New York This Sunday. Start Spreading the News
This week to mark the start of the 2017 championship season we have supplied New York GAA with their new jersey. They will face Sligo in Gaelic Park on Sunday, Sligo also making a welcome championship return to O'Neills. Last year the men from the Big Apple almost caused an upset, losing to Roscommon by two points. Every year one of the Connacht counties face a potential banana skin in New York and this Sunday is no different for Sligo. It is a game that causes Connacht county managers more than a few sleepless nights.
The timing of the game means the Yeats County are without Kevin McDonnell, Luke Nicholson and Gerard O'Kelly-Lynch who are exam tied plus Niall Murphy is hamstrung. New York are featuring Tom Cunniffe of Mayo as well as former Dublin hurling all-star Danny Sutcliffe. Team captain is former Down player, and Burren Championship winning captain Gerard McCartan who is on a three year visa living in New York. Donegal’s Ross Wherity is also one of the leading lights on the New York team.
With a backward glance at Roscommon’s struggle last year Sligo manager Niall Carew says he is approaching the game with eyes wide open. The combination of travel, timing, heat and jet lag not to mention a highly motivated opposition makes New York a trip into the unknown. It is one of, if not the biggest date in the New York GAA calendar and the mixture of Championship hype, a big crowd in town and the possibility of taking a scalp all can make for a heady brew.
Ten years ago in 2007 New York defeated Derry in the Ulster Hurling championship to qualify for the Ulster Final. Due to the likely travel difficulties some of the New York players would face if they returned to Ireland, the match was deferred until the autumn. There Antrim defeated New York 2-20 to 1-12 in the curtain raiser to the Interprovincials.
Given the huge Irish connection in New York, Gaelic Games have always been an attraction and generations of students headed Stateside for the promise of some dollars, a job and a weekend playing ball. The games have been regularised in recent years in terms of players' participation but there is still a summer stream of players US bound for football, fun and a few beers.
Arguably the game in North America has never been stronger with hurling as a sport growing across the States among players with less and less of a connection to Ireland. Traditionally Gaelic games outside of Ireland have prospered when the home economy has been under the cosh and young people have been forced to emigrate.
Although Gaelic sports have been played in New York since the late 1700s, the New York Gaelic Athletic Association emerged in late 1914 at a time when the games were thriving in the city.
After the first championship was played in 1915, the association grew steadily despite two world wars and a depression that gripped the US at the end of the 1920s up until the mid 1930s.
While hurling and football has been played in many different parts of New York and its surrounds, the current home of Gaelic Park first opened as Innisfail Park in the Bronx in 1928, paving the way for local Gaels to witness some of the greatest players in all codes.
The New York GAA has also enjoyed the honour of having teams compete at famous old stadiums like Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan where the 1947 All-Ireland football final remains to this day the greatest occasion for Gaels in the US. 2017 is the 70th Anniversary of the famous Polo Grounds Final.