On Friday’s OTB AM, Eoin Sheahan ran Adrian Barry through a history of the GAA in New York, including the story of Kerry footballers smuggling guns from New York on behalf of the IRA.
In the spring of 1927, the reigning All-Ireland champions Kerry travelled to New York for a fundraising and exhibitionary tour.
At the time the IRA had two members on the New York GAA board and several members of the Kerry footballers were also sympathetic to or members of the IRA, including captain John Joe Sheehy who was also contemporaneously the IRA commander in Kerry.
Sheehy ensured that a majority of the travelling Kerry team were loyal to the IRA and were willing to transport weapons home.
The players deemed suitably loyal to the IRA agreed to smuggle home a haul of Thompson sub-machine guns in their luggage.
The weapons were owned by the IRA and had been kept in New York for safe keeping during a time when many members of the IRA were being prosecuted and executed by the Irish Free State for conspiracies against the state.
The opening game of the tour was played in front of a crowd of 30,000 people with the New York Times describing the sport to readers as a cross between basketball and soccer.
In addition, funds raised from the trip were meant to be used for the Tralee sports field and local grounds, however, a proportion raised through games and dances during the trip was given back to the IRA for their efforts against the Free State.
Our man Sheahan also provided a fuller history of the GAA in New York including when New York won three national league titles between 1950-69.
The GAA Football Championship begins this weekend with New York taking on Mayo in the Connacht quarter-final this Sunday. Kick off is at 2:15pm local time and 7:15pm Irish time.
You can watch the full segment on the history of New York GAA in our video below.
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