By Pierce O’Reilly
Boston GAA officials are planning to join New York in the Connacht championship in the next few years in an-all out effort to further improve the image of the exiles game in the New England area.
The message from the North American County Board’s Northeast Division’s annual general meeting last Sunday was clear — to improve they must compete against the top teams.
At present, the game is alive and in good health in the Boston area, with more than 24 teams entering different competition each season in Canton, Mass. Their AGM attracted more than 150 delegates, who are now focused in their approach and very eager to compete at the highest levels.
Re-elected Chairman John McDevitt said that he would be in contact with New York President Monty Maloney later in the year to discuss the issue further.
"I think it’s time Boston and New York worked together," he said. "People everywhere would like to see a U.S. final between the two rival cities and then let the victors head for the Connacht Championship."
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The general camaraderie and cooperation within the board in Boston was also very evident on Sunday with only four new faces being added to the leadership panel for the upcoming year. They were Richard Moxley, Oliver Briody and Bernie Connaughton, with Donegal man Pat Callaghan being elected as honorary president.
Boston PRO Connie Kelly said that 2000 was one of the best years ever for the GAA in the New England area.
"So much was achieved, with three beautiful playing fields and top-class facilities at the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton. It was really was a dream come true," he said.
Boston officials will be traveling to the GAA Congress in Ireland later this spring to entice intercounty teams and traveling tours to use the state-of-the-art facilities now near the Beantown.
"Our next step is to attract the top teams here," Kelly said.
It’s also expected that the Irish delegates will discuss the possibility of entering the Connacht championship following in the footsteps of New York and London.
"We’ve big plans and idea’s up here and for once we’ve got unilateral support," Kelly said. "If we’re to improve and develop, we have to compete and that means with the big boys."
On the floor last Sunday, McDevitt had led supporters to believe that he "had enough" with his last term as chairman and that new blood would be required for the pole position. However, it transpired on the night that the Donegal native changed his mind and wanted another term at the top table. He contested the chair with well-known Connemara Gaels official Joe Lydon. Delegates showed their loyalty and support for McDevitt and returned him for another term on a vote of 40 to 16.
Pat Mulvihill takes over as vice chairman from Pat Bligh after defeating Martin Keane and Michael Grealish in a three-way race. The votes went as follows: Mulvihill 34, Grealis 8 and Keane 14. All other officers were returned unopposed. Richard Moxley and Oliver Briody replace Martin Keane and Pat Mulvihill as trustees.
Boston hosted a successful North American finals in September and in November hosted two visiting teams from Ireland.
Chairman McDevitt told delegates that the future for the game in New England is very bright. "All the clubs will benefit further this year," he said. He also made it clear that the board was going to come down hard on anyone abusing referees, linesmen or officials.
Other GAA news
A motion was passed that the board would hold a $100 draw on April 30 to defray the cost of traveling to San Diego for the playoffs in September 2001.
A Mass for deceased members will be held March 11 at noon at the Irish Cultural Centre.
A benefit dance for Brendan Harrington, a dual player with Cork, will be held on Feb. 24 at the Twelve Bens in Dorchester. The new board will hold their first meeting at The Boyne Pub in Brighton on Feb. 22 at 8 p.m.
The Northeast Board Officers: honorary president, Pat Callaghan; chairman, John McDevitt; vice chairman, Pat Mulvihill; secretary, Ann O’Dea; assistant secretary, Tara McManus; treasurer, Connie McEleheny; assistant treasurer, Martin Gallagher; registrar, Michael Coyne; public relations, Connie Kelly; trustees, Oliver Briody, Michael Grealish, Richard Moxley; youth officer, Bernie Connoughton.
A special tribute and award was presented to Bridie Joyce, who has been one of the most loyal GAA supporters in Boston for the last 10 years.