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Bayville hosts international lacrosse game that celebrates 2 cultures

Members of the Irish national lacrosse team sing

Members of the Irish national lacrosse team sing the Irish national anthem before a match versus the Israeli national team in Bayville on Sunday, March 16, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The Village of Bayville transformed into an international celebration hub Sunday afternoon as national lacrosse teams from Ireland and Israel faced off for a match during St. Patrick's Day weekend and Purim.

More than 100 fans -- dressed in green clothing and hats or white and blue attire to support their respective teams -- packed the stands at the outdoor field that sits yards from the edge of the Long Island Sound.

A DJ took turns playing both Israeli and Irish music while the two teams warmed up on the field at Centre Island Town Park. U.S., Irish and Israeli flags fluttered in the wind as the national anthems of all three countries were played before the 2 p.m. start of the match.

Michael Kennedy, chief executive of Ireland Lacrosse, said Sunday's game came together by chance after his team planned its training camp for St. Patrick's Day weekend. After talking to Scott Neiss, executive director of the Israel Lacrosse Association, and realizing the holidays were in such proximity, the cross-cultural game day was born.

"We know there's a huge Jewish community in New York and a huge Irish community in New York, and it's great for both teams to be able to connect to those communities on major days for both countries. It's absolutely special," Kennedy said.

Both teams are preparing for the 2014 world championship in July in Denver, which will feature teams from 38 countries, Neiss said. Ireland is ranked No. 9 in the world. Israel is not yet ranked because its team has not participated in world competition.

Long Islanders had a strong presence among the intercultural mix, with seven Island-based players on the Israel team -- as well as their head coach, Bill Beroza, who originally hails from Hempstead -- along with six players on Ireland's team.

The two teams scrimmaged in an exhibition game in 2012 before the European championships, but this is the first time the Israeli team is playing on American soil, Neiss said. The players on the Ireland team will be marching in the St. Patrick's Day parade in Manhattan Monday.

Before the game, children took part in a youth lacrosse clinic, where many donated equipment for players in Israel and Ireland who cannot afford the expensive sticks and cleats, Neiss said.

Several family members and friends came to support Daniel Devery, a defender on the Israel team who briefly lived in East Setauket and has now lived in Israel for the past two years. While they cheered for Israel, they brought together their Jewish and Irish heritage that is spread throughout their family.

Devery's grandmother Sally Shakun, formerly of Stony Brook, but now of Cranbury, N.J., donned a bright blue feather boa and matching white hat. Devery's sister, Rebecca Devery, 23, of Princeton, N.J., wore a tall green leprechaun hat.

"It's awesome," Rebecca Devery said. "I'm always so proud of my brother and it's great to be here."

As for his team's 11-10 win over Israel, Kennedy said their eyes are now on July.

"It's what we call 'on the road to Denver,' " he said.

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