This year marks 100 years of the Gaelic Athletic Association’s presence in New York, and a very important juncture for the Shannon Gaels GAA club for New York youths.
The Shannon Gaels club began in 2002 with a single team of 14 players under age ten -
today, the club has 600 members and 22 teams for boys and girls of all ages to play traditional Irish sports like hurling, football, rounders and handball.
“It gives a whole sense of spirit, and a whole sense of Irishness to the kids that they may not get otherwise,” said Shannon Gales chairman Sean Price.
On August 3, all 48 under-12 players flew to Ireland for a chance to play in Croke Park during the halftime break of the All Ireland quarterfinals, with over 500 Shannon Gael supporters in the stands.
The club signed a 20-year lease on a 7-acre lot in Frank Golden Park in College Point, New York, and one year ago launched their “Field of Dreams” campaign to raise funds to refurbish and rebuild the area. This will create a more secure anchor for the New York GAA club, and a more pleasant second home for the kids.
“We’ve done some minor work to it so we can play Gaelic football, but now it’s at the stage where we want to develop it – our plan is to resurface it,” Colin Mathers, Field of Dreams chairman told IrishCentral in an interview.
“The Shannon Gaels is like a cornerstone to the community. It gives the community identity but at the same it’s the community that supports us and keeps us going.
“It’s important for culture and heritage that we live through the children, and always keep them in contact with Gaelic games and sports.”
Since the launch, they’ve received numerous budget allocations, including $500,000 from Queens borough president Melinda Katz.
“This development will secure the future of GAA for our children and future generations in Queens and the Greater New York area,” the campaign website says. They’ve currently raised 67% of their goal.
The Shannon Gaels club is open to youths of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and fosters a strong sense of community outside of athletics as well, with regular barbeques, golf outings, Christmas parties and the like.
“We welcome everybody and we’ve always done that,” Mathers told IrishCentral.
“Children who don’t make the varsity teams in high school? Come along. If we can help them play, we will. The more people that we get involved, the better.”
You can help the kids’ Field of Dreams come true by donating on their campaign website.