankees found themselves stepping over or dodging drunken immigrants in the once safe and sedate streets of Boston,” O’Neill writes. “It became the core of the Yankees’ overly broad case against the Irish – that they were shiftless drunkards who were a dead weight on the tax base, now stretched to pay the ever-expanding police and fire and hospital budgets.”

He quotes the Harvard historian and notorious anti-Semite Henry Adams writing in later years to a friend: [P]oor Boston had run up against it in the form of its particular Irish maggot, rather lower than the Jew, but with more or less the same appetite for cheese.”

O’Neill tells how the Irish became organized enough over the decades to challenge for political power. Along the way, a couple of Irish-born pols made it to mayor with Yankee approval. Then in 1905, a product of the ghetto, John F. Fitzgerald, ascended to the office on his own terms, only to be succeeded by another, James Curley, in 1914.

During a stint in Congress in the 1890s, Fitzgerald, known as “Honey Fitz,” had opposed the growing movement to restrict immigration with literacy-test trickery.

Taking the other side was Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, a friend of Adams and a fellow historian. (Fitzgerald and Lodge’s grandsons would face off in a Senate race in 1952 and were on the opposing tickets in the 1960 presidential election.)



Says O’Neill: “Taking the measure of the burgeoning Irish in Boston, [Lodge] decided that they could stay in his country, but Italians and Jews had to go. They were the new indigestibles, and Lodge began his first push for the literacy testing…”

The issue of crime was raised time and again from the early 1880s. The New York Times warned in 1884 that brigandage had been until recently the “national industry” of Italy’s Southern provinces.

“It is not strange that these immigrants should bring with them a fondness for their native pursuits,” the Times writer said. “A band of brigands would find the rookeries of Mulberry Street much more comfortable than the Calabrian forests, and much safer. The brigands, when pursued by the police, could pass from roof to roof, lie in ambush behind chimneys, defend narrow scuttles against a vastly superior force, and finally make their escape with much greater ease than could a band surrounded in an Italian forest by a regiment of troops. When brigandage becomes fully organized here wealthy citizens will constantly be captured and held for ransom.” (Salvatore J. LaGumina has a book full of this kind of stuff in “Wop! A Documentary History of Anti-Italian Discrimination.”)

Italian-Americans have been battling mafia and brigandage stereotypes in the 125 years since. Such efforts are never easy. And actual facts don’t help much – such as the one pointed out by a U.S. correspondent in the Daily Telegraph, a conservative London broadsheet: the percentage of non-citizens in U.S. prisons is lower than the percentage of non-citizens in the population as a whole. For it’s never really about crime or the legal status of someone seeking available work in a job market. Rather, it’s: “They’re not like us and would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to assimilate” or “They’ll drag our civilization down to their level.”

O’Neill reproduces a conversation that Fitzgerald recalled he had with Senator Lodge (quite possibly invented, though it did encapsulate their views).

Lodge: “You are an impudent young man. Do you think the Jews and the Italians have any right in this country?”

Fitzgerald: “As much as your father or mine. It was only a difference of a few ships.”

Eventually, Lodge’s side had its way with the Immigration Act of 1924. But, in the category of revenge is a dish best served cold, 90 years on, there is an Italian/Jewish majority on the U.S. Supreme Court. We might reasonably speculate, then, that one day – after Trump has joined Ozymandias in antiquity – children and grandchildren of today’s undocumented immigrants will be appointed to that august tribunal.


NYC Ireland crowned champs

POSTED ON August 5th  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure


NYC Ireland celebrate victory in the

Cosmos Copa at Shuart Stadium.



By Peter McDermott


NYC Ireland are top of the world.

The boys in green emerged the victors in Big Apple’s 32-nation Cosmos Copa after a pulsating 3-2 final against Colombia in Shuart Stadium, Hofstra University, Sunday night.

“Nail-biting” was the summary from the NYC Ireland Head Coach Austin Friel.

Beaten by Albania in the inaugural 2009 final and semifinalists in 2010 and 2014, it was with a perceptible sigh of relief that the Irish claimed the title at last. The weight of expectation had been fully felt throughout the 90-plus-minute game.

“Our lads were suffering from nerves a bit,” Friel said. “They weren’t playing to their full abilities. And the Colombians were very disciplined.

“But fair play to them. They stuck with it,” he added about his men. “They gave up their weekends and trained hard to get this. They deserve it.”

The win was courtesy of a late, coolly-taken penalty by Ian Sweeney. The other four goals came in the first half with the Colombians drawing first blood, via a 10th-minute penalty by Christian Turizo. Ireland responded within five minutes. Conor Hunter, a veteran of several previous campaigns, headed over the line amidst frantic goalmouth action.

Ireland then took the lead with the best goal of the game. The move began with a dead ball on the right and ended with captain Sean Kelly shooting low and hard inside the box beyond goalie Oswaldo Herrera’s outstretched right arm. But the flight of a long-range speculative effort by Kevin Corea beat the other goalie Alex Condell and brought Ireland back down to Earth.

Kickoff was officially scheduled for 7:45 at Shuart, after New York Cosmos had finished their 2-0 win over Fort Lauderdale Strikers (kickoff 5 p.m.). The 4,000 crowd thinned out, leaving behind several hundred Irish and Colombian fans. A good-natured, family atmosphere also remained for the final of what has become the top amateur competition (with plenty of pro and semi-pro experience in the mix) in New York City. It’s tag-lined “the World’s Game in the World’s City.”

