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Saturday 17 August 2019

Book review

Shining a light on hectic GAA scene around Big Apple

History of GAA in New York
History of GAA in New York

Alan Aherne

Whenever it's feasible, we like to tie in reviews in this column with a topical sporting event. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to have a look at Fergus Hanna's impressive tome on the 'History of the GAA in New York' as it runs hand in hand with a new television series on TG4.

Dara O Cinnéide presented the first of a four-parter entitled 'GAA USA' last week, with the next edition due for screening this Thursday at 9.30 p.m. The former Kerry footballer travelled over to meet emigrants who have a deep love for our national games and have maintained their involvement since arriving in the States.

Produced by Sónta Films, it's an interesting look at how hurling and football are valued so much by people who have long since left their native shore, combining a colourful past with present-day activities.

Research for the book on the history of the association in New York went on for over 20 years, so it's no surprise that the finished product has a whopping 552 pages.

For the purposes of this review I have tried to extract some information on the role of Wexford people in hurling and football in the Big Apple, and the results were enlightening.

The inaugural GAA Convention in New York took place in 1915, and the first Wexford native to serve on the executive was Pat Costello who became its Financial Secretary two years later. He continued on and off in that role up to 1932, while a fellow Slaneysider named Paddy Bolger was Vice-President in 1925.

Myles Doran served as Auditor from 1969 to 1979 and then spent 1980 as Secretary, while Breda Cahill stood for the role of Recording Secretary at the 1990 Convention.

On the playing fields the Wexford club of old can only lay claim to two New York titles, Junior football in 1923 and Junior hurling in 1965.

However, players from the Model county have contributed in rich measure to both codes in the city down through the years. For example, Jimmy Donohoe played in no fewer than five National Hurling League deciders from 1963 to 1966, and in 1968, while Jim O'Neill and Joe Foley lined out on the 1970 team. Twenty years later the New York line-up which lost the final proper to Kilkenny included Cloughbawn's John Fleming.

Jim Donohoe from Kilanerin was a prominent footballer from the late eighties to the early noughties, and others to figure prominently in this code included Adamstown pair Richie Purcell and Eric Bradley, Seán O'Neill from Ballyhogue and Rory Stafford of St. Anne's.

Another man with strong St. Abban's roots, Phil Wickham, played in five Ulster Senior hurling championship campaigns with New York between 2000 and 2006, captaining the team in the latter year.

Gaelic Park, the city's iconic GAA headquarters, also played host to numerous All Star exhibition games down through the years, and among the Wexford players to grace this famous ground were footballers George O'Connor, Eddie Mahon and Ben Brosnan who travelled as replacements. On the hurling front, the list of participants is a long one and includes Mick Jacob, Willie Murphy, Tony Doran, Martin Quigley, Ned Buggy, George O'Connor, John Nolan (GOH), James O'Connor (Duffry), Paudge Courtney, Eamonn Cleary, Tom Dempsey, John O'Connor and Keith Rossiter.

Visit The Book Centre on Wexford's Main Street for the very best selection of sports books.

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