Maloney’s abrupt announcement was met with stunned silence and, when no punchline followed, respectful applause.
Just below the sonar could also be detected a scrambling sound as candidates
discreetly began nudging opponents, real and imagined, out of their path.
Maloney, who first won election in December 1997, does not intend to divorce himself entirely from the organization and he said later that he expects to continue to lead New York GAA’s effort to secure a new home on Randalls Island. That effort was one of the main reasons Maloney gave for his decision to step aside.
After several delays, the Request For Proposal on the Randalls Island project is expected to be issued in the coming weeks, at which point the association’s proposal will be submitted.
Once that happens, Maloney expects the next six months to be crucial and, he said, “the amount of work to be monumental.” He intends to do that work in his position as chairman of the New York GAA Sports Corporation, a legally incorporated body established to see this project through. The board of directors also includes John Moore, Donal Gallagher, Paul Tuffy, Liam Bermingham, and Kieran O’Sullivan.
The corporation was established in order to protect the Randalls Island plan from the vagaries of NYGAA politics.
The process of winning the hearts and minds of the association’s membership begins in earnest on election day — Sunday, Dec. 8 — when the corporation’s lawyers will be on hand at Gaelic Park to lay it all out for the delegates and to answer any questions.
For decades the GAA has played at Gaelic Park in the Bronx, a city-owned facility that is leased to Manhattan College. The GAA, as a tenant, has little say in the upkeep of the park. The Manhattan has done some refurbishing since taking over the lease in the 1990s, the playing pitch continues to be below par. It is hoped that building a new stadium on city-owned Randalls Island will give the association more control over its facilities.
In Maloney’s five years at the helm of the association, he came to be seen as the face of the organization both at home and abroad. He took over as something of a law-and-order candidate, determined to clean up the association’s rogue reputation. That effort was largely successful before some unfortunate backsliding this season.
Maloney addressed that at Thursday night’s meeting, when he mentioned Kerry players hiding from the camera’s before the football final. He later told the Echo that he believed his two-month sabbatical from GAA affairs this summer contributed to a relaxing of the rules.
At the top of any list of New York GAA highlights in the Maloney era is the participation of the New York football and hurling teams in the All-Ireland Championship.
“When I said that we would get into the Championship, they said it couldn’t be done,” Maloney said last week. “When I said we’d get the Championship over here, they said, ‘no way.’ Well, we got it done.”
Only the result was wrong for New York on that beautiful May afternoon as the home team gave Sligo all they could handle in a thrilling Connaught Championship match in the Bronx. Gaelic Park was polished to a high gloss and packed with its biggest crowd in at least a decade. The pitch was in brilliant condition on that fine spring day, but by the time Donegal and Kerry lined out for the senior football final five months later, that lush green carpet was a bittersweet memory. In its place was a brown patch, that Maloney rightly termed a “disgrace.”
The condition of that field and the New York GAA’s lack of control over it, as tenants, is in large part the driving force behind the Randall’s Island bid.
Maloney leaves no doubt as to his determination to make this project happen.
“The only way this won’t happen is if I die,” he said
The two most likely candidates seeking to replace Maloney are Liam Bermingham (Kildare) and Kieran O’Sullivan (Limerick). Veteran campaigners Seamus Dooley and former President Terry Connaughton have been rumored as possibilities, although they may prefer to operate behind the scenes in kingmaker roles. It will all become clear on Thursday, Nov. 21, when nominations are due. The election itself is slated for Sunday, Dec. 8. Clubs must submit their delegates on Nov. 11 and they may not be changed after that.