Dual Citizen, Dual Threat: Tillman's Irish Lineage Making U21 Worlds Special


Lance Tillman is relishing in the opportunity to play in the country that means so much to his family.

LIMERICK, Ireland — Lance Tillman took the five-minute walk back from the World Lacrosse Men’s U21 Championship opening ceremonies to his house in Kilmurry Village with a smile on his face.

While his U.S. teammates sported their new “USA” branded Nike hats, Tillman was wearing something a little more symbolic to him and his family. He met with members of the Irish national team and traded — taking home a black scally cap with the world championship logo emblazoned onto it and making his teammates jealous in the process.

“The scally cap is such a statement piece,” Tillman said. “It was cool to be able to get one of those. There’s a connection to the Irish team for me, so it’s awesome to meet them.”

For Tillman, the trip to Ireland was a dream come true for a number of reasons. He stepped onto the fields of Limerick University as a member of the U.S. U21 team — a goal he had set in 2016 — but also as a dual citizen of the U.S. and Ireland.

When Tillman fired home the second goal of the U.S.’s U21 first game, he had a hoard of Irish descendents, both in Ireland and the U.S., smile and shedding tears of joy. His mother, Susan, cheered from the stands while watching her son do something she never thought possible.

“When Lance scored that first goal, my brother recorded it and teared up,” Susan Tillman said. “It gets a lump in your throat because it’s so wonderful. It’s like, ‘Wow. Is this happening? My son is playing world lacrosse in Ireland.”

Tillman’s grandmother, Annie McCarragher, was born the youngest of nine siblings in Belfast, snuck out of Ireland and onto RMS Queen Elizabeth headed to Brooklyn when she was 34 and met her husband soon after.

She wanted a better life for herself, and eventually, her family.

“If you watch the movie ‘Brooklyn,’ I swear it’s about my mother, because she snuck out of Ireland to go to a better place in the United States,” Susan Tillman joked. “She had a throat as thick as fog. You could barely understand what she was saying. She was so Irish.”

She raised her daughter, Susan, and her siblings in Irish tradition, and they followed suit with their own children. Susan Tillman wanted to make sure her five children knew her family’s background.

For meals, the Tillman’s regularly ate dishes like corned beef and cabbage. The family made sure to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day meaningfully each year. Susan Tillman also made sure that her children gained dual citizenship, allowing their Northern Ireland affiliation to gain them access to the European Union (prior to Brexit).

According to his mother, Tillman can create a song out of any situation — singing and dancing were part of the fabric of the Tillman family. And, of course, the Tillman family retains some of the more stereotypical Irish pastimes.

“The Irish curse a lot,” Susan Tillman joked. “My mom used to curse like a sailor.”

As her youngest son started excelling in lacrosse, Susan Tillman had her eyes on Limerick — a city just a few hours from where her mother grew up. Once Ireland was announced as the host for the 2020 (now 2022) World Championship, the Tillman family made sure to give Lance every opportunity to live out his dream in the country where he still has family.

By Susan Tillman’s count, there are at least 24 cousins scattered across Ireland and the U.S., many of whom will be watching Lance Tillman as he plays for gold.

The plane ride to Ireland was surreal, as was the drive from Dublin to Limerick. Lance Tillman’s mother told him to look out for rolling hills and hundreds of sheep, and he saw plenty. His first trip to Ireland didn’t hit home until opening ceremonies, when he listened as members of Ireland Lacrosse spoke about the history of the game in their country.

Lance Tillman still felt at home in the sweltering heat of Limerick, Ireland.

“Being here in Ireland, having the Opening Ceremonies, it just made it all more real,” he said. “It was awesome to get to speak with the Irish team and learn more about how lacrosse is played here.”


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