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Difficulty is an opportunity for New York players - Henchy

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New York GAA chairperson Joan Henchy sees reduced numbers travelling from Ireland as an opportunity for New York players. (stock photo)

New York GAA chairperson Joan Henchy sees reduced numbers travelling from Ireland as an opportunity for New York players. (stock photo)

SPORTSFILE

New York GAA chairperson Joan Henchy sees reduced numbers travelling from Ireland as an opportunity for New York players. (stock photo)

GAA officials in New York are confident that the huge reduction in the number of players heading from Ireland this summer will not have a negative impact on the games there.

Indeed, they are hopeful that it will present a further opportunity for home-grown players in the Big Apple to progress after adopting a policy a few years ago to concentrate on developing their own players.

The indefinite suspension of J-1 visas used by students, the travel bans imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the likely hectic summer of club and inter-county fixtures in Ireland are set to reduce the number of players travelling to the USA this summer.

But Joan Henchy, chairperson of the New York County Board, doesn't think it's going to have a negative impact on Stateside.

"I would disagree with the suggestion that the lack of J-1s would depopulate our season. I can only speak for NY and not that of USGAA," she said.

"We have an abundance of home-based players, American-born players who have come of age and a healthy vibrant underage structure comparable to any county.

"This is very evident with results at Féile na nGael, and World Games. New York has reduced our dependency on students in recent years, with major deductions on sanctions and limited numbers of transfers also."

It's a significant year for the development of young GAA talent in the United States and 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the New York Minor Board, the body which looks after Gaelic football and hurling development for players aged four to 18. At the moment there are more than 2,500 children and teenagers registered to play in New York.

Galway's trip to New York's Gaelic Park for the opening round of the Connacht SFC in May has been postponed and while there is a strong desire to maintain this fixture to showcase the elite level, it has not yet provided a strong link with the work on the ground.

The fixture has been running for 21 years but only a dozen home-grown players, out of a total of approximately 225 who have played, have featured in it despite a huge turnover in personnel each year.

Indeed, over 60 per cent of footballers have made just one appearance for New York since the fixture started in 1999 - and they have lost all 21 games so far.

Most of them grew up in Ireland and moved to the United States, sometimes temporarily, but in recent years in New York they have concentrated on developing home-grown players.

The Rockland club, located in Orangeburg, are leading the way in this regard. Founded in 1972, they cater for hurling, Gaelic football, ladies football and camogie and field more than 20 teams across the four codes.

Club chairman Jim McGirl said that 95 per cent of their playing members were born in America.

"We think it's quite obvious that all clubs need to put more focus on the American-born players, focus on what's available rather than lament about the challenges that immigration have presented," said McGirl.

Irish Independent