Courageous New Yorker Alisha Jordan looking forward to big day at Croke Park

Victim of an horrific assault, the plucky bar worker has shown remarkable resilience to bounce back

Can't make it all alone, Alisha Jordan is talking about the visible ink on her arms.

"That's what New York does to you. You get carried away sometimes."

There are tattooed lyrics scrawling around her right elbow. "It's from the song The Fairytale of New York. 'I turned my face away. And dreamed about you.' It was a rushed decision to say the least."

She laughs, infectiously. “Ah, sure, you get over to New York and you get excited. Ah no, I wouldn’t change them. They help me identify to New York.”

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She’s home now, but intends to return soon, ideally with an All-Ireland medal. It must be won early; the junior football final against Wexford throws in at 11.45am Sunday morning.

But Jordan's journey is different from all the rest. It's horrific and with echoes of what happened to Dublin footballer Johnny Cooper last week. A bar tender, walking home with another woman in the wee hours of July 14th, 2012, along Katonah Avenue in The Bronx, Alisha was struck by a man wielding a concrete slab.

The injuries sustained are disturbing; fractured nose, teeth, cheekbone and skull which needed 15 stitches, the insertion of 10 metal plates in her head and two surgeries.

Football field

No ordinary young woman, she was back working – Moriarty’s on McLean avenue - the following January. “You can live a full, easy life just by bar tending and living off the tips alone.”

Then, against doctor’s orders, she eased back towards the football field.

“They told me to never play football again. I didn’t play contact for a while. I got a face mask made specially so that I could play. Thankfully now I don’t need it anymore.

“Obviously I had that split-second decision when I was going in for a 50-50 tackle. I’m probably the one taking the bigger risk but it’s not something I think of playing football anymore.

“I’ve totally put it behind me.”

By 2013’s end she had captained the Cavan team to the New York championship. So you are stubborn?

“Oh totally, 100 percent stubborn over everything! I was never going to just take the attack lying down or never let it defeat me. I use football as my crutch and I use the girls as my support system. It got me where I am today so I’m very thankful for it.”

Where she was yesterday was Croke Park to promote Sunday’s three football finals (the main event being champions Cork versus Dublin at 4pm).

She doesn’t blame the city for the poor unfortunate timing of that night. As another Irish exile, Willie Clancy, told Bob Dylan way down in Greenwich Village one night in 1962, “No fear, no envy, no meanness”.

Every city

Not long after Sunday Jordan will leave her family in Skryne, county Meath and return to McLean avenue.

“I can’t wait to get back, it’s my home. I know I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It never made me afraid of New York and I don’t think anyone should be. Of course there’s bad people, but there’s bad people in every city in the world.”

She heard of Cooper’s equally terrible misfortune. “Yeah, it’s crazy. That’s what I mean: it could happen to anyone, anywhere. It’s about your luck. I know myself that I wasn’t actually personally targeted, I just so happened to run into the wrong person. I did suffer greatly because of it but I never went through the whole ‘why me?’ stage. It happened to me, I got over it, there was nothing I could do about it at that stage.”

Did you think like that before?

“No, definitely. Before I would have kept myself to myself. I was 19, was very emotional and very into how I looked. When something like this happens to you it changes your whole perspective on life.

“I think it’s definitely made me a better person and better at dealing with things.

“Especially with occasions like this coming up in Croke Park, I’m totally motivated to do it because after two years of suffering this is a place I deserve to be and this team deserve to be after being my support system and hopefully we’ll use that to our advantage on Sunday.”

Alisha Jordan will be part of the New York team to take on Wexford in the TG4 All Ireland Junior Championship at 11.45am in Croke Park this Sunday. Cork play Dublin in the senior final at 4pm, while Down and Fermanagh clash in the intermediate competition at 1.45pm.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent