Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Date in the Bronx just as important as those in London in spreading gospel

So, the race for the All-Ireland football Championship began once again in that most mystical of GAA venues; The Bronx.

And all the usual storylines were there.

Kevin McGeeney led the attack, a cousin of Kieran. The father and son combination of Connie and CJ Molloy who will always be as much Ardara as NYC.

Leitrim beat them, and not only beat them but crushed them, 4-19 to 0-7. And on that signal, the Twittisphere went into overdrive with calls for New York's participation in the Connacht Championship to cease immediately.

From a New York perspective, if there is a team you want coming over, it would be Leitrim. The last time they met each other was 2008 and only two players from Leitrim are still playing, given their permanent struggles with keeping players in an economical backwater.

In facing London in recent times, they have also struggled but over the weekend, they enjoyed the novelty of pouring pain on the opposition.

New York's problem is their isolation. They form a panel at the start of the year and play nobody. They have no league matches and it's difficult to convince anyone in Boston to round up a team so they can have some class of a challenge match.

Yet who will ever forget two years ago when a late John Donnellan free-kick rescued Galway from certain defeat – pushing the tie into extra-time and an eventual win?

It's not enough to see New York's place in the GAA world on competitive or commercial terms. To many Irish, the city represents a refuge from harrowing prospects for generations.

Money sent home from emigrants kept the country afloat in difficult times, while they huddled together in their own communities and brought their own culture with them in the GAA.

Now that the offspring of the diaspora are being encouraged to pay Ireland a visit in the ludicrous 'The Gathering' – which seems to have been conceived as a means of dipping into the pockets of Irish-Americans – it seems some would cite financial cost as a reason to throw the Gaels of New York off the carousel.

The actor Gabriel Byrne has described that particular exercise in cynicism as a 'sham' and a 'shakedown', although he has tempered it in recent times. A pity, because he nailed it with those withering comments.

Those that spread their GAA in New York need their date in the calendar, just as the evangelists in London also do.

Which is why the GAA, in refusing to sanction two friendlies that London had pencilled in for next weekend, are guilty of one of the most pathetic and distasteful acts of bureaucracy in recent years, committed against a dedicated and hard-working group of their own members.

If 'The Gathering' turns out to be rather less than the life-raft the Irish government are expecting it to be, then hopefully somebody will alert them to the fact that the diaspora is more than something to be shamelessly milked.

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