At the New York GAA’s 80th annual dinner dance to celebrate its 100th anniversary on Saturday night in Queens, incoming President-elect of the GAA in Ireland Aogan O Fearghail announced the multi-million dollar commitment, which will go towards the development of the clubhouse and function room at Gaelic Park.
Cavan native O Fearghail also voiced his support for New York’s continued involvement in the Connacht Senior Football Championship this year and for the foreseeable future. Current GAA President Liam O’Neill raised hackles last week with public remarks that questioned New York’s possible future involvement.
A plan has been established to demolish the existing bar and function rooms at Gaelic Park and create a three-floor 12,000 footprint to replace it. “We have plans for a 12,000 square foot first floor with a bar and function room which is approximately the same size as the function hall at the moment,” New York GAA Chairman Liam Bermingham told the Irish Voice.
“We will also have a function hall on the second floor which will be leased out to a separate company who will rent from us,” he added.
The basement floor level which is earmarked to be eight feet high and partially at ground level is allocated for player dressing rooms, a doctor’s office and referee rooms, as well as storage. With the rent on the field at the moment listed at $75,000 a year and the bar at twice that number, the projection is for the new hall to be able to take care of the bill that comes in from both entities with the funds that will be raised from the new development.
The demolition of the existing bar and function room is slated for mid-summer with structural drawings presently in for approval.
The cost of the new home will be significant, but support is forthcoming. At the dinner dance Bermingham also announced a further $750,000 contribution from the Irish government’s Department of Foreign Affairs. The footing this gives the New York GAA moving forward is “brilliant,” according to Bermingham.
In his speech to the more than 600 people at the dance, O Fearghail made note of Gaelic Park’s illustrious history and spoke about its future as the hub of Irish culture and sports in New York. He was vocal in saying that GAA is not only about sports, but about family and culture too.
“I was delighted to hear about the recent Scor competition that took place in New York, another huge part of the GAA,” he stated.
The president-elect remarked that Ireland is firmly behind Gaelic Park development and that the GAA at home “looks forward to New York’s involvement in the Connacht Championship for the future.”
Gaelic Park has been the home for the GAA in New York since the late 1920s, after a number of years playing in Sunnyside, Wakefield and other temporary stops. The highlight of the GAA’s history here was the playing of the 1947 All-Ireland final at the Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan when Cavan defeated Kerry.
New York was then invited into the National League in both hurling and football where they annexed three titles in the large ball sport, most recently in 1967 when Galway was defeated over two legs.
Gaelic Park, however, was a dustbowl at the best of times in the height of summer during that period.
The field in Gaelic Park was developed to its present status during the Seamus Dooley years as New York chairman, with a state of the art surface, flood lights and lengthening of the pitch.
When the field was developed the GAA in Ireland came forward with $1 million, while New York also contributed over $500,000 as part of the 50 percent contribution to its partnership with Manhattan College, which owns Gaelic Park.
The park is now able to cater for all of the New York GAA games during the course of the year, with an average of 10 to 12 games played in a seven-day cycle.
With three different divisions at adult level, including ladies football, men’s hurling and men’s football, as well as a large number of Minor Board fixtures, the extent to which it is used is substantial. While use of the field has reached a peak, the function hall and the dressing rooms have lagged far behind.