Delving into a transatlantic conundrum

The newly-arrived Irish J1 students have been a sight to behold in Queens and the Bronx over the last few days.

Delving into a transatlantic conundrum

Traipsing their belongings behind them in large suitcases, they’re bogged down by the weight of the world and the alcohol from the previous night’s New York initiation and they’re too hungover to make it through another day. But they have no choice but to keep hunting for the apartment and the job and the cheapest place to eat at 4am.

They know someone who knows someone and they have a list of the local GAA teams they need to seek out. They ceaselessly scroll through their smartphones as the subway endlessly rattles above their sore heads.

A summer of unforgettable experiences lie ahead and the GAA is a central tenet for many of them.

I was barely off the soccer pitch on Sunday when the phone lit up. The Shamrocks had just survived a penalty shoot-out in the blistering heat of Sunday morning and we were through to a cup final. So I was nowhere near ready for the all-action young man from Galway who wanted to play football for the Manhattan Gaels. He was straight and to the point. Himself and the lads had just landed, he explained quickly. They were living near Gaelic Park and needed a team. What better way to get the summer started than to get a training session under the belt?

It remains a thorny issue for the association as a whole though. I don’t know yet what club this guy is leaving behind mid-season and I don’t think many at home will begrudge young students from going out and discovering the world.

Nobody wants to see rural clubs struggling and the policy at the Manhattan Gaels thus far has been to welcome rather than recruit.

But other clubs are dependent on attracting over players to New York one way or another and that is often a bitter pill for the GAA at home to swallow.

It works both ways of course. Many county boards in Ireland see New York as a handy feeding trough for fundraising. That’s been the way since the 19th century of course and it remains so in spite of the best efforts of officials on our side of the Atlantic to call for restraint - Croke Park can also see the cause to cry foul but understandably is loathe to get involved too heavily.

I recently stepped down as PRO of the New York County Board due to the time commitment involved so I’m a bit freer to gripe.

As many readers will know, the Kerry fundraising machine was in Manhattan last week and local construction companies dug deep for them. I don’t blame the Kerry County Board for doing what they have to do and there is nothing to prevent - legally or morally - the Kingdom’s diaspora in this city rallying the troops for the betterment of their native land.

But it was tough to observe Henry Shefflin arrive up to Gaelic Park wearing Kerry garb no matter how many people were delighted to have the chance to enjoy a photo opportunity with him.

No one’s to blame and everything has its place. But New York GAA benefits less and less every time one unit or other lands at JFK.

The GPA will clean up in October too, steadfastly committed to their New York supporters and well able to build a story around their members which strikes a chord with successful Irish-Americans.

The GAA has plenty of rules but nothing to legislate for the free market of young players with wanderlust and county boards with ambition. It’s a fact of life we need to all bear in mind.

And it could be so much worse - it could be Fifa that we’re depending on for good leadership.

At the time of writing, Sepp Blatter was making his dramatic exit announcement in Zurich. Of course that will be dealt with much better on another page but it’s been particularly interesting how the US public has reacted.

There is an enormous sense of pride here that the US Department of Justice has been at the forefront of the drama that cranked up suddenly a week ago.

Loyal readers of The New York Times - which enjoyed a strategic tip-off for the scoop - have had a crash course in soccer governance. The interference from Russia in the back-and-forth has added to the intrigue with Cold War overtones giving the whole mess extra allure.

Just as the game is beginning to take an unprecedented grip here, it has proved to be a deep affront that the nation was overlooked for the next World Cup.

Most of all, Americans are just relieved that their role on the world stage has been a force for good. That was badly needed.



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