With the festive season upon us, firstly I would like to wish all a happy Thanksgiving before we get down to the task at hand. Certainly a unique weekend to have for the New York GAA fraternity as it gives three full days of canvassing before the elections for chairman and officers on Sunday. The networks should be ringing off the line with the top job in New York again up for grabs, with two extremely capable candidates running. Larry McCarthy from Bishopstown in Co. Cork and Sligo Football Club in New York, who has been the New York GAA secretary for the last six years, will challenge incumbent John Riordan from Castlegregory, Co. Kerry, who has held the chairman's post for the past year. The rest of the board of officers for 2009 are all decided save for the positions of trustee and auditor. Both have three officers under their manifests, with a total of 11 people running. Apart from Lawrence McGrath from Donegal, the well-known officer of Donegal and Gaelic Park referee, and Denis Twomey, who does a tremendous job with Rangers, both of whom are in the hunt for trustee positions, all the others have been on the board before. The one other newcomer to the association is Ira Goldman, who was elected to the PRO job uncontested. Brendan O'Sullivan is vice chairman this year after one year at the head of the hurling division. Liam Bermingham steps to the secretary slot while McCarthy steps up to the race for the chair. John Larkin, John Phelan, Joan Henchy, Paddy Gormley and Geraldine O'Brien all were uncontested to their last year's jobs, with Tom Lilly swapping an auditor mantle for sergeant at arms, while Tom Nugent goes to custodian after his time period at financial secretary expired due to term limits. Donie O'Sullivan, Joe Prunty, Tommy Fahey and Paul Levins join Twomey and McGrath in the contest, while John Kelly, the former hurling chair, Frank Molloy, the former junior football chair, Theresa Crowe, Mark McAllister and outgoing officer John Fitzpatrick from Rockland are vying for three auditor jobs. Two elections then, but basically status quo on the board. On then to the top slot, and the reason that the largest turnout is seen at the Riverdale Steakhouse GAA meeting each year. With 31 teams eligible to vote this year, with 10 senior football teams, 17 junior football, and four hurling, a total of 62 votes are up for grabs. The election will be won with 32 votes, as a majority is all that is required. Clubs with four votes, like Donegal, Offaly and Cavan, have powerful pull in the election, but as last year showed when Riordan won by two votes every club does count. What of the candidates? Riordan is finishing his first year as chairman after three years at vice chair. The Kerry delegate spoke to the Irish Voice and was forthright when asked about the three main items of concern for 2009. He listed at number one putting a better team on the field for the Connaught Champion-ship. "It is very important to put on a good show against Mayo next year, as our involvement in Connaught is very important. Three or four players have already stated that they will be coming out after Christmas from Ireland to clubs here." Senior hurling was listed at number two, with the hope that some form of intercounty competition for the New York hurlers hoped for. The options are Ulster or a competition with North America. On the subject of football in New York, Riordan said that he felt "some great football was played in the senior football division, but the playoffs were over too quickly. Junior B was weak this year, and Tyrone were far too strong for the Junior A division, but it was great to see them get back to senior football. "There is tremendous talent in the Minor board and I would hope to get them involved in the Connaught Champion-ship if possible at some level. A strong senior football division is very important for New York as it brings crowds to Gaelic Park." Riordan mentioned the host of teams that arrived in New York this year, with Feale Rangers and Spa from Kerry, the Army, Galway and Leitrim all adding to the history of Gaelic with their visits. He stated that he hopes to see new developments at Gaelic Park before the summer, and remarked that new showers have been installed this year with great help from the officers. "The new role of development officer which will be coming to North America is very important. In every association in the world they have this position, including Australasia and Britain. It will be a huge help to New York when it is finalized." The new job will be funded by Ireland up to $50,000, with a short list of applications in place at the moment. When asked about the dozen objections that plagued the board in New York this year, with seemingly a hearing every week related to player sanctions, validity of players and discussions on their status, Riordan stated that in years gone by they would not have been looked at, but this year the technical side of the rule book was looked into repeatedly. Riordan's opponent is Larry McCarthy, the current secretary of the New York Board. "I joined Sligo in 1985 when I came to New York, and after a time in college in Ohio and teaching in Georgia I returned to them when I arrived back in New York in 1999," says Cork native McCarthy. Twenty three years in the U.S., McCarthy was trainer of the New York team that beat Australia in a compromise game in 1988 with Mike Cassidy as manager, and also was trainer with Paddy Kearney at the helm when New York played Sligo in the Connaught Championship when they went down by seven points. He has held the position of secretary for the last six years under the leadership of Liam Bermingham, (two years), Seamus Dooley (three) and Riordan. When asked about his three main concerns for 2009, McCarthy was also honest in his assessment. "Certainly hurling needs to be addressed with the youth base, where Mike Kennedy, Eddie Hogan, Pat Dalton, Brendan O'Sullivan and others are doing brilliant work on a foundation to build on. We need to produce our own hurlers as well as having an influx from Ireland each year," McCarthy said. He also is in favor of intercounty competition for New York and would "fully support a North America competition as well as looking to Ireland." Development of Gaelic Park is another item that he discussed at length. "We lost impetus in the last year and need to push forward again with work and development of Gaelic Park. We have a great relationship with Manhattan College at the moment and they have been very cooperative. I have been involved in meetings with them and would look forward to developing the relationship if I am elected." The Centennial Committee also was mentioned as something that needs to be brought back to the table as it was forgotten after its introduction to the convention last winter. The Minor Board and Ladies Board are a huge part of New York's GAA makeup, and this was another item that was discussed at length by McCarthy. He remarked that they both have major parts to play in the association's development, with international competitions like Feile Peil Na Gael, the universities competitions in Britain and other underage competitions foundations for the future. "These players are the Senior Board's future and we need to look to help develop them as they come through the ranks," said McCarthy. "We got great support from Nickey Brennan as president and I look forward to the same type of connection with the incoming president Christy Cooney. With a development officer funded by Croke Park on the horizon we certainly can maintain and improve what we have." The visit this past summer of a referee assessor from Ireland (Tony Jordon) left a distinct mark on the local scene, and McCarthy remarked that it is these initiatives we need to maintain. Looking back at the year gone by and whether it was a success or a failure, McCarthy was direct with his assessment. "There were a lot of distractions this year and we lost momentum from the years before. We did not manage things as well as we should have, and while we had good football and hurling the objections took their toll. "Our system must be more efficient. We got bogged down this past year and will not attract new blood when they see the way we work. We need to move forward with change." When asked about the present immigration situation that are of a concern to everybody, McCarthy stated, "One of my aims would be to fully support the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) if elected as we need to help our communities and there are some critical issues and times ahead. "The people in those communities are the a tremendous part of the GAA and we need to do whatever we can to assist them". Dare we say that the GAA in New York is at a crossroads as it gets ready to plan for the second decade of the new millennium. On Sunday it elects its new chair with voting between 2-4 p.m. and results immediately after.
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