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The 2012 New York all-star team.

Tough going for New York GAA against Mayo at Gaelic Park

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The 2012 New York all-star team.

This coming Sunday, a massacre will take place in New York that will go unreported in most newspapers.

The slaughter of the innocents will occur in Gaelic Park in the Bronx when Mayo, who have contested the last two All-Ireland football finals, will face the local New York all-stars in the first round of the All-Ireland football championship.

Paddy Power bookmakers have Mayo at '500/1 on' favorites, so put down $500 and you’ll win $1.  It would be the safest bet you could ever make.

This is the greatest mismatch since Pete Rademacher fought for the world heavyweight title against Floyd Patterson in his very first professional fight.

Thousands will witness the massacre. Not one of them expects New York to remotely trouble Mayo, but it will be a wonderful occasion at the old venue of Gaelic Park to catch up on county friends and families.

New York minnows? Yes in the essentially professional sport of top flight Gaelic football New York would qualify as the weakest team of the 33 counties (including London and excluding Kilkenny) who will take part in the All-Ireland championships, Ireland’s biggest sporting event.

The weakness of New York and the incredible revival of London, who amazingly reached the Connacht final last year, reflect the reality of emigration pure and simple.  

While no Irish need apply in New York thanks to the restrictive immigration laws of the land, tens of thousand of Irish have flocked to London, many of them fine young footballers, who have created a massive resurgence in the game.

Wherever the Irish go they bring their Gaelic games of hurling and football with them. Australia right now too is a redoubt of new hurling and football clubs.

Alas, in New York, no new blood means a weakened side.  They would be hard put to put up a respectable score against any county in Ireland, and against a team that has contested the last two All-Ireland finals they are complete no-hopers.

A few years back when the game was not so professional at the highest level and New York still had major emigration, the Big Apple crew came very close on two occasions to defeating their Connacht rivals. That seems long ago and far away now.

Last year New York was walloped by Leitrim 4-18 to 0-8. Leitrim was then beaten by London, giving some indication of the gulf in class.

London in turn was hockeyed by Mayo, making one fear for the fate of New York on Sunday. The team, to their total credit, has tried to pull it all together over a long, dark and cold winter in New York, but will be completely outmatched on Sunday.

So why bother? GAA president Liam O’Neill seemed to ask that question recently and hinted the annual game at Gaelic Park on the first Sunday in May could be discontinued.

But that would be a huge mistake, and would end a fine tradition of a massive day out and immersion in Gaelic games for generations of Irish New Yorkers.

A huge part of the GAA's role is engendering community spirit.  Jobs, romances, new friends and places to stay are just some of the many eventualities that come with the game.

It is better to continue the annual jaunt to New York regardless of the annual scoreline. The heart and soul of Ireland has always been the GAA, and that's as true now as ever. It is great to have that spirit for one day in America. If the doors were as open here as they are to the U.K., I have no doubt that the game would be much more competitive.

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