NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Shannon Kerwin, a 17-year-old senior at North Salem High School played soccer for the Republic of Ireland U-17 Women’s Soccer Team this summer, although she was born in the United States and had never been to Ireland before.
Kerwin holds dual citizenship because her paternal grandparents are Irish and her father grew up there. While surfing the web with her mother, they came across a site for the Football Association of Ireland and discovered that she actually qualified to try out for the team.
Kerwin started playing soccer at the age of five, and had been playing for the North Salem High School Varsity team since her freshman year.
She started by sending a resume and video to the Irish coach, Dave Connell. With his approval, she later flew to Ireland, tried out in person and made the team, playing in the striker position.
During her visit, she spent some time with relatives in Limerick. “I expected a lot of farms and animals, which is pretty much how it was,” she said.
“When we went shopping or to restaurants it was pretty much like the States. But I couldn’t get used to driving on the opposite side of the road. I didn’t drive, but I kept getting in on the driver’s side.”
Among her fellow players were young women from Canada, England, and of course Ireland. “They take it a lot more seriously over there,” she said. “They’re more intense, they’re faster and they’re tougher. They’ve got more skills.
“The rules are the same, but the field is bigger. And the coach was a lot stricter. We ate five meals a day, with a lot of chicken and protein, pasta, eggs and soup. We weren’t allowed any white bread or dessert. We had to write down everything we ate.”
The team played one game against an older Irish women’s team, then played two against Scotland. They tied with the Irish team, lost one to Scotland and tied the second.
The team, including Kerwin, will go on to play other European teams, possibly beginning with Serbia at the end of October, but things are still uncertain.
Although her coach and all her teammates spoke English, Kerwin sometimes had difficulty understanding the Irish brogue. Her father’s brogue is less defined. Where did the young Irishman meet the girl who would become her mother?
“In the Bronx.”