By Pierce O’Reilly
Top GAA officials in Ireland never had as much interest in GAA affairs in the Big Apple as they have today. In fact, it sometimes seems that if New York sneezes, Croke Park gets a cold.
Last week, we reported how the parent organization were mystified with a bylaw in New York — this week we hear that the rule is going to be abolished. Intercounty stars who grace the hardened sod at Gaelic Park last year will now become free agents for the upcoming season. I doubt if Maurice Fitzgerald or Mike Frank Russell will ever line out for Cork or even Donegal, but there will be some players who will be enticed by the fat carrot put before them in the next few months.
The rule regarding County stars remaining the property of the same New York club for the following year was introduced so some loyalty would be shown to the New York club and to prevent County stars from switching among teams at will.
Florida 7’s a success
Star-studded St. Pat’s of Florida and Tyrone of New York went head to head in an epic battle for the top prize in the Fort Lauderdale seven-a-side competition run at the weekend, with St. Pat’s prevailing.
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While New York and other East Coast cities were still suffering from the cold, the GAA players who headed to Florida were baking in the sun. This really was a majestic setting for a football tournament. The final played on Sunday in sweltering sun was a classic. St. Pat’s were tested in the semifinal by Donegal of New York and had just three points to spare at the end of the game. It finished 4-6 to 3-6.
In the second semifinal Westmeath of New York and Tyrone went head to head. What a treat was in store of the supporters who fought to keep the sun out of their eyes while they sipped from martinis and cocktails.
This is the first time that John Moore has come face to face with his alma mater. It was a very physical game with both sides eager to get the upper hand. The "grudge match," as one GAA fan called it, was played at a hectic pace. Tyrone, with the Sloans and Kieran Ryan in fine form, pulled clear in the second half and ran out easy victors on a scoreline of 2-9 to 1-1. The Ulster men, however, did lose their star defender, Martin Slowey, to an ankle injury.
In the final, Tyrone had most of the play in the opening half but failed to hit the target from close range. Goals are vital in seven’s competition, and when St. Pat’s struck, they rarely missed the onion bag. Tyrone, with the Sloans and Cormican on fire, hit seven points in the opening half. Their only flaw was in defense, where Armagh’s Marsden was dancing jigs around them every time he received the ball. Gormley and McConville were also dangerous and as the halftime approached, they struck for two excellent goals that left the halftime score at 3-3 to 0-7.
Tyrone had the opening score of the second half, but Gormley and Maurice Connaughton replied with two good points for St. Pat’s. Marsden, however, was unstoppable and a minute later he had the ball once again in the Tyrone net. Tyrone fought to the bitter end with points from play from Sloan and Ryan in quick succession, but the temperature of 85 degrees and the humid conditions finally took its toll on the players. Two late goals for Tyrone, one of them coming from the boot of Westmeath senior Kieran Ryan from a penalty, narrowed the gap to just three points and 5 minutes still to play. Time, however, ran out, with Boston referee Mary Kilcullen calling full time with the players exhausted after their 100 percent efforts. It finished 4-11 to 3-11 for the Florida side and will live long as one of the best finals in this competition for some time.
In the women’s final, Cavan won their fourth successive title, beating close rivals and neighbors Meath. The halftime score had the Midlanders in front with Gillain Bennet pulling all the strings up front. Cavan, however, had their own hero in Rosie O’Reilly, who caused all sorts of problems for the Meath defense. Meath led at halftime by 2-2 to 0-2 after Bennett hitting the target on the stroke of halftime for goal number two. Cavan, like true champions, failed to lie down and with O’Reilly leading the way they pulled ahead in the second half to finish in front 5-1 to 2-5. The trophy was presented to the Cavan captain and after winning it for the fourth successive year, the Breffini girls can now hold onto it.
The unsung heroes of the competition were the members of the Ottawa football team who had seven French Canadians playing on the team. They almost made history while playing the St. Brendan’s team from Chicago on Saturday. In the final minutes, they had a last-gasp effort to win the game only to see their goal-bound shot come back of the upright denying them victory.
Kildare star Niall Buckley was at midfield for the Chicago outfit. Galway native Pat Kelly, the Ottawa manager, said he can’t understand why more Irish-American kids aren’t making the breakthrough in New York, Boston and Chicago.
Glowing tribute was paid to Liam McKenna for organizing another magnificent festival of football while credit is also due to Clem McCawley, Harry Henderson and Seamus Connaughton founder of the St. Pat’s club.
Drafts are daft
Many avid New York GAA supporters feel that with transfers, sanctions and this coming week’s drafts — it’s almost impossible to keep an eye on all the players moving between clubs in the Big Apple.
"It’s a complete joke, all this movement of players," one supporter said at last week’s meeting. At present, there is little if any loyality to clubs or counties with such easy access to move if things don’t work out.
GAA VP Liam Birmingham said it’s something that will have to be reviewed next year. A total of 83 transfers came before the board on opening night and it’s expected that twice that figure will be involved with the drafts this coming Thursday night.
Bigger pockets means bigger names
The GAA at home has announced that an Executive Committee, which will conduct the day-to-day management of Croke Park, has been appointed. In many ways it’s similar to Monty Moloney’s Supporters Club members, who are meeting for the first time this week.
The new committee in Ireland includes Paddy Wright, businessman and current chairman of the RTE Authority; Hugh Cawley, former general manager of AIB; David Mackey, former Cavan County manager and director of the Quinn Group; Peter Quinn, financial consultant and former president of the GAA; Seán McCague, president of the GAA, and Liam Mulvihill, director general, stadium manager and stadium financial controller.
GAA president in New York Moloney has his own heavies in the supporters club. They include bar owner Danny Doohan, restaurant owner John Burke, and financier Donal Gallagher, to mention a few.
"My players performed like homosexuals and lost 4-0. Twice."
Greece coach Alketas Panagouilas at USA ’94.
"And they’ve just kicked off . . . welcome to our live coverage from Bologna of San Marino v. England sponsored by Budweiser Beer and England are one down."
Jonathan Pearce (BBC radio commentator) on Gualtiere’s nine-second goal for the San Marinese against England in 1993.
"He should go back to his news agency!"
John Giles on German defender Stefan Reuter, who had just given away a penalty against the CIS in Euro ’92.