A County Kildare native living in the U.S. since he was 18 is said to be the winner of a whopping $41 million New York lottery jackpot.
A report in the Irish Independent claimed on Monday -- and was backed by countless rumors in the heavily Irish populated neighborhood of Yonkers -- that Donal Finnan, originally from Maynooth, Co. Kildare, is the winner via a ticket bought at the Lotto Plus store on McLean Avenue in Yonkers on Saturday, May 16.
A spokesperson for the New York Lottery told the Irish Voice on Tuesday that the ticket has not been claimed.
“That ticket for May 16 for $41 million is still unclaimed,” said Jennifer Givner, from the New York Lottery press and public relations office.
It was reported in the Irish Independent that Finnan, who is said to be in his thirties and married to a girl called Niamh, flew home to Kildare to celebrate his big win a few days after discovering the windfall.
Finnan was seen having a quiet drink at a local bar on Sunday evening in Maynooth. A source close to the family told the Irish Voice that Finnan “comes from a decent old Irish farming family.” His father was once a fire manager at National University of Maynooth.
Although Finnan, who works in construction, isn’t well known because he emigrated at a young age, he is said to be very close to his three sisters and one brother and both his parents.
An Irish Voice source who attended an engagement party in the same bar that Finnan celebrated in last weekend, said that the lotto winner “is not the type of person to go around showing off.”
Finnan, from the Old Greenfields area of Maynooth, bought his ticket from the Lotto Plus store on McLean Avenue in Yonkers.
Diane Tomanelli, an employee at the store, said she was “absolutely delighted” that it was someone local who won the money.
“It’s just great that he checked his ticket because so many people buy a ticket and then forget to check and they could have been winners,” said Tomanelli.
Although Tomanelli has yet to congratulate Finnan in person she said, “I hear there is a giant celebration in Kildare this week.”
According to Givner, Finnan will have to come forward to claim his huge jackpot.
“For a person to claim the ticket, a ticket holder is obliged to go into one of the New York State Lotto’s customer service centers, located in eight different places around the state,” she said.
Givner was quick to point out that no money can be given out until an actual ticket is presented.
“When the ticket is presented, the New York Lottery will then validate the ticket and confirm that it is the winning one, and from there we would move forward with the process to allow the individual to claim the prize and get all the administrative issues worked out,” she said.
The claimant has up to a year to pick up the prize money.
“Any individual over 18 years of age can claim. Any winnings over $5,000 needs a tax ID number to claim because the IRS claims it,” said Givner.
Local Yonkers bartender, Jim Behan, 42, from Clones in Co. Monaghan, said Finnan’s win was the talk of the town.“It's all anyone's been talking about,” he said. “It's been the biggest story all weekend. And everyone was dying to know who it was.”
The head of the New York Ladies GAA, Nollaig Cleary from Co. Fermanagh, said it was great to see someone from the neighborhood win “with just a dollar and a dream,” quoting the lottery's slogan. “It really means something to see someone local win,” she said.
Retired Irish American Michael Boyle, 68, said he felt sorry for the prizewinner.“It would be great to get the money, but now the world's going to be beating a path to his door,” he said.
“He won't be able to call into the store for a pint of milk. They'll all be after him. If I were that man, I'd buy me a cottage in the Bahamas and go hide!”
Derek Daly, a retired cab driver, told the Irish Voice over the phone on Tuesday that he does the lotto at Lotto Plus every Wednesday and Saturday for his wife, and he always uses the same numbers.
“My heart skipped a beat when I heard the winning ticket was bought at Lotto Plus,” laughed Daly. “Not my time I guess, not my time.”
Daly, whose parents are Irish emigrants, said he will continue to do the lotto. “There is hope for us all. I’m delighted for this Irish man and his family,” said Daly.
The highest Lotto jackpot in history was $72.5 million in 1994 and four winners shared it. Although there have been quite a few big wins since 1994, Givner said this is one of the biggest wins in quite some time.
The winning ticket was a Quick Pick, and the numbers were 11, 19, 30, 45, 55 and 56.