New York pulled off one of the greatest surprises in GAA history when they defeated Leitrim on penalties in their first-round Connacht Championship clash in Gaelic Park in the Bronx on Saturday evening, April 8. I watched the historic match thanks to the great GAA on-demand channel GAAGO. 

It was some night, one in which the New York underdogs did themselves and this great city proud and made the rafters ring like they never had before by defeating Leitrim. 

By doing so, New York ended their losing streak of 22 games over 22  years in the Connacht Championship as they finally emerged victorious on penalties. Now they’ll play Sligo in the Connacht semifinal on Saturday, April 22 at Markievicz Park.

Given that New York almost beat Sligo in Gaelic Park last year, the incredible prospect of New York making the final of the Connacht Championship is now a real possibility. They would likely face either Roscommon or Galway, two giants of the game. 


— Newyorkgaa (@NewYorkGAA) April 9, 2023

But the victory in New York was a close thing. It was obvious from the early stages of the game that the rock-hard AstroTurf at Gaelic Park would quickly slow down both teams and tire them out. 

By the time of the second period of extra time, players from both sides were falling like flies, cramping up on the surface. 

The game began as if Leitrim were going to win easily as they raced into a three-point lead. The question before the game was whether New York had enough match fitness to stay with their Connacht rivals. Leitrim had been playing consistently in the National League series while New York had only practice games within their own squad. 

But on the day, it became clear that New York manager Johnny McGeeney had brought his team to the boil at just the right time. They more than matched Leitrim in fitness, and the more physical the game, the better they played.

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The exhaustion was evident from the penalty kick phase when tired players on both sides missed their first four kicks before New York netted twice to spark off huge celebrations. 

The hero of the hour for New York was former Dublin player Shane Carthy who showed his dedication to the cause by commuting from his home base in Boston to New York for training sessions.

He was brilliant all day but saved his best for last. With time running out and New York a point behind, he kicked over an unbelievable score with his left foot from an acute angle. 

Not far behind him was former Galway hurler Johnny Glynn, whose high fielding was spectacular. 

Goalkeeper Mick Cunningham was also superb, keeping a clean sheet in the penalty shootout and making a magnificent save in the dying moments of the game when Leitrim looked certain to score.

There were three American players on the New York team, with Mikey Brosnan really distinguishing himself with the winning penalty which he blazed to the back of the net to leave no doubt. His brother Shane had a fine game at wing-back. 

Not since the All-Ireland football final was played in New York at the Polo Grounds in 1947 has there been such a major spotlight on the New York GAA. 

Perhaps the most pleased man at Saturday’s match was the national GAA president, New York’s own Larry McCarthy, who could hardly have had a prouder moment. 

The victory reflects the enormous work and commitment to the GAA at every level in New York and indeed around the US. 

New York can only improve with this victory. They will not fear Sligo and another major upset may be on the way. 

*This column first appeared in the April 12 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.