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Monaghan’s Thrill-Filled Quest For An All-Ireland Football Championship Is Sponsored By A Bronx Flooring Company

Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Foreign investment in sports is a big deal globally these days. Just look at Dublin and Monaghan, the two squads in tomorrow’s 2023 All-Ireland Gaelic football semifinal matchup.

The primary supporter of the dynastic Dublin team, for example, is AIG, an international insurance giant, while the jersey of County Monaghan’s over-performing underdog side will promote ... All-Boro Floor Service, a family-owned flooring contractor in the Bronx. The company was founded in 1991 by Monaghan native and lifelong GAA fanatic Philip Traynor.

“My dad didn’t look at this as ‘foreign sponsorship,’” says Ryan Traynor, Philip's son, with a laugh. “Far as he was concerned, he was a local.”

All-Boro is the sort of quaint outfit more likely to be found sponsoring squads on a local Little League field than those on the pitch at Croke Park in Dublin, the temple of Gaelic football and hurling, on what has become the biggest weekend on the Irish sports calendar. (Kerry faces Derry in the other semi on Sunday at Croke Park.) But the company has been recognized as the primary benefactor of the Monaghan side for the past three seasons.

As a boy, Philip Traynor played for his local club, Carrickmacross Emmets. When he emigrated to Pearl River, N.Y., in 1984 and took up flooring, he got involved in the backroom of Gaelic clubs in New York, and after starting the flooring business began sponsoring the local football teams. He never stopped rooting for the county side back home, however, and with the flooring operation booming, All-Boro took over as the main sponsor of a team its founder had idolized since birth.

The patriarch of the Traynor family, however, died suddenly in July 2021. His death was reported all over Ireland. Traynor got a moment of silence before a match at Monaghan’s home grounds—a ritual at GAA games as common and solemn as the playing of "Amhrán na bhFiann," the Irish national anthem. And in an obit, club officials said Traynor had realized “the dream for every unassuming Irish immigrant of giving back.”

Neither the club nor All-Boro ever publicly disclosed how much the company’s deal with the team is worth. But sponsorships of this level aren’t cheap. The GAA is stingy about releasing any information about its operation, let alone financial stats. But when the Supermac's grocery chain announced it was extending its sponsorship deal with the Galway club last year, it was reported that the company would pay as much as €600,000 a year.  And a 2019 report in the Irish Examiner estimated that Kerry Group, an international food company based in County Kerry that sponsors the local Gaelic football squad, put up “at least €750,000” per year to have its name on the jersey.

Yet whatever amount All-Boro shelled out, the company’s already gotten more bang for its bucks than anybody could have rightly expected just from Monaghan’s plucky performance thus far. In the All-Ireland tournament, players can only play for their home county, and the latest census data shows that Monaghan ranks 28th in population out of the 32 counties in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. (The six counties that make up Northern Ireland are eligible for the All-Ireland title despite being part of the UK because the GAA and its tournaments preceded the partitioning of the island by the shitty Brits.) It’s also ranked among the poorest counties in Ireland. Counties without people or money tend to fare poorly historically: While Monaghan has fielded teams since 1887, the county has never won a Sam Maguire Cup, the championship trophy coveted by all footballers, and the team last reached an All-Ireland senior football final in 1930. (President Biden thrilled Gaelic fans and puzzled the rest of the world by referencing the quest for a cup with shouts of “Mayo for Sam!” at the end of the last speech of his recent Ireland visit.)

Yet the 2023 season’s been magical of late for Monaghan. The senior squad has been left for dead in its last two games, both loser-goes-home affairs. On June 24, Monaghan was three down late against heavily favored Kildare, but Conor McCarthy’s stoppage-time run climaxed with him booting the ball over the bar at full sprint to break a tie and book Monaghan a spot in the quarterfinals. And just a week later, Monaghan stayed alive by pulling another upset via the heart-stopping comeback route, tying the favored Armagh squad at overtime’s end then winning an excruciatingly long and tense round of penalties by a single kick.

Monaghan will likely need some more magic tomorrow to keep its season going. Dublin is both the most-populated and wealthiest county in all of Ireland, and its football team has carried itself thusly over the last decade. Dublin is just three years removed from winning six Sam Maguires in a row, a streak unprecedented in the 140-year history of the All-Ireland tournament. And two weeks ago Dublin looked dynastic again while obliterating poor Mayo, 2-17 to 0-11, in its quarterfinals before 80,000 fans at Croke Park. 

Punters are again saying Monaghan has no shot. Ryan Traynor flew over to Ireland today and will be in the stands for tomorrow’s match, He says the way wins have come lately has him wondering if forces from above are at work.  

“All we hear is ‘Monaghan can’t do it! ‘Monaghan can’t beat Armagh!’ We can’t beat pretty much anybody we’re up against,” he says. “But we’ve managed to get it done over and over. I’m sure my father will be watching down, hopefully he can kick a few scores for us and get us over again.”

In other words: Monaghan for Sam.

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