New York County Board chairperson Joan Henchy has slammed comments made by her fellow Kerry native Patrick O’Sullivan about the future of the GAA in the Big Apple.
Henchy expressed her “disappointment” at the Kerry Central Council delegate who she described as “misinformed and out of touch”.
In a wide-ranging The Long Hall podcast interview reported on by theduring the week, O’Sullivan took a shot at New York GAA officials saying Croke Park should “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”.
Henchy expressed dismay at O’Sullivan’s assertion that unless a new approach to Gaelic games in New York is adopted, there will be no GAA in the region in 10 years time.
“I cannot understand why such comments were made, and our members and officers are extremely angry and annoyed at the comments,” she said.
“We are at a loss to understand why a Central Council delegate needs to involve himself, or give unsolicited advice, to another county.
“The remarks were baseless and showed a distinct lack of insight and knowledge of the affairs of the New York Board. He failed to recognise that there are 45 adult clubs and 2,500 registered children playing our games, that we have four development squads, a senior county team, and continue to have huge success at Féile and at World Games.
“He ignores the fact that all of this activity is undertaken at a much higher cost to all involved given that New York teams travel to Ireland and Britain to compete.
“It is also surprising to those involved to read his statement that players are sitting at home waiting to be knocked out of the Championship so they can pick up $10k or $20k to come play in New York. As someone as well versed in New York GAA as he is, surely he knows that New York 15 years ago stopped all weekend players and surely he knows that three years ago New York brought in their own bye law to prevent anyone who had played county football in Ireland from getting a sanction to play in New York for the summer. Then again, maybe he really is that misinformed and out of touch.
“His remarks about the lack of leadership, and the county not having direction, are particularly insulting, not only to the current officers, but also to generations of leaders of the New York GAA.
“He appears to have forgotten that not only has the New York GAA grown and expanded under the current leadership, it has done so in an environment that is often alien to Gaelic Games. The fact that generations of people have been helped, and continue to be helped, by the New York GAA seems to have slipped his mind.
“Like all counties, New York has its challenges. One of which is the growth and expansion of facilities in an urban area. There is a distinct lack of affordable land in the New York Metropolitan Area, a reality that the delegate chose to overlook when advising the New York Board on facility development.
“There is also a certain irony in his comments about facility development. Kerry has benefited greatly from the generosity of the GAA family in New York in developing facilities, but the delegate chose to ignore that generosity, and advise on the purchase of lands which are significantly more expensive.
“If the money Kerry GAA raised had been left in New York, perhaps New York could heed the advice of the delegate.”
Henchy, in her first year as the first female chairperson of the 106-year-old outpost of the Association, has endured a baptism of fire with the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacting the New York region.
“These are troubling times and sport must take a back seat to what people’s real priorities are. We are currently in the epicenter of the Covid-19 Pandemic with many millions of people under strict conditions and hundreds of thousands losing work.”
The GAA community in New York is getting behind a massive support effort launched this past week by Irish and Irish-Americans local to the city in which a huge donation drive is being organised in Manhattan, Queens and The Bronx.