New York GAA has escaped the heaviest possible punishment from Manhattan College after recent breaches of Coronavirus rules at Gaelic Park. Footage has emerged from the weekend’s county finals of a packed stand at the Bronx venue, but Off the Ball understands the GAA will not be banned from using the grounds.
The footage below was recorded last Sunday, as St. Barnabas beat Sligo in a replay of the New York Senior Football Championship. The crowd also saw Hoboken defeat Tipperary in the senior hurling decider.
There have been gatherings of spectators at the venue in preceding weeks, too, despite New York Coronavirus restrictions meaning that crowds of any size are not permitted to attend sporting events in the city. Yankee Stadium, a nine-minute drive from Gaelic Park, has seen MLB games take place behind closed doors in recent days.
The property on which Gaelic Park is built is owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It is leased, almost without restriction, to Manhattan College which then sublets to New York GAA. There had been fears that the GAA would be banned from using the grounds. However, after meetings between the GAA and Manhattan College over the past two days, that course of action has not been taken.
In a statement this evening, a spokesperson for Manhattan College said:
“Today, Manhattan College addressed the appropriate health and safety measures at Gaelic Park. The New York GAA has committed to having no spectators at games at Gaelic Park going forward.”
Later on Thursday night, New York GAA issued the following statement:
"With an abundance of caution, and despite meeting all NY City and NY State guidelines through this shortened season, the NY GAA has decided, in conjunction with Manhattan College, that the last four games of season will be played behind closed doors without spectators at Gaelic Park. There will be three games this week-end and one the following weekend."
Photographs of the gathering had been taken by residents in the Bronx and posted to social media last weekend. Other locals were nonplussed. “It was crowded, but it wasn’t that crowded,” said one eyewitness in the area. “It’s been more crowded at other times for sure.”
The New York Police Department on Thursday night confirmed that no official complaints had been made regarding events at the grounds.
While last Sunday’s crowd is reported to have been the largest gathering at the grounds since the outbreak of Covid-19, smaller gatherings had become commonplace in previous weeks.
In an email seen by Off the Ball, New York GAA contacted clubs in August to warn of the implications of complaints relating to large gatherings.
“Today we were in receipt of a serious complaint about the activity in Gaelic Park and in particular the lack of social distancing and mask-wearing,” read the email, sent on August 18.
“This came from someone outside the organization who had stopped by the Park. Their complaint detailed that following the games that no measures of social distancing were being followed and that few if any masks were in evidence. This seems to be from the area around the bar where people congregate.
“At this point, we need to reinforce what we have said from Day 1. In order for the season to proceed all guidelines must be followed to the letter. One complaint to the city of state could see everything shut down for the year.
“Manhattan College has also been made aware of this and have obvious concerns and have been in contact with us about it.”
While crowds had generally been smaller than last weekend's finale across two codes, there had been an expectation within New York GAA that their biggest crowd was due to arrive on Sunday.
"On Sunday we are expecting our biggest crowd of the year with JH final, SH final and replay of SF final," reads an email sent last Friday.
"In these times we must continue to exercise caution and maintain social distancing as much as possible. We are asking patrons to not congregate around the entrance or the concession area and make your way to the stands. We will be setting up an additional bar along the sideline and have portaloos at the end of the stands.
"We will require help to keep people moving along and to ensure that they move to the outer areas of the stand as well as congregating in the center. There has been great cooperation from the clubs so far this year and we are very grateful for that.
"This Sunday we will require help and we are asking each club to nominate at least one person who can act as a stewart on the day. If you have anyone please let us know as soon as possible and let them know to be in Gaelic Park by noon on Sunday.