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New York women seek Gaelic Park presence

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Pierce O’Reilly

Some members of the New York Ladies GAA are outraged with what they say is a lack of support from GAA president Monty Moloney. They have sent a clear message to Moloney this week — demanding equal rights and access to Gaelic Park for the upcoming season. The women’s association, which has grown in strength and numbers over the last five years, claim Moloney is only paying them lip service and doesn’t recognize the importance or the influence of the women footballers.

"If it takes boycotting Gaelic Park every Sunday then we’ll do it," LGAA stalwart Rosie O’Reilly said this week. "We’re established now almost 10 years and we feel it’s time we got treated with some respect."

The chairperson of the LGAA, Ann Holland, said she would be requesting a meeting with the president and the board of officers soon to discuss the matter further and, hopefully, it would result it a better deal for the women.

"I’m confident that things will work out and that communication lines will remain open," Holland said. "We’re eager to promote both codes and if we work together it will benefit both organizations."

O’Reilly, however, who is the chairperson of the women’s scheduling committee, was much stronger in her criticism.

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"We have nine teams playing ladies Gaelic football in New York with over 300 members and yet we only get to play in Gaelic Park twice a year," she said. "That’s outrageous."

The women took center stage at the GAA headquarters in the Bronx last year on just three occasions. They graced the hardened sod of Gaelic Park for the Annie Kearney league final in early summer when champions Cavan held too many aces for an up and coming Mayo side in a very exciting final. The same women were back for the championship final when the Breffni ladies once again came out on top and retained the Sean Faherty Cup for the seventh successive time. The final appearance at Gaelic Park was for their championship clash with Down when a packed house turned up to support the home side.

On each of those occasions, the GAA had bumper gate receipts, with more than 1,000 patrons turning up to view the quality football on show.

"Everything will be brought out in the open when we meet," Holland said. "We’ve always being there to support the lads, so I think they’ll come on board now and help us develop further by getting better access to showcase our games at Gaelic Park."

More than anything else, the women’s association were outraged that Monty Moloney failed to recognize their presence and importance at the annual GAA Banquet last month. GAA VP from Ireland Sean Kelly was in attendance and the women claim Moloney sold them a dummie by not mentioning their existence when he spoke at the podium.

"It’s just not good enough," O’Reilly said "Our association is getting stronger every year and it’s about time we had some representation at the top table."

GAA president Moloney said he had no problem meeting with the women. However, he stated clearly that he was under severe pressure already from junior clubs and the minor board to play at Gaelic Park and that as members of the parent organization, he has an obligation to facilitate them first.

"The woman have their own board, their own bylaws, their own agenda and their own president, so why should I help them out?" Moloney said. "To be honest, I think they’re getting a fair crack of the whip right now. I get calls every week from clubs that have never played at Gaelic Park, like New Haven, and to be honest, they have as much a right to complain as do the woman. While I’m here, they’ll get preference."

The New York LGAA senior footballers however have received national recognition in the last few years with their spirited performances in the All-Ireland Junior championship. Last July, they were defeated by Down in the championship — after a titanic revival in the second half. Down went on to win the All-Ireland crown at Croke Park a month later and many followers of the game stateside feel New York will soon sip from the coveted cup and be in a stronger position than ever to preach to all those below them.

The New York LGAA was set up in 1991 when eight dedicated supporters came together in the Riverdale Steak House to sow the seeds that are now flourishing all around the Big Apple. In 1994, the women went on a tour of Ireland, where they played four challenge games against recognized opposition. In 1995, they entered the Ladies Junior Championship for the first time only to be defeated by Tyrone by one point. In 1997, they played Roscommon, and, in 1998, they played Longford. In 1999, they made the breakthrough to the All-Ireland final after defeating Waterford in the semifinal. Things didn’t work out at Croke Park in the final and they failed to compete with the more accomplished Tyrone side. In 2000, Down traveled to Gaelic Park and were lucky to survive.

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