Caolan Rafferty of Armagh and Kerry's Brian Maguire battle for possession in Tralee.

In recent years the number of teams and clubs participating in the New York GAA has been gradually declining. However that trend would seem to have finally ended as the Chairman Liam Birmingham was happy to announce that more than half a dozen teams have applied for affiliation for the 2012 season.

The junior division got a major infusion of clubs and as a result setting the stage for two divisions at that level, as there will now be a total of 16 teams. Offaly return after a hiatus of a few years while Longford reform after being defunct for a decade. The Rockland club continues to grow as increased numbers give them the option of fielding a second team which will be called Orangetown Gaels.

The partnership between Long Island Gaels and Brooklyn Shamrocks has ended amicably as both will field teams under their original banners. The Brooklyn club will opt for junior status while Long Island will remain at the intermediate level. An affiliated team called Manhattan Gaels certainly piqued the attention of the delegates as the metropolitan area has not been exactly a bastion of gaeldom. So don’t be surprised if you see a set of goal posts spring up in Central Park.

Up north the St. Patrick’s club in New Haven continues to flourish as they have also applied for junior status. It is also heartening to see that hurling, which has been rather anemic for a few years, has got a badly needed infusion of two teams. Last year’s pilot study experimenting with a number of junior teams obviously proved feasible as two new teams have affiliated. The Bronx Warriors and Shannon Gaels have signed up while they are also hoping that teams from Rockland and Hoboken will also come on board.

While the junior and intermediate divisions in football are quite viable in terms of sufficient teams for bone fide competition, there is a dearth of teams at senior level. Currently there are only seven. Recently there was rather interesting suggestion to increase the number of teams, namely that an all-American born team be formed to compete at this level.

Last year there were just a few competing at senior level, with only one playing in the final. It has been the prevailing wisdom for many years that the New York GAA should have more native born players performing at the highest level, but it never seems to happen. Perhaps this might be the opportunity that collectively the American born players need to strut their stuff or perhaps is it wishful thinking.  So basically the question is whether a team that came through the Minor Board ranks would be strong or skilled enough to compete with the likes of Kerry, Leitrim, Tyrone and the rest of the teams at that level. Naturally such a scenario would necessitate a level playing field, which bring up the whole issue of the role of summer players, transfers etc. That is certainly a can of worms that could prove divisive and problematic.


New York win in England

Meanwhile the idea of an American born team will definitely attain some legitimacy and perhaps some support after this week. As I go to press word has filtered through, despite the fog and the frost in England, that the New York collegiate team have won the British Universities’ competition. En route the Big Apple students accounted for John Morris and Ulcan, to defeat the University of Aberdeen in the final. Naturally this team would be capable of supplying several viable candidates for a native New York team.  Performing for this victorious squad were Kevin McArdle, Tom Huvane, Donnacha O’Dwyer, Kieran Slattery, Jonathon Maher, Frankie McDermott, Daniel Lehane, Shane Hogan, Connor Hogan, Del Ferreira, Sean Reilly, Thomas O’Brien, Adrian Jusufi,  Shane Hanley, Liam Deane, CJ Molloy, Kevin Daly, Brian Givney and Brian Twomey.  In addition players such as Thomas McGovern, Shane Flanagan, Mike Creegan, Sean McGrath, James Huvane, Conor Brady, Derek Courtney and  Shane Carty would also be candidates for an American born team.

The New York senior football team is reported to be in the throes of rigorous training under trainer Mickey Coleman. Coleman played with Tyrone here and New York in 2000 before he returned to his club Ardboe and the Tyrone senior football team. He was on the squad that won the All-Ireland in 2003. Players are reported to be responding very well to Coleman’s highly specific and highly intensive training regimen.

Naturally he has adopted many of the elements of Mickey Harte’s very effective and successful system of training. Currently there are about two dozen players going through their paces but the panel will be increased with a number of the collegiate players.  Assisting Coleman with the preparation of the team are selectors Collie Fearon, Tommy Quaid and Mike Reilly and Tony McTigue. Connie Molloy is the manager of the team and Mark McAllister is the Chairman of the senior football division.


James Halpin R.I.P.

On Feb. 5,  Jim as he was affectionately known as, passed away in his 87th year. The late Jim was a retired employee of St. Raymond’s Cemetery where he had worked for 40 years. He is survived by his wife Philomena, children John, Neil, Siobhan and Jimmy. Jim was interred in St. Raymond’s Cemetery after Mass of the Christian Burial at St. Francis Xavier Church in the Bronx. He was a native of Knocknagoshel, Co. Kerry.

Jim Halpin was imbued with a powerful love of Gaelic games and got great joy in watching and discussing the games, especially when his beloved Kingdom was doing well. He was a founding member of the St. Raymond’s club and the New York GAA Minor Board, both of which were established in 1970.   Jim was also a very influential and active member of the Kerrymen’s Association.

He was a regular patron at Gaelic Park right up until failing health prevented him from attending. His viewing and vantage point was always high up in the bleachers, allowing him to give a very astute analysis of the proceedings.

He was recently featured in a story in the Daily News which simply articulated the central role that Gaelic games played in fostering lifelong bonds and friendships in the Irish-American communities. Jim certainly was a lifelong Gael and he certainly cherished his native games. He definitely walked the walk when it came to fostering native games and promoting the finest aspects of Irish culture.

I enjoyed meeting the late Jim at Gaelic Park over the years and especially the good natured banter about all the great Kerry men who were playing with Leitrim. As long as the Kerry chaps were playing well, Jim was proud that they had originated from the Kingdom.

The New York Minor Board today is fifteen clubs strong and that is due to people like the late Jim and others, who had the vision and the wisdom to promote the game on  American soil.



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