By Mike Fitzpatrick
On May 30, 1999 the New York Gaelic games world will witness one of the most historic events encountered in its long and colorful existence. For the first time in Irish sporting history, a team representing New York will travel to Ireland to take part in the highly competitive contest that is the All Ireland Football Championship.
Beginning in May, the New York side will commence upon their first-ever challenge for the sought after Sam Maguire in what promises to be a highly anticipated clash with the Connaught side Mayo in the Provincial Championship. If successful in defeating Mayo, the New York side will face the winners of the Leitrim vs. Roscommon tie. This exciting new departure for New York football is due in no small part to the tireless efforts of New York GAA President Monty Maloney and his lieutenant, John Moore.
Both men have been heavily involved in talks with the GAA’s Executive Council in Dublin, who themselves have appeared genuinely content and even a little pleasantly surprised at how efficiently the New York GAA set up has been running in recent times. Maloney himself is obviously excited about the prospect of a New York side battling for the All Ireland, claiming that this event "is clearly the medicine needed to cure the ills suffered by the New York GAA," and is exactly the tonic required for the association’s arrival into the new millennium.
Leading up to the momentous championship battle, the New York side will face two fixtures vs. an Irish Army selection in a Cup series, which will be based on an aggregate score system. These games will prove to be a stern challenge for New York, as the Army panel contains numerous intercounty players, including four of the championship runners-up team, Kildare.
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Players will be selected for the New York side by an as yet unnamed three-man committee. Those wishing to qualify for interview must contact the GAA secretary, Liam Bermingham, before Friday, Nov. 20, at (914) 237-2586.
The interview process will begin immediately once all the nominations are received.
Unlike in years past, the manager and selectors will not be chosen by a vote of the delegates but by the GAA board based on their qualifications to select, train and manage an intercounty team.
"Every county board in Ireland has gone this way and there’s a reason for that," Maloney said. "People often tended to get elected to a job they couldn’t handle. We have to make absolutely sure we choose the best people for the job.
"We’re not in control when it goes to an election. People should be interviewed and questioned. A lot of people in New York have come around to this way of thinking."
The decision, reached at last Thursday’s meeting, must be ratified at Convention in February. But with selecting a team the most pressing matter facing the GAA, Maloney has pushed ahead with what he says is widespread support within the organization.
John Moore, the New York board’s vice president, said he hopes to have the manager in place almost immediately and to identify those who will vie for spots on the team by Christmas. Including time allocated for traveling to training sessions, he said players can expect to make a commitment of four to five hours a day, two to three days per week through May and possibly beyond.
By March, or April at the latest, the 40 to 50 hopefuls will be narrowed down to the 21-man panel.
"Force to be reckoned with"
Maloney is 100 percent committed to the cause of New York football aiming to do "whatever I can to promote the New York team," and considers this foray toward the All Ireland to be "the first step in building a huge future for New York football as a force to be reckoned with."
Though this step may surprise many people, Maloney said he feels that it is a thoroughly deserved reward from the Dublin Council for a job well done in New York And even though the GAA in New York, its participants in the championships and its fanatical support are all excited about the venture in Ireland, Maloney admits that it will be a major financial undertaking and hopes to have Budweiser on board once more as a potential sponsor.
Maloney seems happy with the relationship between the Executive Board in Dublin and the New York committee, stating that the coupling is on a par with any of the 32 counties in relationship toward the Irish board.
The most pressing concern on Maloney’s mind and indeed the minds of his colleagues seems to be the future of N.Y. football and the hopeful enticement of many more younger players to the game. The attraction of All Ireland football could well be a deciding factor in the decision making of young sportsmen concerning which sport to plump for.
Which brings us to Mayo. Maloney reckons that the Mayo game will prove to be a good draw. Considering the fact that more is known about the Mayo side than either Leitrim or Roscommon, New York could prove to be a handful versus this promising side. "New York means business," claims Monty Maloney "and when May 30 arrives, let’s make it heavy on the Mayo side."