Ireland had arrived at the Hofstra complex unbeaten. They drew their opening group game 1-1 against Paraguay, before beating Japan 6-2 and Jamaica 1-0 over the July Fourth weekend. NYC Ireland then bested NYC Senegal 2-1 in the Round of 16, had the biggest margin of victory in the quarters with a 2-0 win over Ukraine and in the semis squeezed by last year’s champions Gambia, prevailing 5-4 on penalties, after a scoreless game.

“Unfortunate.” That was veteran Irish coach Paddy Diamond’s verdict on the opening penalty Sunday night. And the half-time consensus in the Irish dug-out was that defensive lapses had led to Colombia’s two. “Two very soft goals,” said one member of the entourage.

Colombia lost a man to a red card early in the second half, but it was clear that one substitution was working in their favor – new goalie Manuel Elijaek was proving himself to be a real star. He had an ally in the woodwork, which was struck in two separate attacks in the 63rd minute.

The NYC Ireland managers spent much of their effort in calming down their charges. Colombia had 10 men and only patience, not rushing, would work the advantage for Ireland.

“We have 25 minutes,” shouted Ian Woodcock.

When the penalty came and was converted, Colombia’s coach was not at all happy with the linesman who made the call. He confronted the official and was eventually ejected from the field of play. From the beyond the barrier, he shouted at the Irish dugout: “You have a good team. You can win without help!”

Friel repaid the compliment. “Colombia didn’t deserve to lose,” he said. A magnanimous assessment, perhaps, given his team had the lion’s share of the shots on target.

“But we’ll take the win,” he added with a smile.

Dad puts love into perspective

POSTED ON August 3rd  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure

Theatre Review / By Sean Williams



Lauren Nicole Cipoletti (Donna), Dennis Parlato (Dad) and Shane Patrick Kearns (Tommy) in a scene from “The Dreamer Examines His Pillow.”


The Attic Theater Company’s production of John Patrick Shanley’s “The Dreamer Examines His Pillow” is an ambitious, if sometimes philosophically muddled play that is at once soul-searching and bewildering. The dialogue-driven work features a small cast—three people—and a large amount of metaphor. Set in a pair of squalid city apartments, “Dreamer” attempts to untie the parallel shoestrings of fate and romance in long-winded argument. The two pitfall-friendly protagonists in this performance are Tommy (Shane Patrick Kearns) and Donna (Lauren Nicole Cipoletti), on-and-off again lovers who try to reconcile their mutual existential crisis.

This is the second revival of a play that was first staged off-Broadway in late 1986, not long before its author’s success with “Moonstruck,” for which he won a screenwriting Oscar. The Bronx native Shanley is also closely associated with the play “Doubt,” which garnered him a Pulitzer and a Tony. He went on to direct Meryl Streep and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in the film version. His most recent work for the stage was “Outside Mullingar,” set in his father’s County Westmeath.

The Laura Braza-directed “Dreamer,” in contrast, opens in Tommy’s disheveled apartment, where the one defining feature is a crude, harsh self-portrait painting on the wall. Almost immediately Donna bursts in, and interrogates a drunken Tommy about dating her sister, robbing his own mother and other morally questionable activities.

The first act starts a bit slowly, as the dialogue throws the audience into the action without any background context, and a lot of it doesn’t help elaborate on the situation. There’s a lot of “I thought you loved me” talk, which is naturalistic but doesn’t help anchor the play in a scene the audience can understand. The first act closes even more bewilderingly, with Tommy delivering a lonely monologue, complete with hellish visions of his existence, to his open refrigerator.

Tommy is a beer-drinking bum who struggles to match his ethical standards with his actions. Kearns plays the part as a dopey loser, overmatched by Donna’s screechy wit. Shanley seems to have issues pairing his own eloquence with the intellect of his characters. Both Tommy and Donna will go from simplistic cursing to prolonged metaphor. The playwright is trying too hard, perhaps, when he has Donna say things like “my eyes are like the size of two dark pools of matter in the middle of an endless night.” The unorthodox monologue segments are sometimes poignant and sometimes overdrawn, but even the clumsier monologues do fit into the bizarre world of the play.

The play’s surrealistic weirdness comes to an apex in this first act, as Donna’s father (Dennis Parlato) appears in the second act to ground the play in a heart-to-heart that isn’t completely metaphysical. Parlato delivers a great performance as a cynical, heartbroken widower whose interests don’t extend much further than his glass of whiskey. His curiosity is only piqued by Donna’s assertion that Tommy is a younger version of himself, a statement that begins to glue the play’s philosophical structure together. Tommy’s similarities to “Dad” reflect the churning and inescapable nature of fate and time, where Donna’s unwilling attraction to Tommy mirrors her dead mother’s attraction to Dad.

Cipoletti commands the stage as Donna, largely due to her brash New York accent and fluttery gestures. Unlike Tommy and Dad, she appears in every act and is rather more sympathetic as a character than Tommy.

Dad then confronts Tommy, and the play ties together as these similar characters talk about their problems with love and honesty.

The play takes a while to get going, but once the third character is introduced, the conversations between Tommy and Donna in the first act have more substance in retrospect. Dad grounds the play with his experience and didactic wit, while his explanations reveal Shanley’s cyclical thesis.

“The Dreamer Examines His Pillow” is at once strange and simple. Its stories of will and love, wrapped up in the obfuscating language of personal doubt, are sure to resonate with almost any audience member. The play – though it has its flaws – concludes as a relatable, satisfying thought piece on the nature of our relationships and quest for perfection.

The Dreamer Examines His Pillow” runs through Aug. 15 at the Flea Theater 41 White St., (between Broadway & Church Streets) in Downtown Manhattan. For information about tickets, go to


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