May 4 and 5, 2019 the green and red army of Mayo GAA supporters were thick on the streets of New York City.
May 4 was the fifth annual celebration of Mayo Day at the Irish Hunger Memorial at noon. It was attended by the leaders and members of the Mayo County Council, The County Mayo Foundation, the Mayo Association of Dublin and The Mayo Society of New York along with a good number of Mayo people.
We knew that hundreds, maybe even thousands of Mayo people were flying in for the Mayo vs. New York GAA game on Sunday May 5. Changing subway trains going to the Hunger Memorial on Saturday the 4th, I met two men who flew over from Castlebar from the game. When we got off our stop, we met a man from London who was over for the game. All identifiable by the Mayo football crest, such as I had on my hat.
That Saturday afternoon, thousands headed to a sing-song at Times Square at 6pm. They sang the Saw Doctors’ “Green and Red of Mayo.” The videos of it have gone viral. At 7pm there was huge party for the Mayo supporters at Rosie O’Grady’s on 7th Avenue called “Out For The Game”. It was a benefit for the Mayo GAA Training Centre, Mayo-Roscommon Hospice and the Mayo GAA New York club.
Rosie’s had 3 floors full of Mayo people. Looking out an upper floor window before it got dark, the streets seemed to be full of green and red. Helping sell raffle tickets, I met a good number of them, including some lovely young girls who came from my dad’s hometown in Mayo. The party ran to the wee hours. A friend of mine who stayed to that time told me she was talking to some people from Toronto, Canada who came out.
Opening up at 8:30am on a rainy and cold Sunday morning May 5th was Gaelic Park in the Bronx. Barely within city limits, its a world away from Times Square or Rosie O’Grady’s. It is the iconic and historic home of Irish sport in New York. My dad used to take my brother and I there sometimes when we were kids to watch games none of the other kids in our neighborhood knew.
I was there to open the place that day to ensure entry and got a coveted seat under an awning. The fellow on line ahead of me flew in from Chicago to see the game. His mother was from Mayo. By the time the game started at 2:15pm, Gaelic Park was packed to the rafters with Mayo supporters. Sitting by me were London Irish siblings and their friends. They face-timed their dad, who came from Mayo, to let him know that they were at the game. A visiting Mayoman next to me was with them.
Behind me was another visiting couple from Mayo, who knew the Mayoman who owned my local pub. Next to me was a fellow New Yorker from Long Island. My cousin’s husband from Mayo also flew out to Philadelphia, met his cousin and drove to New York for the game.
I already knew it in my heart, but this whole experience gave me a stronger sense of the true beauty and depth of the Irish diaspora. I hope that would be what our many wonderful visitors from Ireland and England and wherever who came to New York take home with them, along with memories of the good times. The Irish diaspora is truly a worldwide family, united by a common love for our heritage and our homeland. It is to be treasured. A lot more than just a football game.
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