Galway natives in the tri-state area, Irish Americans with ties to the City of Tribes, and folks with little or no connection to the Connacht county take note – Galway’s GAA club has just returned to the New York GAA.
The ultimate aim is to field competitive teams across multiple disciplines and be a welcoming home for all who wish to celebrate Galway and/or Irish pride.
At a meeting last month in Yonkers attended by more than 40 native Galwegians and others interested in having the dormant club be a force in New York again, a slate of officers was elected and Galway will once again compete in New York GAA football with a Junior B team in 2023, the first time the county has fielded a football side since folding in 2005.
The goal is to have a hurling team up and running the year after, eventually a ladies side, and just as important, a social aspect for those who have never kicked a football or lifted a hurley.
Patrick Cunningham, a native of Cortoon, Co Galway, and the public relations officer for the new Galway Football & Hurling Club New York, told the Irish Voice, sister publication to IrishCentral, that efforts to re-create the club have been underway for several months, led by the old guard who was involved in the prior Galway football and hurling sides, and newer recruits who wanted to jumpstart their county’s presence in New York.
“Some of us would have seen the last Galway hurling team play here,” said Cunningham of the side that folded in 2016. “And some of our members are at the end of their playing careers now but want to stay involved and rejuvenate the Galway team.
“We probably would have gotten started in 2020, when Galway were due to face New York in the Connacht Championship, but Covid pushed back that plan.”
The previous Galway sides were New York GAA mainstays for several years, but the same few core officers were carrying out the administrative work without others stepping up to the plate. The workload became too much and the clubs eventually disbanded – Galway hasn’t fielded a football side in New York since 2005.
“We have a solid mix of enthusiastic members now and it won’t be left to one or two people to do most of the work,” said Cunningham, who works as an engineer and is approaching eight years living in New York.
The new club is well aware that in order to survive its tent will have to welcome a variety of members, chief among them Irish Americans given the lack of emigration from Ireland to the US.
“It’s not like times in the past where you can live off people coming out from home. We are absolutely happy to welcome Irish Americans,” says Cunningham.
“They will be the bulk of the club going forward. You look at clubs like St. Barnabas and Rangers and how strong they are with their American members. That’s what we’d like to be.”
Galway has more than enough players to field a Junior B football side for 2023. Going forward, the club hopes to attract more members who played in the New York Minor Board and left for a number of reasons – college, work – but would like to reconnect.
There are several players either from Galway or with connections to the county already active in the New York GAA, but Cunningham says the new club side isn’t looking to poach recruits.
“There are a pool of players scattered from novice all the way up. If you are a Galway player who has been with Sligo for the past 10 years, we don’t expect you to drop Sligo. But if any players want to get involved with our committee and get to know who we are, we would welcome that,” he adds.
“It’s all about making connections, and I think that’s as important as anything.”
Women will play a pivotal part in the Galway club going forward. Two of the top four administrative posts, secretary and treasurer, are filled by Maeve Treacy and Sarah Varley, and Cunningham says the goal is to eventually have a ladies side up and running.
“The ideal scenario is you have men’s, you have ladies, you ultimately have underage. It’s not going to happen overnight but it’s a long-term goal. Maeve and Sarah are two of the main drivers of the club.”
The response to the re-formation of the Galway club has been heartening, Cunningham says, with interest spreading across the tri-state area and the Poconos in Pennsylvania. Facebook and Instagram have driven the publicity; so too has old-fashioned PR like hanging posters in local Irish establishments. Another elected club officer is Johnny Glynn, winner of an All-Ireland senior hurling medal with Galway in 2017.
For those who aren’t from Galway and don’t have any connections to the county? They’ll be welcome as well.
“We are a club for everyone. If you are someone who is at home in Ireland or you are here, we want you to be a part of it,” says Cunningham.
*This column first appeared in the November 16 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.