Members of the GAA in New York are concerned the number of counties, clubs and other organisations raising money in the city is impacting on their own development plans for Gaelic Park in the city.
“It grates a lot at this stage, the number of them coming out,” says former New York board chairman Larry McCarthy.
“In the last three or four weeks we’ve had Roscommon, who had an event when they were here for the championship. Kerry were here for a lunch as well, the second fundraiser in a year. The GPA had a golf outing, and Monaghan were out the same weekend as Kerry.
“St Vincent’s are out soon, and Crossmaglen were here a couple of weeks ago. In fairness to Crossmaglen, they had a wider vision, they were looking for investment and invited all the GAA people.
“I’ll say that much for them - they picked up the phone and said ‘we’re coming, this is what we’re doing’. Kerry did, too, but most of them don’t. Over the years we’d know when the GPA were coming, and I’d have asked them, ‘if ye’re coming over, tell us so that we’re not blind-sided ourselves at a meeting or an event’.”
McCarthy has an issue with one of the main arguments of those organising fundraisers in New York.
“What’s being said is that the people at these fundraising events are not people who are in Gaelic Park, and that’s half-right and half-wrong.
“We were invited to one GPA event and I recognised a lot of the faces in the room — contractors, bar owners, guys who are here in Gaelic Park. Not every Sunday, maybe, but they’re here. The other half, fair enough, I didn’t recognise them.”
With New York GAA planning a major revamp of Gaelic Park, officials are worried about their own chances of funding development work.
“How successful are they raising money? If they’re getting money out of here we can’t be telling people, ‘don’t give them money’.
“If it’s your home county then people will give them money.
“Our concern is when we go in and look for money to renovate Gaelic Park, is that going to be a problem for us?
“If we go home to Ireland and ask the county boards for €10,000 each, what are they going to say when we say, ‘a lot of you have had people out here getting money for them, and at a certain level we’ve helped — will ye come across now?
“That’s the concern for us - that when we get through the bureaucracy to try to renovate Gaelic Park, will the fundraising Kerry and the GPA and everybody else has done have an impact on our ability to raise funds?”
The renovation is a medium-term project — “optimistically,” says McCarthy — with a lot of work remaining to sort out leases and building permits.
“Unfortunately we don’t have a lot of political pull in the city any more either,” he adds. “When we lost (former City Council Speaker) Christine Quinn that was a blow, because she was a huge ally in moving things along.”
For all that, McCarthy says the GAA in New York is in a “vibrant” place at present.
“It probably is,” says McCarthy. “You can’t deny that the late 80’s were brilliant here, simply because of the numbers which were here, but since then, it’s in as good a place now as it ever was.
“There’s a huge amount of work being done by the minor board, which is bringing kids through now, junior B hurling, and while we always had the ‘American’ clubs, the likes of St Raymond’s and St Barnabas, Long Island Gaels, as opposed to the Corks and the Sligos and so on, they’re all in pretty good shape now.
“There’s an ebb and flow to it, as you might expect. Four or five teams came back in this year, but those were old teams — Westmeath had disappeared, for instance, but now they’re back in. Dublin the same — they’d gone, but now they’re back.
“One or two might disappear again this year, but in terms of numbers, enthusiasm, all of that, it’s in a very good place. The performance of the (New York) footballers against Roscommon helps. We were genuinely unlucky, it was a great performance by Justin O’Halloran and his lads.
“We’re sending seven teams to the World Games in August - Irish- American and Americans, a camogie team and a ladies football team.”
McCarthy sees a different type of Irish person landing in New York these days: “What we’re seeing in the last couple of years is a lot of J-1 students and extended J-1 types — lads with third level qualifications here for a year or 18 months.
“When Manhattan Gaels were founded there recently that was a manifestation of it. I don’t mean this in a negative way but they’re a different kind of person.
“Added to that is the fact a lot of people don’t want to stay here looking over their shoulder. They’ll do 90 days, go home and come back, but what I see from recent years is that a lot of young people aren’t willing to live under the spectre of being undocumented.
“There are lots of people who are still undocumented, and you could ask, ‘well lads, what would have happened if we’d beaten Roscommon?’”
McCarthy can offer a concrete example of what could have happened if New York had found another couple of points a few weeks ago.
“Ten years ago we beat Derry here in the Ulster hurling championship. We were told the final would be in Belfast and that was that, there’d no shifting it.
“I went to training on the Tuesday after we beat Derry and said, ‘Lads, I don’t want to know but I have to ask, how many of ye can go?’” A “significant number” of them could, he remembers, but they wouldn’t because they didn’t want to leave the others behind.
“I was surprised by the number of them who could, and that has improved significantly since then.“
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