Seamus Duke’s New York diary
Friday, 29th of April
A lot of the Roscommon supporters had travelled over on the Thursday (as did the team) so I was a little late in joining the party. I always look forward to any visit to New York.
It’s a magical city to come to. In the queue to check in at Dublin Airport were at least 150 Rossies, and several of them familiar faces too. The Aer Lingus flight to JFK was smooth and the service was excellent, as usual. Roscommon team doctor Martin Daly and Padraig Pearses player Davy Murray sat in front of us on the plane (Davy was delayed by a day because of his college exams).
We caught a glimpse of Roscommon’s new tracksuits, which look very smart indeed.
We got into New York at around 2 pm local time and myself and my wife Teresa shared a taxi ride into the city with Willie Hegarty, who was minding his vocal chords in preparation for his commentary from Gaelic Park on Sunday.
We travelled with Michael Caslin’s group and stayed at the very central Chelsea Savoy Hotel on 23rd Street. Right next door is Jake’s Saloon, owned by Galway man Jimmy Glynn, from Dunmore. It became a base for a lot of Rossies over the weekend.
One of the first people I met in the hotel was Paul Earley, who was there with Dermot Earley Junior. The Earley family attended a major fundraising function on Thursday night – hosted by Club Rossie – at which it was announced that the new Roscommon training centre at Runnabracken would be named after the legendary Dermot Earley. It is a lovely touch by the authorities.
By all accounts it was a hugely successful fundraiser too. After a short rest, and in the company of Councillor Domnick Connolly, we made our way to Eugene Rooney’s bar on 7th Avenue, where a huge crowd of Rossies were in attendance, including members of the team management who were in town to attend another Club Rossie fundraiser, being held in Rosie O’Grady’s (across the street from Rooney’s).
The scene in Rosie O’Grady’s was remarkable. There were about 400 people at the Club Rossie gig, but there were at least 400 more Roscommon people in the premises on the night. Kevin McStay and Seanie McDermott addressed the crowd at the function.
It was astounding to see so many Roscommon supporters in one place at a social function thousands of miles from home. The price of the drink may have been dear but that didn’t diminish the craic which was enjoyed into the early hours.
And not a sign of Donald Trump either, despite the fact that we were in his neighbourhood!
Saturday, 30th of April
The handy thing about being a sports enthusiast in New York is that the sport in Ireland and the UK is on early in the day New York time.
On Saturday morning we caught the Premier League action in Jake’s Saloon from 10 am – incredibly, all the games were on different screens.
I had a special interest in the Newcastle game as I was ‘on them’ in the last man standing competition. They won 1-0, but were so lucky.
Then, a decision to make: would we look at the Mayo v Cork All-Ireland U-21 final or not? It was on at 1 pm. I decided against it. I had a feeling that Mayo would win it, which they duly did. It was another All-Ireland title that Roscommon had left behind them at this level. Well done to Mayo on a great win, but it was painful for the Rossies, given what might have been.
A trip to Macy’s in the glorious sunshine was what took up those few hours for us. Everywhere one looked there were Roscommon jerseys and tops to be seen, as the visitors soaked up the sunshine and enjoying the New York hospitality. A lot of shopping was on the agenda.
Especially for the ladies, many of whom took the opportunity to visit the outlets in New Jersey, which offer great value. Late on Saturday evening we took a train out to the Riverdale Steakhouse which is owned by Athleague man Terry Connaughton. We had a lovely evening there. The food at The Riverdale is top class and Terry’s manager, Jimmy Naughton (from Knockcroghery), is a perfect host.
Sunday, 1st of May
Early on Sunday morning I got a chance to see Manchester United v Leicester City as the Foxes continued their pursuit of an incredible Premier League title. We are all in agreement that for Leicester to win the title would be one of the biggest stories that we have ever seen in any sport.
Little did we know on Sunday morning that we were almost to witness one of the biggest shocks in the history of the football championships ourselves later that day in Gaelic Park!
It would seem that every TV channel in New York reports on the weather forecast every ten minutes. We were all warned time after time that Sunday was to be a “soggy and nasty day”. What’s more, they were right, and it was a terrible pity after the beautiful day we had enjoyed on Saturday.
Most Roscommon people travelled without any major rain gear and the local shops which sold umbrellas did a roaring trade as the persistent rain fell from early on Sunday morning. Not alone that, it was cold too as the buses headed for Gaelic Park.
We got to the venue at about 2.15 pm and already there were huge crowds of Roscommon supporters present. Usually the weather is glorious, but it was like going to an FBD League game in January. The AstroTurf pitch stood up to the demands of the game very well and the players on both sides coped with the wet and cold conditions.
However it was a different story for the fans who were huddled together in the open stand. It was a truly miserable day. Suffice to say that Roscommon got the shock of their lives as this New York team almost became the first from the city to win a game in the Connacht Championship. There was a really strange atmosphere after the match as Roscommon fans came to terms with what was a very poor display.
In 2011, when Roscommon were a Division Four team, they came to New York and won by 3-21 to 1-11. This year the team were in Division One and scraped home by a point. We were lucky enough to be in the press box and out of the rain.
Willie Hegarty brought the action back to the listeners in Ireland. There were several requests for people at home. The statement of the day from Willie was a request for Mary who was at home in Roscommon while Mammy and Daddy were in New York. “Mary is holding a party tonight while the parents are in New York. There will be only one outcome there,” said Willie, to howls of laughter in the press box. (A big thank you to Larry McCarthy and everyone in the New York GAA Board for their hospitality).
Hundreds of supporters headed back to places like McKeon’s and The Riverdale Steakhouse for grub and a few drinks after the game, and while there was palpable shock at how close Roscommon were to being knocked out of the Connacht Championship, the mood lightened later on in the night as a few drinks eased the pain. The music also lifted the mood.
The Roscommon players and management were in The Riverdale for a meal and the view was ‘what’s done is done’ and ‘we have to put this display behind us and move on to the Leitrim match’. You could see that they were all very disappointed, but, hey, it could have been worse.
Another pair of extremely successful fundraisers were held by Jimmy Naughton in the Riverdale Steakhouse over the weekend. I spoke to a very happy looking David O’Connor of Club Rossie late on Sunday night. It has been a close shave for the Roscommon team on the field of play, but off the field it was a very successful weekend for Club Rossie.
A lot of the Rossies were heading home on Monday, with more leaving on Tuesday. Indeed some were taking advantage of the trip to visit family and friends in the USA and even in Canada.
I wonder will New York still be in the Connacht Championship when the next Roscommon v New York fixture is due, in 2021? On the evidence of what we saw in Gaelic Park last Sunday, they deserve to be in the competition.
As for Roscommon’s championship prospects now, interesting questions arise. Could this poor display be just the kick in the backside that Roscommon needed, or are we in for another short summer? Time will tell.
In any event, this weekend was officially about a football game between Roscommon and New York, but for the couple of thousand Roscommon people who made the journey, it was much more than that. It would be great to be there again in 2021.
It’s Carrick-on-Shannon next. It’s not as far to travel – but the craic might not be as good!