By Pierce O’Reilly
New York delegates packed into the Landsdowne last Thursday night for one of the most important GAA meetings of the season. Both the junior and senior structures were put in place for the upcoming season and several new changes will be in place in both grades.
The junior meeting, chaired by Ned Kelly, was a constructive one, with several delegates offering proposals, opinions and ideas before a final decision was agreed upon.
The junior division will now consist of two grades for 2001. The Junior "A" section will contain eight teams who will play for the John F Kennedy Cup. The teams listed are Armagh, Celtics, Down, Donegal, Fermanagh, Kerry, Sligo and Tyrone.
The second grade of teams will play in the Junior "B" division, which has three subsections that were drawn openly. Section 1 includes the following teams: Rockland, Monaghan, Rangers, Westmeath, St. Raymond’s, Derry and Meath. Section 2 has six teams. They include Offaly, Galway, Cavan, St. Barnabas, Brooklyn and New Haven. Section 3 also has six teams: Long Island Gaels, Dublin, Stamford, Roscommon, Astoria and Mayo.
The playoffs will include the top three teams from Section 1 with the top two qualifing from Section 2 and 3. The third-placed team in Section 2 and the third-placed team in Section 3 will playoff to make up the final quarterfinal position.
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The structure for the senior division is similar to last season, with nine teams in Division "A" and eight in "B". Tyrone, Kerry, Rockland, Donegal, Westmeath, Cavan, Leitrim, Stamford and Sligo will all contest the top division. While Cork, Roscommon, Monaghan, Offaly, Mayo, Clare, Rangers and Longford will make up the "B" division.
The top two teams from "A" go straight into the championship semifinals, while the third- and fourth-placed teams in "A" and the top two teams in "B" will play for the final two semifinal places. A further change to the "B" division is that the top four teams will now contest the "B" championship final.
A proposal from Pat Kiely to make three sections out of the senior division received a lot of debate, but it failed to match the more slim-line and familiar proposal from the Longford club.
The big issue before GAA delegates last Thursday night was the transfer of players between clubs. While almost 100 names passed through the hands of Paddy Gormley, only a handful were of interest to the neutral GAA fan.
It surprised few that the new Tyrone manager, John Moore, had Mullingar star Kieran Ryan on his list after the fallout following Moore’s departure from the Westmeath club earlier this year. Ryan, who is one of the best footballers in town, will be a huge addition to the Ulster men for the upcoming season.
The requested transfer of Longford stalwart Kevin Lilly to Donegal did raise a few eyebrows after his name was read out. Lilly has lined out on almost every New York team in the last decade and is without a doubt the best Irish-American player at Gaelic Park. It was rumored for some time that Sligo native Enda Henry was unhappy at the Yeats county and his proposed transfer to Westmeath will definitely soften the blow for Ryan’s departure.
Donegal midfielder Gary Dowd has also featured on most successful Donegal teams in the last few years and it seemed strange that he is now about to turn his back on his clubmates that were so successful last season. Dowd is listed to transfer to Westmeath.
In the last few years, there has been a host of hurlers switching clubs in New York, but on this occasion the hurlers were relatively silent. Waterford and New York wingback Fintan O’Shea is about to switch to Connecticut State, while Ian Duggan of Tipperary is set to go to the Deises.
The new kids on the block, the Derry football team, really stole the show on Thursday and obviously did a lot of homework in the last few weeks. It appears the Ulster men mean business in their first season and have already lined up the services of Clare’s Gary Rocks and Dermot Boylan.
Others on the transfer list were Leitrim’s Mike Murphy, moving to Rockland; Donegal’s Keith Murray, moving to Leitrim, and Celtic’s Kieran Traynor, switching to Westmeath.
The second reading of the transfers will take place this Thursday night, while the drafts — players that can play both senior and junior — will also be read out at next weeks meeting.
President Monty Moloney told the delegates that the first outing of the new supporters club will take place April 21 with a major fund-raising drive for the New York county teams at Unionvale Irish Golf course.
"I hope this will become an annual event and that every club and county association will help out," he said.
The New York board also have plans to run a Night at the Races later next month.
Moloney also told delegates that he would be meeting with Boston GAA chairman John McDevitt in the next few months to further discuss the prospect of developing links between the two cities.
"Boston are our nearest neighbors and we should be willing to help them out whenever possible," Moloney said. "I think it’s time we organized some kind of competition or challenge between the two rival cities."