Gaelic Park in New York is to receive a grant of €500,000 from the government towards its redevelopment. The grant was confirmed by Tánaiste Micheál Martin on his SAt Patrick’s Day visit to the Big Apple.

The funding is being made available through the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme, as opposed to through regular sporting channels but still caused a stir on social media last night with questions raised about why the money would not be made available to upgrade local facilities.

Most of the commenters would probably be unaware of the €150 million that was made available locally through the latest 2022 edition of the Sports Capital grant scheme and might find their time better served through getting ready to apply on behalf of their own clubs for the 2023 funding but social media can be a very loud echo chamber.

Located in the Bronx, Gaelic Park is an iconic GAA location and has been a home for Gaelic games in New York City since 1926. It has long been at the epicentre of Irish culture and heritage in New York, with New York GAA having been established in 1914.

Between 350 – 400 players from nursery age to adult senior level use the playing facility of Gaelic Park weekly.

Aside from the activity on the field, Gaelic Park is a crucial focal point for the Irish community in New York and is a long-established support structure for generations of Irish Diaspora who have lived, worked and studied in the region.

New York remains a centre for Gaelic games activity with 50 clubs in existence across the city and state.

Work has commenced on an exciting new two story, 12,000 square foot facility. The $6.2 million project has received $2 million from Croke Park and this newly announced €500,000 contribution from the Irish government will enable the project to meet its projected completion date of March 2024.

Upon completion, the redevelopment in Gaelic Park will include a fully furbished function room, catering facilities, medical office, two development offices and downstairs changing rooms.

The support announced by the Tánaiste is in addition to Emigrant Support Programme funding provided annually to the GAA through the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Global Games Development Fund which supports GAA clubs and enables them to create a sporting and community network for the Diaspora worldwide. At present, the GAA estimates it has more than 450 GAA clubs operating outside of Ireland and throughout the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Middle East.

“As Irish communities across the United States evolve, the GAA has an important part to play in keeping Irish people in the US connected to home,” said the Tánaiste.

“The Association also helps us to connect new generations of Irish-Americans to their Irish culture and heritage, as well as those from other backgrounds who have an affinity for Ireland.”

“The global GAA network is unique and it is something the Government is proud to be associated with. The Government supports the GAA in its overseas work, including an annual grant to the Global Games Development Fund. We have also, through the Emigrant Support Programme, supported a number of capital projects, such as the recent development of the facilities at Ruislip in London.”

“Generations of Irish people have anchored their life in New York around the weekly pilgrimages to ‘The Park’; to see and play matches, to maintain a link with home and to make friends, find work and build up contacts that allow them to make the most of the opportunity of living in New York,” added GAA president Larry McCarthy speaking from experience.

“As a member of the Diaspora, I can speak with confidence when I say that the GAA clubs that make up World GAA are mirror images of the clubs who cater for communities throughout the island of Ireland, and aside from the promotion of our national games, these clubs are an invaluable support structure for the Diaspora and allow thousands of people make a home from home as they live, work and study abroad.”

“This generous support will enable Gaelic Park to provide a state-of-the-art facility that ensures that it remains the epicentre for Irish culture and heritage for generations to come.”