Afterward, an emotional Bermingham spoke of wanting to come to New York “even as a kid in Kildare.”
“I used to hear games from Gaelic Park on the radio,” he recalled, “and I consider this a tremendous honor.”
Bermingham, who has served as recording secretary and vice president of the GAA, has also represented New York at the GAA Congress in Dublin. He acknowledged the difficult task he faces in replacing Maloney, but he thanked his supporters and called for unity as well as congratulating his opponent.
Long-serving NYGAA official Seamus Dooley, who handily won his race for first vice president, 83 to 19 over Dermot Mulholland, joined Bermingham on a victory platform. This victory nicely caps Dooley’s year, having seen his Monaghan men capture the New York Senior B title this season.
Bermingham campaigned on a platform of overhauling the organization. He proposes setting up three committees to tackle what he believes are serious problem areas: a Field Committee, a Communications Committee, and a Disciplinary Committee. Bermingham also vowed to crackdown on illegal players. “We have to have a zero-tolerance policy, and it has to start from the first day of the season,” he said a week before Sunday’s vote, vowing to eliminate what he called a “culture of cheating.”
Bermingham also favors a potentially controversial, if highly unlikely, elimination of all weekend players. While he has no problem with sanctioned players, who sign on with a club for up to 60 days, Bermingham believes that “the rich are getting richer,” in the race for top-notch weekenders.
Focus on Randalls Island
Sunday’s election was almost overshadowed by the Randalls Island presentation that followed. After congratulating Bermingham and Dooley, outgoing president Monty Maloney implored the delegates to get behind the Randalls Island project.
“We are still the strongest Irish organization in this country,” Maloney said. “We can do anything we want, if we want to.”
Before introducing the lawyers and business experts hired to advise the NYGAA on Randall’s Island, Maloney said, and “sometimes the biggest risk is to take no risk.” Maloney conceded that “yes, this is a risk,” but he added, “we will have a field, with a fence around it in two years.”
Maloney then introduced four speakers, who laid out plans to the delegates before the floor was opened for questions. Attorneys Richard Blank and Robert Greener and business advisors Lenny Harris and Bill Sherman were available for questions after Blank, Greener and Harris addressed the group.
Perhaps the memory of other meetings kicking off previous ambitious plans, such as the Tara Circle and Ferry Point Park, have not yet faded because the questions were pointed. Most concerns centered on the NYGAA control of the facility once it opens, and finances. The speakers put forward a plan that would include two stadiums, the larger seating 5,000 to 10,000 people, a cultural center, a pub, and various other “revenue streams.”
In order to raise the $40 million price tag, a for-profit corporation is being set up of which the NYGAA, a non-profit organization, will be a part. The for-profit organization, not the GAA, would run the facility at Randalls Island, a distinction that some delegates found disturbing.
Blank and Greener contended that the Request for Proposal recently put out by the New York City Parks Department specifically protects the NYGAA’s right to run the facility. However, many remained unswayed.
Greener and Blank told The Irish Echo after the meeting that the NYGAA’s response to the RFP would be completed in the next few weeks.
Greener emphasized that the initial outlay would be more in the $3 million-$5 million range and that the project will unfold over time. That would bring a field as well as “breaking ground and laying the foundations for the whole project,” according to Greener.
A delegation from the NYGAA will be heading to Dublin on Thursday to meet with the Irish GAA in search of “help with our financial support,” and Blank put it, “to bring in the bigger picture.”
President-elect Bermingham understands the cautious approach some New York Gaels are adopting. “Obviously, there is a sense of skepticism,” he said. “In the last 15 years we’ve been involved in two ventures and they were doomed to failure. He pointed out that Briarcliff Manor and Ferry Point Park failed because of community opposition, in Briarcliff’s case, and a poor location in Ferry Point Park.
“We have 100 years of failure toward owning our own place to overcome and we have to address that,” he said.