Truman B-girls hope for Ireland reunion

Naas captain Shelly Behan, and Truman co-captains Sajidah Pressley and Samantha Gillman wish one another luck before the start of a game between the two teams last year at Truman. The Bronx girls are now hoping to raise money and travel out to Ireland for another game between the two teams and another educational experience. - Photo by Jon Minners

Earlier in March of this year, a group of girl basketball players from Ireland made the journey to the Bronx for a game against Truman High School. 

With 2009 heading rapidly in their direction, the girls from Truman are now looking to reunite with their newfound friends in another spirited contest, this time in the small town of Naas, where their coach John Burke once called home. 

“Two groups from two totally different walks of life came together and learned about and embraced each other,” said Burke of the experience.  “They took away wonderful memories and life lessons and we are looking to continue to create new memories and lessons for both groups to experience.”

However, the goodwill journey isn’t cheap and the Baychester Avenue school is looking for help in continuing the positive relations fostered between Burke and his former coach Joe Clancy.

“I used to coach John at Naas for four years,” boasted Clancy during a visit to the school, as he watched his girls lose a thriller, 54-41.  “He was 7-feet tall and was a legend in a very small town.  He and his family are very well respected in Naas.  Everyone loved him and people there still ask me how John is doing.”

When Burke left St. Mary’s College, an equivalent to America’s high schools, Clancy’s former charge played on a scholarship at South Hampton with his mentor’s son, Jim.  Clancy followed Burke’s career and continued to build on their relationship. 

When his former protege became a coach, after an injury forced him out of a career in professional basketball, the two decided to test their mettle against one another.  St. Mary’s College made the trip to Truman and was welcomed with open arms; many students cheering for the visitors to make them feel at home. 

“I was not surprised at the welcome,” Burke said.  “We have wonderful kids at Truman, just like we do all over the Bronx.”

The two groups of girls took tours of the City and enjoyed a meal together after a final game between the two teams, but as the girls from Ireland returned home, the connections grew. 

“The girls are very close,” said Burke.  “They communicate weekly through all the new age technology that I know nothing about.  They can see a different culture; see how the group they came to know does things in their own backyards.”

Now, they want to experience it firsthand, looking to make a trip in time for Easter-break 2009. 

“Airfare is expensive now,” said Burke.  “We are getting help in Ireland once we get there, but getting there is the problem.  We’re talking around $11,000.  But it is money well spent, because it is important for our girls to go out in the world and see and learn and become better; more well-rounded people.”

To help in Truman’s efforts, contact Burke at

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