Last week, after a particularly painful drubbing at the hands of the visiting Donegal team at Gaelic Park, the New York GAA’s board of officers held an emergency meeting to decide the future of its All-Ireland football team. Had the meeting been held a few hours instead of a few days after the game, the GAA might well have decided that one embarrassment per season is quite enough and pulled out of next month’s scheduled clash against Galway in the Connaght Championship. But the passing of time brought perspective. In the end, good sense prevailed. Out of what many had anticipated would be a heated meeting came a firm recommitment to the task at hand. Bring on Galway.
The GAA is to be applauded for its decision. It had expended a great deal of time and energy over the years in making All-Ireland competition a reality for New York’s Gaelic sportsmen. It would have been a shame to risk throwing it all away on the basis of one loss, no matter how resounding.
This is not to dismiss the very real difficulties manager Frank Brady has faced in putting together a competitive team. Players have been injured. Some have had to beg off because of job commitments. Others have returned to Ireland in hopes of grabbing a slice of the Celtic Tiger pie. Despite an impressive minor program, the fact remains that without a steady influx of newcomers, these hardships for New York are likely to get worse before they get better. But are they reason enough for self-disqualification from Ireland’s premier sporting showcase?
The GAA’s decision shows a healthy respect for the challenges of high-level competition. Good teams simply don’t give up when the going gets tough. This may not be New York’s year to win, but it can be the year to prove that success isn’t measured in the victory column alone. Heart, commitment and determination are as much a part of the soul of sports.