By Áine Hourican
The New York Senior Hurling team hit the year running with a historic win at the University of Galway Connacht GAA Air Dome. Marking an unforgettable milestone for New York Hurling, the panel improved on last year’s title—2023 Shield Final Champions—by being crowned 2024 Connacht Hurling League Champions.
Having been established just a year before, such rapid progress is a testament to the strong work ethic and determination embodied by all members of the panel. An impressive feat for a team still in its infancy, the win acknowledges the continuous development of hurling within The Big Apple.
A notable element of this historic win was the cohort of homegrown players on the team. This make-up showcases the impressive ability of New York GAA to develop players born and raised in America to compete in Ireland. Three players from the panel are native New Yorkers and ten are Irish-American dual-citizens. Debuting player Gearoid Kennedy is one of the three native players that lined out for the panel.
Reflecting on his hurling career to date, Kennedy described the win as a “historic moment for New York Hurling.” The midfielder is hopeful that the win will pave the way for upcoming players.
Grateful for the opportunity to represent New York in Ireland, Kennedy added that hurling has always been his passion. “There was no question as to whether I would play hurling," he told GAA.ie.
"I have been playing my whole life. I used to travel from Scranton back to New York for the weekends just to play games for my home club, Le Cheile.” Impressively, Kennedy stayed involved with his home club while pursuing a degree in Pennsylvania—two and a half hours away.
Kennedy’s father hails from Tipperary, and his mother is from Limerick. Proud to be part of the panel that made history for New York Hurling, the midfielder made sure to mention his father’s impressive hurling career: “My father used to play hurling for New York, and that was the one thing I never got to do . . . yet.”
Following in his father’s footsteps, Kennedy noted that hearing his name called as part of the starting line-up was a fulfilling moment.
As the only player from the panel to be involved with the New York College Team for 2024, the midfielder is an advocate for encouraging New York natives to pick up the sport. “Hurling allows me to embrace my Irish heritage,” Kennedy explained.
Reflecting on his hurling upbringing, the native New Yorker acknowledged how New York has seen an increase in home grown players.
“Maintaining home-grown players has always been a challenge; however, this summer, the junior team will be lining out a panel consisting of the majority of home grown players.”
"Growing up, hurling felt like an outsider sport, but now more people are getting involved. I know ten-year-old me would be proud in how much hurling has developed within New York.”
New York Games Promotion Officer Eamon Fitzgerald played a critical role in selecting the team that lead New York to their win in the GAA Air Dome. Originally from Causeway, in County Kerry, Fitzgerald stated that there has been an increase in players moving to cities within the U.S. to play hurling.
“We had 15 different players in our panel this year in comparison to last year," he said. "A lot of new players that moved over had come from inter county squads, former minor players, even a few that had been on senior panels.” The Promotion Officer noted that with the influx of players, the desire to play hurling in New York has significantly increased.
The GAA in New York provides routine and structure in The City That Never Sleeps, along with helping the Irish-American community stay in touch with their heritage. Eamon noted how there is a different level of commitment that is required when committing to playing hurling in New York. “We had some players working in bars, others had to leave work early to make training.” Reflecting on the intense level of dedication and commitment that is required to play for New York, the Kerry man noted that the players are keen to lend a hand. “Anytime we ask the players to help out, they do; likewise, the kids have come to watch the senior hurlers train.”
Determined to pave the way for upcoming players, Eamon emphasized that it is critical to have a structure in place that will allow young players to continue to develop their skills. “Every Sunday evening for six weeks, we had a development squad for hurlers. We started back last week with U15’s. Seven of the New York hurlers stepped in to help coach.” The Promotion Officer focuses on aspects of the sport which may not be covered during training to enrich their skill-set.
Last year, New York had U13, U15, and U17 development squads across the board; followed by the World Games which consisted of all American-born players who went on to win the tournament.
“New York also had an U17 team compete in Ireland last year as part of a competition that Connacht GAA created for teams such as Mayo, Sligo, and Roscommon. To have an U17 team go to Ireland for the first time and play inter-county teams is remarkable.”
The Promotion Officer noted that when he transitioned to The Big Apple he knew that there was a demand for native born players, but didn’t realise how big the community was. Nodding towards fellow coach Richie Hartnett, he explained that the goal is to “keep the sport alive and give a sense of community for Irish-American kids.”
With an increase in demand for hurling within New York, and the significant win this past January, the future for hurling in the greater New York area is bright. Both management and players understand that continuing to develop the sport will not only enrich the Irish culture, but provide a community for Irish-American children across the Big Apple.