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Roscommon snub angers N.Y. GAA

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Pierce O’Reilly

New York GAA officials are outraged with the decision by Roscommon GAA executive members to reject an all-expenses-paid trip to the city for the upcoming Connacht Senior Football clash with the home side.

Roscommon officials rejected unanimously the New York offer, stating that they didn’t have adequate time to plan their trip to play the scheduled May 19 game. Chairman Steven Banahan told the Echo that the officers discussed the issue for three and a half hours before making a decision.

"We don’t have enough time to organize the game in New York," Banahan said. "We have six guys doing exams the first week of May and they can’t get the time off to travel. Other players have serious problems getting off work, so we decided not to accept the offer."

Roscommon would have become the first team to travel to New York to play the exiles on their home ground at Gaelic Park in the Bronx. The New York clash was billed as vital to the development of the foreign game on this side of the Atlantic and media interest had grown in the last few weeks, with GAA supporters all over believing that New York were deserving of the home tie. Officers of the Connacht Council had approved the trip a week ago but said that the Roscommon board would have the final say.

New York president Monty Maloney said he had bent over backward in trying to get the fixture to Gaelic Park.

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"I’m disgusted by their decision," he said. "It’s obvious they’re afraid they’ll get beaten out here. We’ve traveled to Ireland for the past two years to play Mayo and Galway and it’s disheartening to be treated in this way."

The New Yorkers lost in the first round on both occasions they traveled to Ireland. However, their spirited displace last year against 1998 All-Ireland champions Galway was noted by many of the harshest GAA critics.

A home game would also have allowed New York the opportunity to put out its best possible team. In recent years, many top players have been unwilling to travel due to immigrant fears and difficulty in getting time off from work.

The New York board was willing to foot the estimated $30,000 bill it would have cost to bring Roscommon to the Big Apple..

Maloney said he now has reservations about playing the game in Ireland.

"I’m seriously considering pulling out of this year’s competition right now," he said. "We stated clearly before the draw was made that if our opponents weren’t willing to travel, then we didn’t want to participate. It hurts me to think that Roscommon rejected our all-expenses-trip to switch the game from Dr. Hyde Park to Gaelic Park, New York.

"All we are getting is lip service and it’s not good enough for me. All we are asking for is fair play. We have put out necks on the line in each of the last two years and it disgusts me to see we’re getting nothing in return."

The Connacht Council cleared the way for Roscommon to accept the New York offer by agreeing that, in the future, each of the five counties could travel to the U.S. on a rotating basis. In addition, it gave permission for John Tobin’s Roscommon men to play the game two weeks earlier than scheduled, to give the team a full four weeks to recover before their next match.

Roscommon’s Banahan told the Echo on Tuesday that he could understand the disappointment of the New York board but noted that it just wasn’t possible to play the fixture here this year.

"London traveled to Ireland for seven years before any team went to the UK to play, so I think that New York are getting a fair crack of the whip," he said. "We have no problem traveling in 2002, but it’s a no go this time around."

New York GAA officials will discuss the matter further at their weekly meeting on Thursday, but they did confirm that the game will not now go ahead unless certain criteria are met.

"We want to get the rotation idea written in stone before we go home, and we are demanding that the game be played at a neutral venue," Maloney said.

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