Unless a new approach to Gaelic games in New York is adopted, there will be no GAA in the Big Apple in 10 years time.
That is the stark warning delivered by former Kerry County Board chairman Patrick O’Sullivan, who was born in Sunnyside, Queens, and is a regular visitor to the city where he spent the first eight years of his childhood.
O’Sullivan, in conversation with the New York-based Long Hall podcast, believes the rejuvenation of Gaelic games in the city must begin with the drawing up of a 10-15 year plan, the implementation of which would be overseen by Croke Park.
O’Sullivan also wants an end to the practice of clubs in America throwing outlandish sums of money at inter-county players in return for their playing services stateside during the summer months.
“The amount of money that is being thrown away on bringing players over from other counties. Some people at home are waiting to be knocked out of the championship so to come over to New York to pick up €10k or €20k, these are the crazy figures which are being thrown around.
“These players will then go back home three or four months later and will fall into whatever championship they have at home. The fella [based in the States] who has been training for months, he is left out. The whole system has to change. The whole look of it has to change.
“If they keep on doing what they are doing, there will be no GAA in this city within 10 years,” O’Sullivan said.
“If you go to the seven or eight strong [underage] clubs in New York, the likes of Shannon Gaels and Rockland, the GAA at home have to come up with some idea as to how to develop them into senior clubs so you’ll have eight communities that will have a team to follow. The county names [clubs named after counties in Ireland] are gone. There has to be meaning to the area that they’re from.”
Facilities, and having a ground — or grounds — they can call their own, is another key area which New York GAA must prioritise.
“First of all, they have to get a plan for the city, a 10 or 15-year plan. If they try and do it in one year, it won’t happen. They have to get their base, and I think somebody from Croke Park has to come out and run it.
“For the people who have made their home here, there has to be a place where they can go and mingle and meet. What is going on at the moment is not acceptable.
“Kerry GAA, as an example, belongs to everyone. The importance of Kerry and what it means is driven by every club. The importance of New York has to be driven by New York people. And there needs to be a plan. If it is not put together properly, the association will never develop in this city.
“I feel strongly about the importance of a strong GAA community in New York. That can only develop with the proper leadership and the proper financial backing.”
He added: “The association here [New York GAA] have to pinpoint seven or eight different parts of the city, they have to cherry-pick the areas where they are going, do a deal with the city, and if it costs $8m to put the pitches in these places, that’s the first plan they have got to put to Croke Park as to how we are going to fund this, and how they are going to get business people behind them in the city to do that.”
Croke Park must do more to help the Gaelic games family in New York, insisted Kerry’s Central Council delegate.
“There is no plan to develop New York. America is the biggest market the GAA should be getting into.
“The association has to come over here [to New York] and take control of which direction they are going to go because if they don’t, the GAA in New York will be going from cap to hand all the time.”
O’Sullivan said footing the bill for Kerry’s €8m centre of excellence in Currans would not have been possible but for the cooperation and generosity of those in New York. “Over two million was pulled out of New York in four years. It was a huge amount of money. That gave us the scope to go onto London where we took another quarter of a million sterling. Then we took just shy of €100k from Dublin. I’ll be honest, without the help of the people in New York, we would never have gotten it off the ground, especially without the help of Maurice Regan (founder of JT Magen). Donal O’Sullivan, too, was good to us.”