New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a large gathering of footballers from the Shannon Gaels club and their families in Queens on Saturday, October 17, that it is “time Queens had an Irish football field.”
Bloomberg, who attended the first annual Shannon Gaels field day at Sunnyside Gardens, said, “We are in very early stages of the process but we are cautiously optimistic that we can get it (a GAA pitch) done.”
Admiring the Sunnyside Gardens, Bloomberg said, “This is a great event and Sunnyside Gardens is a great park, but I think it’s time Queens had an Irish field to call home. How about you?”
Fiona Smyth, a mother of three children who play with Shannon Gaels, welcomed the news from Saturday.
“It really would be great to have our own pitch,” said Smyth.
“Three of my kids play with the Shannon Gaels which means we have two separate nights of training because the pitch the smaller ones train on isn’t big enough for the older kids so they train on a Wednesday.”
Smyth, the event organizer on the Shannon Gaels committee, said having their own pitch would guarantee more members. Currently there are over 200 children playing with team.
“And if we had our own pitch then we could start up a hurling team,” she said optimistically.
Bloomberg said that the Queens Parks Department sat down with members of the Irish community to discuss options last week.
“We’re still in the very early stages, but we’re all optimistic,” said Bloomberg.
“The Irish have helped make this the greatest city in the world and I want to see more Irish come here … and more immigrants from around the world.”
Ciaran Staunton, who helped organize a meeting between the Sunnyside Irish community and the mayor three months ago where the idea of a GAA pitch was put on the table, told the Irish Voice on Tuesday that having a permanent place for the Shannon Gaels to train and play is essential for the development of the sport.
“Every other sport has a pitch so now it’s time for the Shannon Gaels to have theirs,” said Staunton.
Although no specific site has been decided upon, Staunton said the commissioner of the Queens Parks Department welcomed the proposal pitched to them last week with open arms.
Staunton and members of the Shannon Gaels hope to secure a six-acre site on city property.
“We have a few pitches in mind that don’t need much work, that are near our neighborhood and also close to the main roads,” said Staunton.
The Shannon Gaels hope to be up and running on their own field in the next year or so.
Bloomberg, who joked about the inclement weather, “Sorry about the rain, there are some things even a mayor can’t control,” said that although he attended a U2 concert a few weeks ago and got an endorsement from Bono, hanging out with the Shannon Gaels on Saturday “was a real honor.”