The New York Minor Board is staging its dinner dance at the Villa Barone in Throngs Neck on Saturday, February 4, from 7 p.m.-midnight. This is an event that should be well supported because this organization does phenomenal work at promoting Gaelic games at all under-age levels. 

Indeed, these volunteers who so willingly give so much of their time and talents are the unsung heroes of the GAA.  As times have changed, the New York Minor Board has now become the foundation for the future of the GAA in the tri-state area.  It’s a lot better to grow your own talent rather than depending on expensive imports to fill the team sheets. 

Three stalwarts from the GAA community with be honored at this year’s dinner dance: Father Brendan Fitzgerald, Simon Gillespie and Mike Buckley.

Father Brendan Fitzgerald

Father Brendan, as he’s locally known, is the pastor of St. Barnabas in the Bronx, the largest Irish American parish in the United States. The late John Riordan, a staunch GAA and Kerryman, used to proclaim that there were two great kingdoms in the world, namely the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Kerry. 

Well, Father Brendan fits nicely into these two prized principalities.  His Mom Esther hails from Killarney and his Dad is from Knocknagashel, and the family owns Fitzgerald’s Pub on Third Avenue in Manhattan. 

The Fitzgerald clan consists of five boys, John, Kevin, Brendan, Denis and Pio, with Denis and Brendan being twins. Growing up the boys enjoyed the best of both worlds by alternating their time between the U.S. and Ireland. They went to school in Ireland, where they were imbued with the finest aspects of Irish culture, and spent the summers and vacation time in the Rockaways, the Irish Riviera. 

Father Brendan received his secondary education at St. Brendan’s in Killarney, a veritable factory for Kingdom footballers, before heading to Maynooth to study for the priesthood. The young seminarian graduated with a BA honors degree in history, and then he spent a pastoral year in Calcutta where he worked with Mother Teresa.  

Upon returning to Europe he went to Rome to continue his academic and priestly formation and graduated with a master's in theology. Further studies earned the young cleric a master's and an APD in education from Fordham University.  

Father Brendan was ordained in 2000 at St. John’s Cathedral Limerick. His first assignment was Meelick, Co. Clare, before being appointed diocesan advisor for education for the Diocese of Limerick. 

The young priest spent five years in this role before returning to New York as a parochial vicar in St. Barnabas from 2006 to 2009. Then it was on to St. Margaret of Cortona in Riverdale before being appointed as priest secretary to Cardinal Egan. 

Father Brendan’s last move was as pastor of Regina Coeli, in Hyde Park, before the peripatetic priest arrived in 2016 back to St. Barnabas, perhaps his favorite post, as pastor. 

Since becoming pastor of this extensive enclave of Gaeldom, Father Brendan has demonstrated great leadership and involvement in the community. The lengthy list of organizations that he’s affiliated with and chaplain to attests to that, and he was just named as the grand marshal for the 2023 Yonkers St. Patrick’s parade on McLean Avenue, further accentuating his vital role and significance to the wider Yonkers community.

Mike Buckley

Mike Buckley, from Celtics, was born in the Bronx to the late Tim and Betty (nee Cronin) Buckley. His mother was a native of Ballinahulla, Co. Kerry, and his father hailed from Millstreet, Co. Cork.  His four siblings are scattered between Ireland, England and the United States. 

The Buckley family attended Gaelic Park religiously on Sunday, where Buckley got his first taste of hurling and football. When he was 13, the family moved to Bishopstown, Cork City.  He continued his secondary education at the famed North Monastery CBS, and Buckley’s passion for sports was strongly nurtured. 

Then it was on to the Cork Institute of Technology where Buckley majored in electronics. After graduation, he worked in Cork and then returned to New York for employment in telecommunications.  He recently retired from Local 3 IBEW. 

In 2001 Buckley wed Mary Flynn from the Bronx, and they reside in Yonkers. Their son Michael is a senior at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains.  The young lad began playing football as a six-year-old with the Celtics and hurling with Le Cheile. 

The Buckley family has greatly enjoyed traveling to CYC tournaments across the U.S. as well as traveling to Ireland with Michael’s under-14 hurling Feile teams in 2018 and 2019. 

Buckley has been a Celtic delegate to the New York Minor Board for the last decade while simultaneously holding multiple roles with the Celtic club. He is currently vice chair of the club.  

Simon Gillespie 

Simon Gillespie, the former New York GAA games development officer, will receive the James O’Sullivan Award. The late Mr. O’Sullivan was a founder of the Celtic’s Club and a powerful promoter of the New York Minor Board. 

Gillespie hails from Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal, and grew up honing his Gaelic skills with the local Aodh Ruadh club, winning titles at all underage levels as well as at adult level. 

His parents were both members of the Garda Siochana, and both also served in the United Nations as peacekeepers. He has one sister who lives in Edinburgh.

Gillespie received his primary education at the local Sacred Heart School and then progressed to Colaiste Cholmcille for secondary education. Here the young Donegal student would have come under the tutelage of Michael McGowan, a famed Melvin Gaels and Leitrim player from the late ‘50s and early ‘60s who later became Leitrim’s manager and chairman. 

Then it was on to the University of Limerick, where Gillespie majored in physical education while also obtaining a masters in history. Upon graduation he began his career with the GAA in 2008, developing Gaelic games in Derry City, which wasn’t exactly a stronghold of the GAA. 

In 2010 Gillespie immigrated to the United States and began to work for the New York GAA as the first full-time games development officer, and immediately became involved with the CYC in Eisenhower Park, Long Island.  His role then incorporated being involved with all the Minor Board teams as well as coaching/training the respective underage ones. 

In 2007, under the direction of Roger Slattery, and with Gillespie’s assistance, the cul camps were successfully staged in New York.  The role of the Development Officer was continually evolving and expanding as Gillespie, along with Joe McGirl, from the Rockland club, got involved with the British universities competition in Birmingham, with Gillespie as the coach of the New York College team in 2011 and 2012. He also coached the Feile Boys teams for most of the last decade. 

Gillespie served as secretary of the Continental Youth Championships until 2019. In 2020, he returned to college and was certified as a New York State teacher.  He is currently employed as a physical education teacher at the Leadership Preparatory Ocean Middle School, Brownsville. 

Gaelic Park has always been a lot more than just a venue for Gaelic games. In 2016, Gillespie met his wife Danielle Gallagher from Philadelphia at a compromise rules game. She plays Australian Rules football and is currently employed by Solace House in Long Island City. 

The couple was married in 2021, and they reside in Brooklyn. Gillespie has done Trojan work on behalf of the New York GAA over the last decade.

For tickets to the dinner dance, contact Caroline Martin at 914-562-9657.