New York State Senator Tim Kennedy (right) with Paul Mulcaire pictured at the Fenian Invasion of Canada Monument in Buffalo
By Irish Echo Staff
Ambitious plans to create a dedicated GAA pitch in Buffalo, New York, are uniting the city’s Irish American community.
Already boasting a multi-purpose Irish Center and a dedicated Irish Heritage District – complete with bilingual Irish and English street signs – Buffalo, New York State’s second largest city, boasts one of the strongest Irish American communities in the U.S.
The city’s standing in Irish America is only set to rise, however, if proposals for the city’s Fr. Conway Park, at the very heart of the old First Ward, once one of the strongest Irish neighborhoods in the U.S., gets the green light.
Buffalo Fenians Gaelic Athletics Club fields men’s, women’s and youth teams and has over 150 members.
Men compete in the North American Board Midwest Division along with Cleveland St. Pat’s, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, while the women’s team enjoyed a successful inaugural season in 2018.
“We have a long history in Buffalo of Irish culture and the preservation of Gaelic games,” says Buffalo Fenians Chairperson, Paul Mulcaire.
“We would like to solidify this commitment by converting Fr. Conway Park into a landmark destination which includes playing fields and clubhouse. For us, Gaelic games is not just a sport. It’s about being part of a global Irish community made up of dedicated volunteers.”
In 2017, Buffalo Fenians hosted the GAA Continental Youth Championships which drew 18,000 visitors and 250 youth teams to the city.
All without having a permanent base!
But that could be about to change.
University of Buffalo Architecture Department has already provided outline drawings for the new look pitches and clubhouse while negotiations have started with the city authorities.
While the construction of bespoke GAA pitches will require extensive fundraising alongside support from GAA headquarters in Dublin, the Buffalo Fenians are taking inspiration, as they near the club’s centenary, from other clubs who have already walked this path.
These include Shannon Gaels’ Field of Dreams in Queens, New York, Rockland County GAA’s new Gaelic Park, Gaelic Park in Chicago, and Treasure Island in San Francisco.
Adds Paul Mulcaire: “We really do believe in the legend, ‘build it and they will play in it’ and are convinced that the Gaelic Grounds project has the capacity to unite the Irish American community of Buffalo and usher in a new era of progress for Gaelic games here.”
Buffalo area New York State Senator Tim Kennedy, who won re-election in November, is a strong supporter of the park plan.
“The GAA plays a key role not just in the Irish American community but in the entire city of Buffalo and I see the Gaelic Park proposal as underpinning the club and the community’s success well into the future,” Kennedy told the Echo.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to build a permanent GAA facility here in the City of Buffalo as we continue to celebrate our Irish Heritage and pass along our cultural institutions for generations to come.
“It’s important that we teach the next generation of Irish Diaspora the lessons of our ancestors, remind them where we came from and who we are.
“Irish sports play a major role in that experience and we want to make sure we have the facilities available to help tell our story and build healthy, enjoyable lifestyles at the same time. A new GAA facility will ensure the large Irish Community in Western New York has what it needs to do just that.”