New York see benefits in Connacht investment
THEY must fork out €40,000 towards the cost of bringing Galway to the Gaelic Park today, but criticisms of New York's participation in the Connacht championship still remain.
With no more than a smouldering of interest, the 2010 GAA championship begins in the Big Apple today with Joe Kernan's Galway team up against Seamus Sweeney's New York outfit in a fixture that many on this side of the Atlantic Ocean want scrapped.
Connacht operate a rotation system for the annual trip to New York, but the astronomical cost of the exercise has led to sustained calls for it to be dropped.
Last year, €75,000 was spent on flying Mayo over to the US. It's estimated the cost of the five-day trip, including flights, accommodation and meals, hit county board finances by €30,000. The Connacht Council contributed €12,000 to the cost of the trip, while the New York board coughed up in the region of €35,000.
And although Galway's trip will be as costly, football board secretary Seamus O'Grady maintains New York are entitled to field a side in the championship.
"There's a lot to it alright, especially with the economy in a difficult place at the moment and apart from the official party, we'll have to pay for doctors and medics and that. But I would say that deep down, no one begrudges New York their presence in the championship," says O'Grady.
"They put a huge amount of work into keeping the GAA alive over there and in fairness they help with the cost of counties travelling over. For example, they will have a sell-out banquet for 800 people on a cruiser on the Hudson River which will also raise funds, so they have been very proactive about it."
New York chairman Larry McCarthy has long been a staunch defender of his team's existence in the competition. "When you look at the other GAA units across the world, we're arguably the most developed and that's with all due respect to the other units. The next thing to measure ourselves with is Ireland," he said.
"We have young fellas coming through now who played in the minor championship which is hugely vibrant at the moment with 12 clubs. We send an U21 team to the British Universities championship. There's a lot of phenomenal work being done here."
Indeed, their senior football squad has been in full training for almost three months while the board continues to develop 12 underage football clubs to serve as a feeder to the inter-county team.
Manager Seamus Sweeney has assembled a 30-man squad for this fixture, helped in no small way by the emigration of some decent club footballers to the Big Apple, so that the likes of Kerry's former underage star Dan Doona are available for selection.
Others like Jason Killeen, who played in the New York team that brought Leitrim to extra-time a few years back, are also around. Other mainstays like Robbie Moran, Mark Dobbins, Kenny O'Connor and Joe Bell are in good form while Alan Rafferty has joined the squad from the London panel.
Even though Galway are short up to five key players, New York will ship a heavy enough beating this afternoon. They struggled to beat Boston two weeks ago and only managed 1-8 but they'll argue that the chance to fly the GAA flag abroad is a crucial incentive for all those that have been forced to leave the country.