By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Playing in one World Championship can be a rewarding and amazing experience in itself, but for 2010 Holy Cross graduate Connor Sweeney, he was able to compete against the best players from around the world for a second time. Sweeney, who is a goalie on the Irish National team, participated at the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Men's World Championship in Denver, Colo. He also played for Ireland during the 2010 World Championship in England.
At his second World Championship, Sweeney, who has dual citizenship, played in seven games as the team went 6-2 and placed 10th out of 38 teams. One of Sweeney's top performances was when he made 18 saves and posted a .643 save percentage in the 12-10 win versus New Zealand. Sweeney was very impressed with how the competition was even tougher than it was four years ago. "The games are extremely competitive and it is great to see the gap close between the top eight teams and the rest of the field," said Sweeney. "For only the third time ever the United States did not win a gold medal, and it was great to see the Iroquois team walk away with a bronze. It was an honor to open up against Uganda, which was the first ever African nation to compete at the World Lacrosse Championship."
In 2010, Sweeney was coming off an outstanding senior season at Holy Cross as he made double-digit saves in 10 of the 15 games that season. He was also named the Patriot League Goalie of the Week for the first time in his career as he stopped 15 of 16 shots to set a school record with a .938 save percentage in the 11-1 victory over Vermont. Sweeney had also been playing competitive lacrosse steadily for a long time. However, this time around with four years away from the World Championship and with a job, Sweeney had to make sure that he kept up with lacrosse. "I played in a few leagues during the spring and a few tournaments in the summer," said Sweeney. "In 2012 I participated in the European Lacrosse Championship in Amsterdam and the Irish team walked away with a silver medal. It was a great experience and one we were able to build on heading into these games. It is very difficult to practice as players live all over the world, however we were able to get together in March for an exhibition game and a few practices. In addition to playing, we were able to meet the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) and march in the St. Patrick's Day parade."
Sweeney learned a lot from his experience at the 2010 tournament which he used this time around. "We played eight games in eight days, so I definitely learned to get off my feet after the games," said Sweeney. "It's very important to be well rested in order to perform at the highest level. Unfortunately I did not get to sight-see in Denver, however I was able to sneak away and visit some of my family members as 20 of them made the trip from New York out to Denver."
Sweeney loved the camaraderie at the tournament. "The atmosphere at the World Championship was amazing, 36 of the 38 teams stayed in the dorms and it created a sort of Olympic Village feel," said Sweeney. "It's great that all of the teams were able to get along off the field and get to know each other in the dorms. Without a doubt the best part is the camaraderie that I experienced being on a team with 23 great guys. We are an extremely close group and it was great spending two weeks with some of my best friends."
One of Sweeney's favorite moments of the tournament was when the team played New Zealand. "One specific moment during the tournament that I will never forget is seeing New Zealand perform the haka before our game. For anyone who has ever seen the New Zealand rugby team perform this ritual, it is an impressive sight to see in person."
Sweeney, who works on the Commission Management Group at Morgan Stanley in New York, still stays connected with his Holy Cross teammates. "We had an extremely close group my senior year and we actually all got together the weekend before I left for Denver," said Sweeney. "While we were out in Denver, I ran into a few Holy Cross alumni who were playing in the ongoing festival tournament. Jim Carboneau (Class of 1974) refereed all three of our scrimmages, which is always reassuring to have a fellow Crusader on the field."
Sweeney has really enjoyed his time playing for the Irish National team and is appreciative of what the sport he loves has given to him over the years. "This will be my last World Championship, I have had a great experience and look forward to staying involved with the program," said Sweeney. "I will take away the memories both on and off the field. I can't thank my family enough for all of the support they have showed over the years and letting me continue to live the dream."
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Team New Zealand performing the haka.